And now (belatedly) the winners of the October/November flash fiction challenge

 In How to write a book, Writing Challenge

Lovely crop of entries for the October/November writing challenge. (I’m not sure what happened to the time. It reminds me of Douglas Adam’s airy dismissal of time constraints: “I just love the sound of deadlines whooshing past.”)

If you can cast your minds back that far, you might remember that we asked you to write a lyrical scene in which you should plant a single disquieting detail, visible to the reader if not to the perspective character.

The winner both for her lyricism and for the little flip of disquiet in the very last line of her scene, is Tariq Fensham. Congrats, Tariq, you’re the winner of your choice of a literary assessment of 5000 words worth R2750/£150 or a voucher to the same value to use on one of our courses or programmes.

A very close runner up – perhaps on another day, she would have come out on top – was Barbara Matthews, whose off-kilter note was very subtle indeed – but available to the careful reader (and aren’t we all careful readers?)

And then, for reasons apparent in their submissions, another slew of entries receive honourable mentions: congrats to Katrin Ginley, Vincent Pienaar and Angela Martinescu.

It strikes me, reading the entries, that each is in itself a promising start to a short story or something more ambitious. I hope you’re all thinking about that potential.

Congratulations to you all for some fine writing! And do keep sending your entries in for our February/March writing challenge – one of the best ways to sharpen your writing skills is by entering competitions like ours.


Tariq Fensham

She lay still, imbibing the fragrant warmth, the softly billowing muslin drifting in the twinkling morning     sunlight, filigreed screens casting shifting trails on translucent fabric and a wild cacophony rising from the street below, wafting in on the mild morning air.

She closed her eyes, revisiting the pleasures of a night in whirling Marrakesh. The richness of everything around her filled her senses – seeped in in ways that her western world never did.

Aromas! This foreign world of lamb tagines on street-side fires and steaming saffron couscous, of communal bread ovens and rolling rose plantations had awakened her nose, slumbering in oblivion till yesterday.

Tastes! Sweet mint tea; tart dried apricots; bitter black coffee…….

Sounds! Clinking tea glasses, chiming jewellery, lilting story tellers’ voices in the souk. Crackling metal workers’ fires, braying donkeys, hooting taxis. Never silence.

Colours! Everywhere she turned was a pallet of splendour: sacks of yellow turmeric and blood red chili powder; azure lapis lazuli beads and emerald silken carpets swirled in shimmering white smoke; the beaten copper basin in the market; the gold embossed patterns on the tea glasses in the carpet emporium. And Ahmed’s deep black eyes.

Ahmed. She turned in the crisp white cotton bed and he was not there. There was no depression in the pillow beside hers, there were no man-sized babouche beside the bed.

As she turned to the door, she was sure it had been open. She was sure that the key had been on the  inside of the door……


Barbara Matthews

“We’ve finished unpacking, things have come together nicely.”  Ian straightened the large canvas above a polished table. “And Amelia, has she come around?”

Ian turned back to Steve and Lisa, standing behind him.

“She’s forgiven me. Now she’s here, enjoying the view, away from Joburg. Anyone would die to live here.” Ian slid the leaves of the frameless stacker door one against each other, and they stepped on to  the deck.

“Oh my word.”

“Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?” Ian leant against the railing. “There’s nothing between us and the  ocean. Our closest neighbours are penguins in Antarctica.”

Lisa fell onto a lounger. “I’m staying here forever, I just need a drink, and everything in my life will be               perfect.”

“There’s bubbly on ice. I’ll call Amelia, she lost track of time. Been landscaping the garden. Sure she’s   out of the shower by now.”

“She mentioned the shower has a view too,” said Lisa.  “It does. No frosted glass. More ocean.”

Steve pointed to the back of the house. “Has she been working on the garden you see coming up the              stairs?”

“Yes, she’s left the house to me and focused on the garden.” Ian looked up as Amelia appeared in the living room.

“I’ve been asking Ian about your garden?” Steve stood and hugged Amelia. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”


“That house is mind-blowing?” Lisa leaned back, pulling her seatbelt across her body.        “It is, but the garden looks like a cemetery. All those grey pavers and white flowers.”


New Beginnings by Katrin Ginley

The world looks and smells beautiful today. Colourful, bright, fresh. Sunshine after rain always makes                   it look that way. She looks around at her new home. It’s exciting to start anew. She knows she will settle in soon, make her home look just the way it should, the way she likes it.

She can’t remember where anything is. It will take time she tells herself.

For now, she is enjoying her surroundings. The wind feels warm on her face. A red flower catches her attention, she walks over to it, bending down to smell it. Frowning she tries to recall the name of it, then gives up as the yellow flower next to it catches her attention instead.

She jumps as she feels a hand on her arm, she hadn’t heard anyone approach.

Turning slowly, she looks into the face of a stranger. She feels a little nervous, but not afraid. The                     stranger looks friendly and is smiling at her.

“Can I help you?” she asks politely, ever conscious of her manners.

The face changes. The friendly smile is replaced by an emotion that she doesn’t recognise, and so  she doesn’t know how to respond. Anxiety fills her and for an instant she is annoyed at the interruption. She had just been feeling so…… What exactly had she been feeling?

“It’s time for your breakfast Mum, the kids are already up. Its scrambled eggs this morning, you like  them. Come on, let me walk you inside.”


Vincent Pienaar

Dandy, my mom would have called him.

Slicked back in every possible way. Shiny hair, shiny shoes, shiny teeth. Those olden days actors                  would have loved his pencil moustache.

I watched him as he moved around the room. Stepping – no sliding – silently from table to table. Saying nice things to the ladies, making them smile. Whispering into the men’s ears. Making them  laugh – no belly laugh – loudly.

I was proud that Uncle Joe was the maître d’ of such a fancy restaurant on the top floor of a skyscraper building in the middle of town. Just to stand at the bar looking down at the beautiful people in their beautiful clothes and their tall glasses and their bottles of wine and their big plates  with tiny little bits of food made me feel special too.

But it was getting late and the last bus would be leaving soon and I had my sister’s letter in my pocket and …

“Uncle Joe!”

Suddenly he was at my side, smiling. “This is a surprise! What brings you here? Drink?” I laughed – giggled really – at the idea that I would drink anything.

“No, thank you. Sarah asked me to give you this.”

He was still smiling as he took the letter from me but he stopped smiling as he read it.

He grabbed my wrist with his rough, calloused hand, leaned forward and whispered in my ear: “We  have to talk,” he said.


Angela Martinescu

The whole forest is afire with a blanket of red and gold; the air is crisp with the threat of a chill in its sting.

Through the grasping fingertips of the branches overhead, the sun tangles its tendrils with the shadow and bone of naked twigs. Somewhere, a bird sings.

It’s as good a time and place for an impromptu hike as any.

Absently, Natalie thinks she should check the signal on her phone. It’s been some time since started her trek. Surely, she’ll be able to call for help but now.

And if she can’t –

Well, there’s water to find. Shelter. A fire to make. But that –

That’s not really a problem, though, is it, she thinks, shaking her head. There’s no rush. The sun’s still up.

She can even make out the babble of a brook somewhere. There’s water. There’s nothing to worry about.

Nothing to worry about at all, the woods whisper in soothing agreement.

There’s a fragrance of burned wood to the breeze as her footfalls crackle with dead leaves. Her cheeks are warm with exertion; a blush of burning to match this sepia toned painting she’s wandered into. Gotten lost in. Become a part of.

More kindling to the blaze.

Natalie thinks she should call for help. She doesn’t remember what for.


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