Introducing the Lulu.com short story competition winners
Here we meet the four winners of the short story writing competition run by Lulu.com, sponsor of Brighton Festival commission the Storytelling Army.
They will have their stories combined with stories from the Storytelling Army into the Everyday Epic anthology, which is to be published by Lulu.com.
Beki Turner - Together We Can
I live in Brighton with my daughter Rosie and my dog Frankie, and I have been here since 1999, moving impulsively from London after ending up at a party in the basement of a record shop.
Brighton is a very special and magical place, and it felt right to base my story here. I wanted to highlight the subject of loneliness, and how people of all ages can be isolated and lonely for a number of reasons. I’ve worked extensively with homeless individuals and quite vulnerable adults over the years.
Everyone has a reason for ending up in Brighton, and sometimes people get lost along the way. I wanted to show how kindness and coincidence can bring people together and change lives, and how people coming together can be really powerful.
Perhaps the characters in my story will be developed in the future because they all have a story to tell and have the potential to help each other.
I have always loved writing fiction as a hobby and promised myself that if I was one of the winners of the competition, I’d start taking it seriously.
Extract from Together We Can:
'Gav is drunk. You can see it in his ordinarily militant body; His usual brash march is more of a meaningful flounder as he meanders across the pebbles. Gav opts for an unnecessarily loud exit from the blaring serenity of Brighton beach, striding past the bank holiday families with their middle class picnics, and the hipsters with their disposable barbeques bought with their disposable incomes. They are all being circled and Gav ruffles the seagulls’ feathers as he strides noisily past them.
Tourists and locals huddle around tables, drinking premium beer from flimsy cups as the sun starts to set. Gav turns back to look at the glitter bomb ocean. The sky is as beautiful as a Bierstadt. Gav breathes in the wafts of charred meat, cigarette smoke, aftershave and salt. He listens to the voices shouting over the deafening base lines and the sirens overhead. He pulls his last can of lager out of his pocket. It’s still perfectly cold. He holds the can for a moment, feeling it penetrate his hands and enjoying the sensation. He cracks it open and takes a swig. The beer simmers in his mouth and the taste is wondrous. And at that exact moment, Gav knows it’s a good time to die.'
David Benedictus - Protected Housing
I am 79 and I am a theatre director and writer. I have written lots of stuff – too much really – and published about 15-20 novels from The Fourth of June (1962), a scurrilous book about Eton, to Return to the Hundred Acre Wood (2009) an authorised sequel to the Winnie-the-Pooh books.
I am a member of Nightwriters, the writers club in Brighton. My second published novel, You’re a Big Boy Now (1963) was filmed by the (very) young Francis Ford Coppola in New York. I worked for the BBC on many occasions and was commissioning editor for drama series at Channel 4 from 1984-1986. I was a London tour guide and ran a horse-race tipping service for 25 years. The Daily Mail said I was going to marry Princess Anne , but I didn’t. At the BBC I initiated the programme Something Understood.
I have 4 children, a QC, a novelist, a psychotherapist and a theatrical producer. They are amazing. I have also written a number of musicals, one of which was started in 1955 and is still awaiting a full production
I don’t know where the idea for Protected Housing came from but with just a few hours to go before the deadline I thought I ought to do something and this is what emerged. It’s not like anything I have written before and although it would benefit from a second draft I like its poignant atmosphere.
Extract from Protected Housing:
‘It really was the most marvellous garden,’ she said. ’Not that I had anything to compare it with.’
He tried to recall it. ‘It smelled so beautiful. No chemicals of course then, and it rained only when you needed it. I remember a tree,’ he said. ‘Because I used to sit in the shade and make up names for things. Then you came along, and you thought of miraculous names. Like Flutterby.’
‘You improved on that one.’ She smiled. Although her skin was so wrinkled these days, she retained a smile to charm the birds out of the trees. They seldom spoke of those days because they seemed not only to belong to a different age but to two different people entirely.
‘Would you like to go back?’
‘Well, we couldn’t, could we? For one thing, we’d never find it.’
Jenny Gaitskell - On the Threshold
My default state is daydreaming, and some days I have to go to work and pretend to be sensible, but I write stories whenever possible. While I’m writing, I can go to places I’ll never see, travel in time, meet impossible strangers and be somebody else for a while. When the stories are published, my hope is that readers will imagine something new too. I blog about daydreaming, my creative brain (who calls herself Gonzo) and the unexpected encounters which inspire me. If that sounds like fun, have a look on jennygaitskell.com, or come and say hello on twitter @jennygaitskell.
When I wrote , I’d woken up into one of those mornings when everything feels impossible, even making stuff up. Under those circumstances, obviously the best thing to do was mess about on the internet, and that’s how I found the theme for this anthology, Everyday Epics. Yup, I thought, each day’s a toughie. My page was blank and my mind was blank, except for a woman stuck behind a door. I asked myself, if she could only make herself take that first step, out into the world, what might she try next?
Extract from On the Threshold:
'On the threshold, Emily told herself: you can become the version of you that’s needed, send another letter, take one more step forward. She took it, and closed her front door quietly behind her, for the sake of neighbours who’d never noticed her. Once again, the street smelled of last night but the sky was pink with possibility. Passing across the square, she recognised, from identical mornings, another early riser. He didn’t see her smile, was too busy examining the inside of his frown. There is always tomorrow, she thought. She was right on time for the park, and ready for the dog walker’s half-hearted salute, which might really be no more than a shaking of the leash. She threw her first ever greeting, but it fell short. The walker didn’t turn to pick it up, didn’t wait to see what might happen next. But a word had been spoken, and that was better than yesterday.'
Saba Sams - Nice Light
Saba Sams just graduated from the University of Manchester with a first class degree in English Literature with Creative Writing. She has now moved back to Brighton, where she was raised. Nice Light is her second short story to be published. The first, What Do You Know About Love?, can be read online at Forge Literary Magazine. A few of Saba’s poems have also appeared in places such as Ink, Sweat and Tears, and Cluny MCR.
Nice Light was written in Manchester, on an evening spent missing those hot Brighton summers, when drunks stumble up the Old Steine, and teenagers crowd the cycle paths on the seafront. It’s a story about right now, about living in the present tense, told by a protagonist who can do nothing but cross each bridge as she gets to it. But this story is also about those tiny moments of self-reflection, those glimmers of memory, recognition, or random kindnesses that remind us who we are, or where we’re going. It’s about that time of day when the clouds split to let a little sun through, and a few minutes of nice light remind us that the ordinary can hold something extraordinary.
Extract from Nice Light:
One of those days in Brighton where the heat is thick. Everybody lying on the grass watching everybody else. Ice lolly sticks all over the playground. Dogs with their tongues out, dry. Max sleeping next to a crate of Foster’s. No clouds. A teenage boy in a grey t-shirt tapping me on the shoulder. Sweat patches, smiley. Tells me he’s looking for alcoholics. Making a short film for college. Just thought he’d ask around the park. Hot day, you know? Writes his mobile number on a rizla. Don’t have to decide now, just something to keep in mind. He’d appreciate it.
Put the rizla in my back pocket. Remember being seventeen, on a bus. Woman with a sandwich turned around in her seat to tell me to go easy on the drink. She’d seen me on this route before. Couldn’t even walk straight at eleven in the morning. Better kick it before it’s too late. Got a whole life ahead of me. Not a thing to waste, a life. I thanked her for the advice and got off at the next stop to buy four K Ciders. Guess I’ve got it written all over my face.