February/March writing challenge results

 In Writing Challenge, Writing Competitions

Congratulations to everyone who entered our February/March writing challenge . It wasn’t an easy one, because it relied so heavily on subtext – and all of you engaged with it in a creditable way. We like to think that although there are winners, there aren’t really any losers – since writing the scene has helped sharpen the skills of everyone who entered.

The winner, for some really excellent writing, is Bindi Davies. Despite the fact that the scene is a tad obscure (a shortcoming that previous scenes in the as-yet-to-be-written novel would have remedied), the subtext is so delicately suggested, and Bindi uses such excellent phrasing (“the hairbrushes are arranged in a cosy coital nest,” for instance) that we had no hesitation in awarding her the laurels (and the R1000 voucher towards one of our creative writing courses).

The runners up are equally to be commended. In no particular order, they are Clare Manicom (lovely business), Lynne Kennedy (love the yellow jacket wasp), Penny van Zyl (excellent misdirection) and Mitzi Bunce-van Rooyen (some memorable arrogance).

Here they are. Enjoy reading them.

Bindi Davies

“Stop it, Sue. You can’t dig around in their cupboards,” John hisses, looking over his shoulder towards the bedroom door. “What if the maid is following us?’ He pulls her back towards him, a cascade of underpants spilling out of her arms onto the carpet. “What if there’s CCTV? We’re supposed to be taking photos, not snooping.”

“There’s a mistake.” Sue pushes him away. “He told me he’s moved into the spare room.” Her lower lip juts forward, reminding him of his niece when she can’t have an ice cream cone. “They’re getting divorced. That’s why they’re selling.”

“Fuck sake, you’re so gullible.” He points to the bedside table where a pair of men’s glasses perch on top of a stack of paperbacks. “Dick Francis? Stephen Leather?” He walks around the bed to read a card propped against a single yellow rose in a specimen vase. “Happy Birthday to my beautiful wife.”

“Shut up.” Sue cups her hands over her ears. “Just shut up.”

“Oldest trick in the book.” John tilts his head to one side and speaks in a singsong voice. “We’ve been sleeping in separate rooms for years.” He looks up at the chandelier and rolls his eyes. “Haven’t had sex in God knows how long.” He places the back of his hand theatrically on his forehead. “She’s a cold, cold bitch and we have nothing in common anymore.”

“Stop being a bastard.” Sue pushes past him to the dressing table where two hairbrushes are arranged in a cosy coital nest. “His wife probably moved his stuff from the spare room. To make things look normal.”

“Oh, please.”

“You don’t know him at all.”

“No, Sue, I don’t.” John grips her shoulders. “But I know you.” He turns her around to face him. “You deserve better than this.”

***

Clare Manicom

“That’s heavy dude,” Karryn’s voice was raised. “I’m not pissed, just a bit late for the sound check.  Chill.”  She fumbled for a cigarette in a near empty pack. “Shit, forgot to get more.”

I snapped.

“You know this place is no-smoking, put that thing away.  We’ll get kicked out before we even start.”

She rolled her mascara smudged eyes.  “Mebbe I can stand next to the window?  No one will know.”  The little girl voice was an old trick.  I’ve heard it before – cute but not gonna work on me.

“No.  The end.  Let’s go.  Mike, Johno are you ready?”

A twang from the base and a drum roll as I helped Karryn onto the crude stage – those chunky boots weren’t making her look any less pissed.  Maybe I would send the boys to get coffee when we got the sound sorted.

“C’mon already Karryn.  Let’s try number three on the playlist – it’s got a good range.”  She stared at the ceiling, leaned on the mic stand.  Shit, she wore those shorts well.   Her timing was off as Johno counted us in and her voice was flat. The boys muttered that their mothers could do a better job than Karryn, who gave them the finger. Her striking dark nail varnish was unusually chewed and chipped.

“Hold on guys.  What the hell is the matter Karryn?  You’re all over the place today.  Get a grip.”

“Screw you.” Her lower lip trembled.  She looked away.

“Let’s stop right here…. Johno can you get some coffees?  Extra sugar for Karryn.” My hand inadvertently found its way to her shoulder which was thinner than I imagined. Her skin was cold and smooth.  She brushed me away and went to the window. The remains of the mascara slid down her face.

***

Office by Lynne Kennedy

Louise sends an IM asking for five minutes. Jack’s door is open. She taps it as she walks in and her gaze rests on his name on the door.

Jack’s bike is propped against the wall. Louise knows this means he is not planning on working late.

Jack is sitting facing the door. His laptop is open and papers are scattered on his desk. He is viewing slides on the big screen. A thank you note is pinned to his board.

Louise sits down on the second chair and pivots to face him.

“Jack, I know this isn’t what you want to hear but I’m really not sure the timing is right for this meeting.”

“Why do you think that?” The fingers of Jack’s right hand drum the desk.

Louise sits up straighter. A yellow jacket wasp is beating against the closed window behind Jack.

“I feel like ….. just ….  everyone’s not on the same page …… client hasn’t spent enough time on the numbers. It could go wrong.”

The yellow jacket wasp becomes frantic. Louise rubs her left temple with the middle finger of her left hand. Her head tilts to the left.

“Perhaps …,” Jack pauses, “too difficult to move the matter out now.”

“Jack, like honestly, it’s one call.”

She wishes he wasn’t wearing that particular blue shirt. She thinks of the silent solitary yellow jacket wasp; the slender golden-brown body and the capacity to sting multiple times.

Jack runs his fingers through his hair and turns to his laptop. “Stick to the deck, confirm the slide sorter view and keep the word walls short.”

Louise breathes slowly. The office is quiet. The yellow jacket wasp is clinging to the handle.

“And it needs to be more objective, fact based. Keep the story flowing and skip the history.”

Louise feels the heat rising in her face. She smiles too quickly. She pretends to accept the decision and walks over to open the window. The yellow jacket wasp remains motionless.

Back at her desk an IM pops up: “Am I terrible to work with?”

***

To Hell and Back by Penny van Zyl

Hayley read the email in disbelief. That arrogant, smug, son-of-a-bitch. How dare he do this to her? She hit her desk in frustration making pens rattle in their container and her computer screen wobble dangerously. Without stopping to think she stormed down the passage to his office, mentally chalking up a point to herself when he jumped at the shock of her entrance.

“Why’d you do it?” Hayley stared defiantly into his dark eyes, regretting it almost immediately as her stomach started a slow flip at the unwavering intensity of his gaze. Bugger, she was losing vital control after just a few seconds. Again. She purposely dragged her eyes from his and, staring at the wall, filled the awkward pause before he had a chance to answer.

“You know I wanted that account. I put in hours with the client and they liked my idea best, I know. Rob isn’t going to look after them like I would.”

She still couldn’t look at him and it was her turn to jump when he roughly pushed back his chair and strode around his desk towards her.

“Dammit Hayley! It’s always about you, isn’t it? When are you going to see the bigger picture?” He was mere centimetres away from her now and she could see his pulse beating in his neck. His spicy cologne filled her nostrils and she was torn between breathing in his smell deeply, or not breathing at all.

“If you can get down off your high horse, you’ll see I’ve given you the new Barlow account instead. It’s much bigger. And you’ll be working with me.” A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. Hayley felt her traitorous cheeks flame and her stomach flip again as their eyes met. Damn him to hell. And back.

***

Before You Accuse Me by Mitzi Bunce-van Rooyen

“Fuck, not again,” I yell.

I scan the office kitchen in search of my strawberry, low-fat yoghurt. Justin cradles it between his slender fingers. Not even attempting to hide, he brazenly scoops up a spoonful, and plops it into his mouth. His full lips come together with a satisfied smack.

“What the hell, Justin. That’s the second time this week.”

His green eyes flash defiance. A little yoghurt clings to his bottom lip, which makes me gently bite my own.

“It’s delicious, Suzie Q. I must commend you on your impeccable taste.”

I want to scream with frustration. He’s always so cool and calm. It’s infuriating. Marching over to him I grab the tub, but having misjudged the weight of the container my arm jerks backwards. The remaining yoghurt splashes over my white top and slides down my breasts.

Justin leisurely traces the path of the yoghurt drip with his eyes – from my breasts to the floor.

“Wow, easy now, it’s only yoghurt. No need to get your knickers in a knot, Suzie Q.”

I can feel my entire body catch fire under his scrutiny. I feel like running away, but I refuse to cede victory.

“You can just stop it with the Suzie Q nickname, Justin. It’s not just the yoghurt. Last week you ate my tuna sandwich, the week before that my chicken salad…and the week before that…it was…oh I can’t remember…” I fume.

An amused smile spreads across his tanned features, and he eases his tall frame out of the plastic chair in a cat-like manner. He towers over me, his eyes find mine, and they hold my gaze for what seems an eternity.

He sings softly: “Oh Suzie Q, oh Suzie Q, Oh Suzie Q baby I…”

Not ready for credence, I turn and flee.

***

Enter our April/May writing challenge which offers the winner a place on our creative writing ​Coaching Programme: Focus on scenes.  It’s a fourteen step programme with your own personal writing coach. We’ll tackle a number of different issues involved in writing compelling scenes.

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