February micro shortlist

Well done to all who made the longlist and congrats to the writers of our shortlisted stories – no telling which is yours yet though!

Vote for your favourite from these 10 fab stories to win the surprise People’s Prize. Our judging team are busy re-reading to choose the winners of the cash prizes. Voting is open until 23.59 (UK time) on 27th February 2022. Results will be announced on Monday 28th. Good luck everyone!


I didn’t take all of me when I left. I kept my past tightly packed away. But I always remembered the ephemera of my youth, those dormant treasures that flickered into being at a thought. And you – suspended in time – existing alongside ticket stubs and birthday cards; forever tied to the things I kept because I never wanted to forget. 

When I opened those boxes and let the light flood in, I finally understood that you weren’t there – that your memory couldn’t be bound and confined. And I breathed out as those remnants flew free, like confetti on the wind.

Everyday Eulogy

Every time I do the washing, I think of you. I wonder if you knew that last load was the last wash you’d ever do. If you knew that Friday tea of fishfinger-pesto-pasta was the final meal you’d make your kids. If you saw light at the end of a tunnel. If that was enough to pull you through, or if you had to be dragged backwards looking at your boys.

Some days, I think I see you up in the field walking your imaginary dog, and laughing at the stories spinning in your head that I will never read.

For Light is Energy and Cannot be Destroyed, Only Transformed

Reflecting – I could have done more. You seemed happier. I shouldn’t have left you alone.

Refracting – The funeral priest calls you sinner, pleads forgiveness for the way you left the world. At home, I scratch holes into the bible: God said“Let there be light” and there waslight. God separated light from darkness.

Scattering – I take your ashes to the hidden cove at sunset. I read poetry, remember laughter. I tip your urn into the water, you sparkle on the iridescent tide.

Radiating – I gaze skyward. Your light has left Earth, in 1.3 seconds it will reach the moon.

Send in the Clowns

The secrets of the circus were in danger of exposure.

The smell of sawdust and elephant dung barely concealed the things that rotted slowly and not so discretely beneath. 

The hastily strung lights, twinkly high against the canvas, stubbornly threw the wrong kind of shadows on the fading feathers and sequins, cavorting nightly in the ring beneath. 

Most patrons caught the mood and asked no more.

Simply took what they paid for. 

A taste of wonder. One night of illusion; tarnished and second hand.

And those that lingered; asking questions and wanting more?

They were directed, silently, to the clowns.

Straight Lines

She was the school nerd, better than Google at explaining the stuff their Physics teacher mangled. With the properties of waves and particles, it was pure electromagnetic radiation in the part of the spectrum that, miraculously, a human eye could perceive. Her classmates shrugged and stared blankly. Then she thought about yesterday afternoon, when hiding round the corner from the waiting gang, how she heard them planning to cleanse her cleverness with tears of pain (not their actual words) and consequently took another route home to avoid the ambush. Unlike sound, she told them, it only travels in straight lines. 

Summer in November

My instinct is to head south. To rediscover the summer. 

As green waves smash sunbeams into a thousand glassy shards, my toes etch your name in the sand. 

The swallows are still here, darting between swaying palms and squawking parakeets. Instead of sunbathers, pushchair parents gossip over cappuccinos while their dogs and children chase gulls from the beach. 

Couples walk the esplanade. Entwined. Whispering.

I can hear your laugh, see your selfie pose.

But the sun has abandoned the Catalan coast. Clouds rise like smoke. Water chills my bare feet. 

And an ebbing wave erases you.

Like the cancer did.

There is a Light That Sometimes Goes On

He takes your hand; pulls you from the car that his father has lent him just this once because you’re young and falling in love for the first time.

On the shore where you played together with crabs in a bucket, there’s a midnight tide of electric blue that speaks of magic. While you’re already dreaming of sapphires and children, he grins and says,


You know in that moment that he will thrill you on the back seat, whisper tenderly ‘forever,’ and mean it, but you’ll never be enough to keep him in this run-down town of one-night phenomena.

The Ballad of Oranmore (or When Your Grandmother Knew I was the One)

I’d never seen her without the other girls before, but there she was under the awning of the Roxy blowing blue clouds into the Galway rain like a blazing-haired Deidre in wet corduroy. I tossed a prayer of intercession in the rough direction of Saint Raphael and bummed a ciggie from a fella walking past. She looked up and smiled. I ached to take those calcite hands and kiss them warm again. She was chewing gum and looking down the street. May Dagda and all the gods of my forefathers let me smoke without coughing. Have you got a light?

We Follow the Wolf Moon

Flames, fanned, by something unspeakable.  A canker that rancoured, wicked, untreatable. We buried the light, let darkness seep in, our shadows more grubby than secrets.

A bairn born sleeping, still. We sniffed the air, tasted mischief – blamed the blackthorn.  Our poison, pervasive, spread quicker than whispers whipped by the wind. Infected, turned septic, cut deeper than rope. Gripped, strangled, like ivy.

The pack is hungry. We’re silent now. Our wagging tongues choked on the smoke that we stoked – a smoke we spread without fire. Shamed by the moonlight, we follow the wolves to the fields where they’ll burn the witches.

Words I Sign to my Five-Year-Old When They Stop Our Power

Electricity / trigger fingers collide

Off he buzzes. In the fading half-light, he live-wires the living room, charging into a dead TV, lifeless lamps. I, too, crackle with static at what’s to come.

Light / a fist explodes

He seeks the moon, but it’s smog-smothered. Then, face illuminating, he points at me. Glowing, I point at him.

Fire / fingers flicker

A candle’s lit. He doesn’t believe the small flame is enough. How do I sign that when it catches, when rage burns white-hot, when we – the people – blaze through the city tomorrow, everything in its path will be kindling?

Vote for your favourite in the form below. If you have any problems using the form you can also vote on this link: https://form.responster.com/XJZpnq

February 2022 monthly micro longlist.

Lots of you saw the light this month! We had 115 entries so first prize is £172 and second prize is £115, with the people’s prize to be decided!

The shortlist will be published on Monday

Thanks so much to everyone who sent us their words. We enjoyed reading them all. Well done to our longlist below. No telling which is yours though!

Longlisted Stories

  1. Blight
  2. Brightness, Long Ago
  3. Ephemera
  4. Everyday Eulogy
  5. For Light is Energy and Cannot Be Destroyed, Only Transformed
  6. Glitter ball
  7. Hattie Feels Light as a Feather
  8. I Need More Light Down Here!
  9. Lights Off
  10. Light on the Dark Side of the Station Motel
  11. Main Street Wishes
  12. Send in the Clowns
  13. Straight Lines
  14. Summer in November
  15. Sunrise on Inkpen Beacon
  16. There is a Light That Sometimes Goes On
  17. The Ballad of Oranmore (or When Your Grandmother Knew I was the One)
  18. The Burden of Every Soul
  19. The Candlemaker’s Widow
  20. The Doll at the Top of the Stairs
  21. Three Bottles of Château Grandpa
  22. We Follow the Wolf Moon
  23. Words I Sign to My Five-Year-Old When They Stop Our Power

Good luck everyone! We’ll have the shortlist on Monday.

First Chapter Competition June 2015 Winners

The judging has been done and Jo Unwin has made her very difficult decision. As I said when posting the shortlist the standard was really high and Jo found it so hard to choose, and it was so close that even though there wasn’t a runner-up position or prize initially there is now! So the runner-up gets their sub package reviewed by me and the winner by Jo. But Jo has indicated that she’d like to read more from all four writers in the top spots. She has also very kindly given feedback on the entire shortlist and ranked them in the order they appear below.

Winner: The Black Garden by Ruby Speechley

A good title, great, spare writing, and very well imagined, this is intriguing, and tense. I cared about Maddy immediately, and the author manages to do a lot with a very few words. I really want to read on, and more than any other opening chapter, this one gives me the confidence that the author really knows what they’re doing.

Runner-Up: A Good Lad by Terri Armstrong

Very good, lots of superb detail, tension and clarity. A very strong contender – could possibly do with a bit more sense of atmosphere. What kind of book is this?

Honourable Mention: Glass Houses by Jackie Buxton

Very good indeed, fabulously intriguing, understated phrases that layer in the suspense expertly. Great title. I’d like to read on.

Honourable Mention: Overmorrow by Rachael Dunlop

Wonderful detail, tension, tone. Really well done, and a very enjoyable read. Definitely an honourable mention but the author might find a way to lead us on more strongly. Give us a bit more of a sense of where this book might be going to take us. Where is the texture of this book, what is the tone?

Fifth Place: The Wave by Virginia Moffit

Again very strong, well written and a good strong concept. I would have been more hooked with a stronger sense of character.

Sixth Place: Down Among the Giants by Zoe Shoreland

A fascinating memoir, with a strong sense of danger and sadness. Not a strong title, and no indication of why we might be reading this – where’s the hook or intrigue?

Seventh Place: Rose Gold: A Piratical Tale by Nemma Wollenfang

Tense, atmospheric and an interesting story. Not a great title, and occasional clichés let this down.

Eight Place: Down to the River to Pray by Laurence Jones

Well written, and very good sense of place indeed. I didn’t pick up on the tone quickly enough though – the author might try to clarify HOW he wants this to be read.

Ninth Place: Queen Lear’s Legacy by Andrew Campbell-Kearsey

Nice writing and an interesting concept. I would recommend changing the title as it steers the reader too strongly to look for parallels.

Tenth Place: Give Me the Map by Alexander Barr

Some tight dialogue and a neat premise, I enjoyed this. I felt there was room for a bit of tightening here and there.

A huge congratulations to Ruby and Terri! You have until August 31st to polish up your submission packages and email them in to get your reviews. To everyone else a huge well done and maybe if you take Jo’s feedback and revise your first chapters then the December competition judged by Susan Armstrong could be your turn in the top spots!