Category Archives: short stories

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY SHORT STORY COMPETITION (AUGUST 2014)–ADJUDICATION REPORT

Administrator’s Note

Please note that this competition was judged blind and the adjudication report was sent in by the Judge with only the titles of the winning and commended poems. I have matched the winners and their poems to make for easier reading.

      Nnorom Azuonye (14/10/2014)

 

An adjudication report by Brindley Hallam Dennis

 

There were 73 entries, and I knew I was in trouble when my shortlist reached twenty.

        Adding one more to the list would have brought another nineteen in with it, and that didn’t help either. What I’m saying is that I enjoyed an awful lot of these stories. In fact, there were only a few – two or three – that I didn’t think had something good going for them; and two of those read like well-written articles, but they weren’t really short stories. For all you glass half full types out there, you could say, I found a lot of the stories to be lacking that little something that would make them winners!

        It’s only in competitions that you have to make these sort of judgements. Otherwise you take your shorts like an espresso, and enjoy them for what they are, in the moment, for you, as you are, at that moment. What’s it about? Do you care? How’s it written? Does the voice beguile you?

        As I sifted through I began to realise that the stories I wanted to celebrate most were somewhat oblique in form or content; forceful in their tellings, with voices that made me stop and listen; with subjects that caught my interest. The whole range was there: life death; love; comic; tragic; absurd; serious, and the rest. A few took what are becoming contemporary standards, and anything that everyone is talking about is hard to write about without becoming part of the undistinguishable murmur, or cacophony. Two, in my ‘Commended’ list were, I guessed, by the same author, having the same characters. I’d like to see those as part of a longer fiction – a novel perhaps?

 

Here’s my list, in traditionally reversed order:

 

Commended (in no particular order):

 

Till Death Us Do Part by Gareth Shore (Sale)

Fifty-Second Birthday in Bed by Christie Cluett (Bristol)

Odd Boy by Sharon Boyle (East Linton)

It’s Seven Letters You Need by Maxine Backus (Grueningen, Switzerland.)

Abide With Me by Maxine Backus (Grueningen, Switzerland.)

 

Highly Commended (in no particular order):

 

For Mike by Geoff Aird (Edinburgh)

Swan Sculpting in Leighton Buzzard by Katie Martin (Cambridge)

Oh How We Danced by Tony Crafter (Knockholt)

 

3rd Prize

The Eternal Knot by John Robinson (Newbury) – Complex, convoluted, philosophical. A conversation between an Old Man and a snake, on the huge subject of sentience – of being alive and knowing it; of being mortal, and knowing that too.

 

2nd Prize

Coffee-Coloured Eyes by Olga Vakruchev (Toronto, Canada) -Slipping into the surreal, but I never doubted this woman’s voice, nor her belief in her own story.

 

1st Prize

Killers at Fat Joe’s by Tom Serengeti (BERTSHAM , South Africa) – I think I liked the ambition of this most of all: daring to echo Hemingway’s title, and story, and do a riff on it. But I liked the spare descriptions and the dialogue too, and the unfolding events, and the characters, and their names, and the ending. I guess I would have liked the pizza too!    

BRINDLEY HALLAM DENNIS


THE COSMOLOGICAL CONSTANT

A short story by Jason Hopps

spaceship_thumbThe alien invasion came early on a Sunday morning. There was always something. He remembered it was a Sunday (and remembered it was early) because he was up well before sunrise that strange day, sweating and fretting over the big Macmillan report, which was due first thing on the Monday.  He’d been working on the presentation for weeks, months, had thought he’d finally put it to bed on the Friday, but late Friday he’d received an angry phone call from his angry boss who’d practically crucified him, who’d detailed the dozens of changes still needed and then hung up.

    So all Saturday, he was home at his desk. Early on the Sunday morning, he was there again, busily adjusting PowerPoint slides, the kettle whistling for him in the kitchen, when he was startled by screams and revving engines and barking dogs and then more screams and it went on like that for some time, louder and louder. He closed a door against it, guessed it was a domestic, or possibly a break-in down the block, and let it go, returned to the Macmillan report, mashed earplugs deep into his ears. He worked a little longer, struggling with it, until his internet connection went down, kaput. Only then did he leave his desk and step outside. Full Story >>

 

THE 5A TO HANGLETON

A short story by Rob Hawke

 

The morning began not unlike any other; Mr. Sloper went about waking life – poaching an egg, plunging coffee, shifting body waste.   The anxieties that came to him on the toilet were familiar: a birthday party on Saturday he would rather avoid; his mother’s hopelessness with his money; a nagging pain in his gut he’d better take to the doctor.  He thought with faint aversion about work that day.  He was on shift with Maude, a large, smothering woman who carried an unsought flame for him.  Etienne would also be there; a young Ghanaian student whose quick wittedness left him feeling slow and old.  He sighed and cleaned up.   Full story