Sandalwood tops Field.
This is only the second edition
of the fledgling Sentinel Literary Quarterly Short Story
Competition, a sister-contest to the more established SLQ
Poetry Competition. This edition of the contest, while
improving on the first, attracted 22 entries from writers
who drew inspiration from fields as disparate as Mars and
wars. The stories were generally competent, and no doubt,
writers will raise the stakes with future editions of the
I did not approach this judging
with any particular mindset… beyond, perhaps, a desire to be
thrilled. The winners suggested themselves promptly enough,
and I did not have to agonise over my choices. The story, Day
of Rebellion, pulls us down, violently, into the blood
and carnage of a village massacre, seen though the eyes of
two young children.
In a brutal gush the air
crushes me and sound vanishes, the pak pak, the howling
crying, the exploding distance. All is silent and I’m
flat on my face.
This is a ghost story that works
as a ‘fairy tale’. These are two risky options for any short
story writer, but we have explored the outer limits of
shock, perhaps it is time to return to old world charm. Day
of Rebellion duly
explores the ‘child in war’ scenario with snapshots of
realism, but leaves us with a lozenge of make-believe. I
put this story in third place.
Bean, the voice and personality of a grizzled raconteur
turns an incident on a lazy fishing afternoon into a
delectable story that would have made a showing in a larger
field. For all the rambling tone, the writer’s skill comes
across in the economy of words with which this tale is
related. Despite the device of a colloquial narrator, there
is a surprising tightness in the story.
A few of the older boys
was playin’ ball in the common. Most had gloves. Those
that didn’t – well, they had calluses.
This story employs the
circularity of a fixed idea – in this case, the ‘jelly bean’
– which features in the title, the first paragraph, and the
last. I put this story in second place.
with the prepubescent intensity of the feelings and memories
of a 7-year-old, crystallised in the mature language and
recollections of an adult. The beauty of this story lies
also in the clever ending which should blindside most
readers – but which in hindsight, appears totally logical,
The shape of her lips and
the slit of her dress had all made him tremble, the
tiniest toll of an adolescent bell murmuring deeply from
the pit of his tummy. But this was nothing to the musky
fragrance that had settled around him…
The story is tenderly,
beautifully, written, and calls back the casual reader – or
scrupulous judge – to the first paragraph for a reread, to
test first impressions. That is always a good sign; in this
case those first impressions held up and I put this story in
I congratulate the winners of
this edition, and commend this competition to writers
everywhere. I hope this competition grows from strength to
strength and wish my successors as judges many evenings of
literary anguish as they agonise over and even larger field
of quality submissions.