I’ve just received the text below from Ingrid Jendrzejewski, judge of this year’s Book a Break competition. My thanks go to her first of all for performing her task so conscientiously. It’s a big responsibility, but she has never been anything but enthusiastic and supportive.
Thanks also to all those who participated. As Ingrid says, all the stories had something to commend them, and I quite understand how difficult it was for her to come up with a winner. Knowing myself how tough it can be to write a short story, I fully appreciate the time and effort everyone put into it.
But without further ado, here is Ingrid’s text. All I’ve done is add the names of the authors after the titles of the texts.
It was an honour and a delight to read the 121 stories to submitted to the 2017 Book A Break Short Story Competition. I read every piece at least twice and some many, many more times. I was impressed at the range of stories told, and the variety of characters and settings that I got to experience as a reader. I read literary fiction, sci-fi, fantasy; I read about dystopian futures, coming-of-age, and budding romances. Stories took me back in time, into the future, up to Pluto, and to countries all around the globe – Canada, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, the UK, the US, and Zambia to name a few. Every single piece had something in it to admire, and it is a testament to the quality of the work submitted that choosing a winner was an excruciatingly difficult process.
In the end, I chose ‘Green Tights’ (Sherry Morris) as the winning story and ‘Balancing’ (Saphia Fleury) and ‘Thinking in Circles’ (Debz Hobbs-Wyatt) as runners-up.
From the first time I read ‘Green Tights’, I couldn’t get this story out of my head. The author threw me head-first into an unusual situation with the very first sentence, and then pulled me in with the pitch-perfect voice of the narrator. The ending is satisfying and complete, yet there are some mysteries left for the reader to mull over well after the story has finished.
‘Balancing’ is a moving piece about a woman who is learning to walk with prosthetic legs. The author does a brilliant job of portraying not just the obvious difficulties her character faces, but also the more subtle ones. I admit to shedding a few tears at the end….
‘Thinking in Circles’ is a meticulously crafted story full of suspense and surprise. Even after you discover the final twist, the story invites you to read it again and again. In a way, it’s as much a puzzle as a story….
Besides the three prize-winners, I’d like to mention several highly commended stories. ‘It’s a Long Journey’ (Ruth Bateson) and ‘Cows’ (Laurence Klinger) both used interesting, ambitious structures to tell their stories; ‘Whale Watching’ (Sarah Evans) and ‘A Dark Stretch of Country Road’ (Parker McIntosh) were tight, well-crafted and engaging, and ‘The last Naqqāl’ (Juliet Staveley) told its tale with rich, fresh language.
Finally, I’d like to give a special mention to ‘Amber’, a story written by a 10-year-old author (Amy Fivie). The tale was confidently told and made great use of dialogue and pacing. I’m looking forward to reading more from this writer!
There are so many other stories that were absolutely fantastic and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the anthology shapes up. To all the authors who submitted stories, thank you so much for the opportunity to read your work; it was a pleasure and a privilege.
That’s it, then. Congratulations to all concerned. I’ll be getting in touch with all participants individually, but don’t be alarmed if it’s not straightaway – it might take a while to get through the whole list!