It’s almost unimaginable to think back to last year’s 100-Word Story Competition, the deadline for which closed just before the first ever lockdown. How things have changed since! How our stories have changed and how we have had to adapt and grow as writers in these disconnected times. It feels, somehow, all the more special to be running competitions in times like this, because it allows our schools across the country to come together and unite around a particular theme or task. And it feels even more exciting to be able to reach out and award prizes to those young writers who have remained passionate about their craft throughout it all. Well done to all our entrants! Your dedication to writing is most admirable. Shortlisted entrants will receive a small Vintage book bundle and our lucky winners will receive a Vintage literary goody bag each.
This year, the entries we received seemed quite polarised in outlook. On the whole, the entries were much darker and more sinister than in previous years – perhaps reflecting the uncertainty of the pandemic. Yet there were also more humorous entries than usual, too. Maybe this represents the differing ways in which people deal with hardship: some strive to capture and distil it, whilst others seek to subvert it.
Either way, our competition sponsors at Vintage Books had a marvellous time judging! There was, so we’re told, a tense tiebreaker in the Vintage offices and they had to call in the Senior Editor to make the winning call. So, whoever came second, do know that it was very, very tight competition. Thus, without further ado, here are the top three winners of this year’s competition…
‘A Melody Lost’ – Tegan Blake-Barnard (Longcroft School and Sixth Form)
An abandoned library rests, buried beneath time, watching another sun rise and another day pass. Heavy shelves echo the shades of a shattered grand piano which sulks, heartbroken, by decomposing windows. Reminiscing of a time when each note it sang echoed the whispering calls of vibrant characters snuggled amongst the shelves, when each note clambered over the other in a desperate attempt to harmonise with the whistling birds through the open window. With its back forever facing its audience, its beam-soaked keys embrace the morning sun, the mighty willow giants and the chorus it will never be able to join.
The judges at Vintage described Tegan’s winning entry as “an evocative snapshot into a mysterious world” and we think that sums it up perfectly! The description is sublimely crafted, giving a sense of faded grandeur which lures you into speculation about what has caused such a once-beautiful place to be abandoned. The piano is almost personified, and Tegan has her readers feeling sorry for it, as though it longs to be touched and loved once again. This story conveys a sense of unfulfilled potential – a life gone to waste. It’s beautiful and haunting, and very well crafted. Brava, Tegan! Not only have you won first prize, but you’ve retained the 100-Word Story Competition crown for your school! We’ve no doubt everyone at Longcroft will be super proud of you.
‘This Feeling’ – Sean Walsh (Kensington Aldridge Academy)
It’s high up here, feelings grow, a blazing inferno with fresh fuel being consumed each day. When it stirs, it’s difficult to restrain. Its influence can force me to erupt, which sometimes has costly consequences. My tears fall, struggling to douse the burning within me, only ever reverting it to a simmer. This feeling, a lion, lashing out with untamed claws and unrivalled power. This feeling is virtually devouring me alive. Imposing my mind, it’s been dormant long enough. Its growl transforms into a vicious roar. I’m standing at a cliff’s edge, something’s urging me and I’m willing to fall….
The judges rightly identified this piece to be “a moving, mysterious peek at an internal struggle.” This is true on so many levels. It evokes not only the plight of a character in a moment of physical crisis, but perhaps also a state of acute mental distress. It can be really tricky to write such moments of crisis well. Too often writers recourse to cliché, or fail to capture the contradictions of peak moments, which are never singular but a heady mixture of a range of feelings: here it’s sorrow and fear and nihilistic compulsion. Sean has carefully balanced all of these emotions, so that we can really empathise with the narrator’s pain. It’s really excellent writing, Sean! You should be very pleased with yourself for creating such an exquisitely crafted story.
‘After the End’ – Cheyenne Taylor-Guest (Hull College 14-16)
Turning on the hard wooden floor, flashes of the final battle were playing on repeat. The unbearable pressure on my chest and the stabbing feeling in my gut were enough to remind me of my fate, yet enough to reassure me that I was still alive.
Opening my eyes, the shadows loomed over me. As if sensing I was awake, they scattered away leaving a single book in their wake.
Resting a wary hand on my sword, I scoured the area – no signs of life found, I approached it carefully.
This brilliant snippet of a fantasy epic was described by the judges at Vintage as “a breathless glimpse into a high-stakes adventure” – and what an adventure it is! It’s got so many exciting fantasy tropes: a monumental battle, a near-death experience, and a mysterious book… So much we are all desperate to know more about in this story segment! The hook at the end is maddeningly enticing. What is this book? Why is it significant? How does it link to the fate of the narrator? What’s going to happen next? The writing is wonderfully poetic, too – it can be so hard to juggle fine, detailed description with suspenseful, quick-moving action and yet here it is masterfully handled. Cheyenne is clearly a very talented writer, who has a promising future writing fantasy novels if this little tale is anything to go by!
Honourable mentions must also go to each of our shortlisted entrants, whose brilliant stories are all worthy of the prize which will be heading their way shortly. The talented shortlistees are: ‘Escape’ by Amaan Ali (Co-op Academy Grange), ‘9/6’ by Alessandro Veneziani (Willowfield School), ‘The Great Cheese Heist’ by Ben Cooke (Hull Trinity House Academy), ‘Inevitability’ by Bethany Leek (Appleton Academy Secondary), ‘Untitled’ by Callum Wood (John Leggott College), ‘Writing Man’ Emily Freeman (The Dukeries Academy), ‘A Strange Night’ by Harrison Clay (Appleton Academy Primary), ‘Leaf vs. Predator’ by Huda Abdikarim (Judgemeadow Community College), ‘Water Under the Bridge’ by Jervais Gordon-Campbell (Commerce House) and ‘I Want You Here When I Wake Up’ by Katie Wilkins (Haven High Academy).