Ahead of the closing date of our 2017 Bold Types: Scottish Women’s Creative Writing Competition, we thought we’d share the work of our 2016 competition winners to serve as inspiration.
The winners of our 2016 Bold Types competition, with entries based on the theme of ’25 years’, were Linda McLaughlin and Kirsten McQuarrie. Linda was the winner of our short story category with Wake-Up Call and Kirsten took the top spot in the poetry category with her poem Knowledge: 25 Words For Her, 25 Words For Me.
You still have time to be bold and submit your short stories and poems to our 2017 competition. Our theme this year is Body Positive. As ever, we are looking for diverse interpretations of this idea, so give your creative muse free rein and email your short stories and poems of up to 1,000 words to firstname.lastname@example.org in a Word Document or typed in the body of the e-mail with ‘Bold Types Competition Entry’ in the subject line. You can enter once in each category and it’s completely free to enter. The closing date for entries is Friday 10th November.
Knowledge – 25 Words For Her, 25 Words For Me by Kirsten McQuarrie
The apple tastes sharp, Eve thinks
A briskness, like clarity.
It fits in her hand
As if meant for her.
He told her not to (he tells her lots of things)
But the world expands
And whatever comes next,
She would not wish to go back.
Wake Up Call by Linda McLaughlin
A firefly sparks up and dances away as I sit gazing out over the skyline, the faint pulse of the day’s mild sunburn warm on my back. I can hear you humming as you finish showering, something lightly classical. The glass of red I’m cradling is only so-so, but I probably won’t tell you – it’ll only dismay you if I tell you it was the wrong choice. In a moment, I’ll hear you pottering in the little kitchen, pouring your own glass; then you’ll pad up the stairs and say ‘Well? How is it?’ and I will say ‘Mmm…’ in a positive-sounding way, and you will be happy.
I hold your happiness in my hand like a brittle-boned bird. And it would be so very easy to close my fist.
You see, it’s all just a little bit nice with us, isn’t it? Everything in its place, correctly ordered, neat, comfortable. We have a nice house, and a nice income, and a nice standard of living, and you’ve been making noises about a nice place out here in Spain if the shares recover a bit this year…
Nice. You like nice. I’m not sure I do. I’m not sure I am.
You see, lately I’ve been noticing things: how you pick the paper up and flick it, once, just to hear the satisfying snap, I think, because you do it whether it’s crumpled or not. How when one of the kids phones you say ‘Hang on, I’ll get your mother,’ as if they couldn’t possibly want to talk to you, or you to them. How you put your hand on my shoulder when we’re crossing a road, as if I can’t be trusted not to run out into the traffic, and you never see the dipping manoeuvre I’ve perfected to jink out from under it. How you always measure our glasses of wine to an exactly equal level – it can take you five minutes to pour them, sometimes, adding a drop first to one then to the other – until I want to pick them up and dash them and our equally well-measured lives to ruby-splashed smithereens on that practical laminate kitchen floor you insisted upon.
No. I’m not nice. Not at all.
We were punks, once, remember? I wonder sometimes if you do. The first time I saw you I jumped into your arms. It was at some stupid College gig, a girl band who were trying their best to appear dangerous and nasty and, because they were pretty underneath the fake tattoos and piercings and ripped tartan, they were going down a storm. And you were standing there, in the middle of the dance floor, just standing rock still amongst the pogoing, shouting mass, and under your spiky mop of hair you had the eyes of a bruised and fallen angel. They spoke of late nights and stoned parties and soul-searing sex and conversations about everything that mattered…and I couldn’t help myself. I jumped on you. And you fell for me.
I’ve wondered why, often, and the only thing I can think of is that you wanted to save me. From what? From myself? From the big bad world you stared at that night out of your beautiful eyes? Because they weren’t bruised at all, were they – just uncomprehending. The punk gear was just dressing up, for you. The only late nights you knew were the ones spent cramming for your accountancy exams, your drug of choice was a pint of Tartan Special, and your idea of an important conversation was centred on The Jags’ chances of gubbing whichever no-hope team they happened to be up against that weekend. On the sex, though, you did deliver – and that and your truly heart-shattering gaze kept me willingly submerged for long, happy months.
By the time I did finally surface and begin to see you properly, I was pregnant. And you made it all alright. ‘Don’t worry,’ you said, ‘everything will be fine.’ And it was. It really was. You were a strong, solid, safe place in a suddenly scary world and, as time and kids and mortgages and DVD rentals took over our lives, I just didn’t notice that the girl I was, the girl I had been, had somehow drowned in the lake of this entirely other person – and that what I’d thought was a lifebelt had turned somehow into a straitjacket.
It’s just that, for you, we’re past the mid-point of the journey, aren’t we? You see us circling to land, contented smiles on our faces as we join hands and glide into the peaceful sunset glow of retirement. Somehow, I need to find the way to tell you that I will not age gracefully, that I will not go gently, that I will kick and scream and rage and launch myself off the cliff-edge into all the light that’s left – and if you’re not ready or willing to take the leap with me then I will have to jump by myself.
You’ll think I don’t love you, but I do, you know, I always have. I love you like I love, I don’t know, my right eye – without you things would be fuzzy, out of focus, wrong – it wouldn’t be the same, but I would still survive, right? And perhaps I could even get an eyepatch, something jewelled maybe, something piratical, a reminder of that punky past. A silver wedding present to myself.
I can hear you coming up the stairs now, and I stiffen my resolve with a jolt of wine. I know you won’t understand. I know that this will hurt you terribly. But I have to try to make you see that your dreams and mine aren’t the same – and that I’m not even remotely ready to go to sleep yet. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. It just is. And it’s time to tell you. It’s time to wake you up and tell you about us.