Many thanks to everyone that entered the competition to win a place at the Self-Edit Your Novel Retreat in November. I’ve enjoyed reading the entries and I’m delighted to announce that the winner is…Justine Kilkerr for her 500 word novel opening written to the prompt ‘A holiday at the beach’, entitled Sea Fret (read it below).
Congratulations Justine. A beautiful piece of writing that immediately drew me in and left me wanting more. Look forward to meeting you at the retreat.
Well done to all on the shortlist as well. Some great responses to the prompt and strong writing.
It was a day muted by mist, unlike the sweltering days before, the morning she found the beached dolphin rolling in the surf and decided she would never go back.
Kittiwakes ghosted above her on the updrafts, patrolling the crumbling cliff face. She watched a gannet hurl itself, bullet-quick, arrow-sharp, into the waves. It few underwater for a while, zigzagging after fsh, then bobbed to the surface like a cork and launched itself into the sky.
She held the stone and traced its knuckled edges with a sandy thumb. It was the size of an apple and nestled, warming, in her balled fst. Her bare toes had found the ammonite in the sand as she had walked naked into the waves hours before, intent on never coming out.
She allowed herself a smile that felt like a gift. Strange, how high and happy the morning had felt when she decided to walk into the ocean and not come out again. How simple this day had seemed then. But she had hissed at the pain in her stubbed toes and somehow forgotten her long-planned march into the waves. She had bent instead to scrape at the sand. The fossil came up in her cold fingers, its stone curves cradling millennia, and something had changed.
She had put the stone to her lips, licked the salt and turned back to the beach, paddling herself through the water with her hands. Had struggled, shivering, into her shorts, damp T-shirt, jacket. Had walked towards the cliff along a high water line sketched out in black seaweed and broken shells, until she noticed the humped side of the dolphin, moving back and forth as the waves nudged it, gently, gently.
The dolphin was dead. The beach lay heavy beneath its grey body and she sat down cross-legged on the wet sand there and hugged herself. The taste of brine on her tongue. The whispering of the waves. The animal gone into itself. She sat a while, she didn’t know how long.
I will never go back.
The road out was flooded. It was a spring tide, after all, and the tarmac held its breath below the milk-pale water; she couldn’t go back if she wanted to. Which she didn’t. Which meant that they would be coming to look for her as soon as the waters receded.
She would not wait for them to come.
So she must go forward, and the only place accessible was across the expanse of boulders and rock pools that made up the tip of the peninsula. She squinted at the horizon. From this distance the lighthouse looked small, insignificant. A slim, pale tower squatting amongst the black rock and green weed and slow-surging sea.
She double-laced her boots, pushed the ammonite deep into her jacket pocket and stood, walking quickly to the edge of the rocks. She began to climb.
High above her, its noise spilling over the edge of the cliff, a telephone rang.
The shortlist (in alphabetical order by story title)
- A Holiday at the Beach by Kate Beales
- Drifter in the Sand by Margaret Duffy
- Emigration by Vinita Joseph
- Grand Pause by Anne Hamilton
- Pay Friday by Gail Aldwin
- Scrimshaw by Sophie Wellstood
- Sea Fret by Justine Kilkerr
- The Dive by V Lysaght
- The Mistake by Julie Balloo
- The Place We Go by Jessica Riches
- The Search by Hannah Persaud