Our 2018 Bold Types Scottish Women’s Creative Writing Competition marked the sixth year of Scotland’s only free creative writing competition for women and we received hundreds of short stories and poems in response to this year’s theme of ‘Rebel’.
Our shortlisted writers read their work at GWL on Thursday 22nd November at our Bold Types Creative Writing Showcase event in front of our wonderfully supportive and encouraging panel of judges: prize-winning poet Vicki Husband; Science Fiction novelist Safina Mazhar; and GWL’s own librarian, Wendy Kirk.
The panel had a tough time deliberating but we’re now delighted to announce that the winners of our Bold Types: Scottish Women’s Creative Writing Competition 2018 are Meg Macleod and Jay Andrew. Meg was the winner of our short story category with Rebel and Jay took the top spot in the poetry category with her poem Small Acts of Rebellion. Congratulations to Meg and Jay and all the other women who were bold and entered our competition.
Read both wining entries below.
Rebel by Meg Macleod
Just south of the Chinese border a small independent country manufactures silk for export to the west. You might be forgiven for thinking that the long line of women making their way to the factory are ants; a meandering and determined trail. Dark brown cotton jackets, protecting the women from the rain, complete their anonymity.
Inside the concrete block the women register their work number and waste no time in getting to their looms. Under the watchful eye of the Controller in his office overlooking the workshop, their murmuring conversations peter out and the beating rhythm of the looms takes over. The dull brown-uniformed figures with their covered heads are intent on production. The hive settles into its daily routine.
On the floor above the workshop the Book-keeper is also hard at work. He is in charge of the `black book`. It contains the details of the workforce, wages paid, production levels. It is the hub of the factory. He has an important job. He is meticulous. He never knows when the auditors will come. He relies on the black book. It doesn’t go off-line. He has control of it totally. And control keeps the factory running. It keeps the Controller happy.
His attention is interrupted. The hum of the machines has halted. Power failure? No, the lamp on his desk is still on.
In the workshop the women have slowly, one by one, stopped working. They are staring across the room.
The Controller rises from his chair. His moment of confusion changes to outrage. He makes his way to the workshop floor to where a young woman is working at her loom. It is the only loom beating out its rhythm. She does not look up, even though he is standing at her shoulder.
The controller barks out his question. `Your work number?`
The woman looks up at him. `My name is Hye Sung.` She is dressed in the most beautiful shades of blue silk; embroidered flowers trailing across her breast and the hem of the dress fluttering in the breeze from the open windows.
The Controller`s face darkens. `Your work number?!`
The women at their looms wait for her to answer; their arms suspended as if time has suddenly stopped. She does not answer
Again the Controller speaks, his voice an octave higher, `and your uniform, where is your uniform?`
The young woman steps down from her stool and pulls out of her satchel the remains of her uniform. It has been cut into pieces. She drops the dark brown cloth at his feet.
The Controller`s assistant gasps. A whispering travels across the room.
The Controller’s hand sweeps the room. `Get back to work. You`, he points to the young woman,`your work number?`
`My name is Hye Sung.` There is a slight quivering in her voice.
He cannot be seen to lose control. He is aware of the workers watching from down turned eyes, listening with ears alerted; waiting, waiting.
The Controller turns to his assistant.`Fetch the Book-keeper.`
He will not give her the power of her name. He will not be defied.
Surprised to be summoned, the Book-keeper makes his way to the Controller’s office. The assistant shakes his head and points to the factory floor.`Down there.`
The Book-keeper peers through the glass. ‘What?` There is a blue iridescence shifting, catching the light, moving and flowing around a woman. He has only seen the silk folded and baled ready for shipment. No-one wears silk. No one dares.
He is now making his way down to the woman and the Controller, black book beneath his arm. He is sweating, nervous in this new situation.
The Controller asks the woman again, `your work number?’
`My name is Hye Sung`
The Controller nods to the Book-keeper and gestures him to his book. Everyone`s name is in the book, beside which their `work number` is entered, their name destined to be forgotten and unused.
`Number 11053`, says the Book-keeper, his finger trembling as it locates the woman`s name.
To his assistant the Controller says,`take her away.`
To the Book-keeper the Controller makes a gesture with his hand as if a sword is swiping the air. The Book-keeper does not understand.
The Controller takes the pen in his own hand and runs a line through her name and through her number. He hands the pen back.
The woman and the assistant make their way past the other women who hesitate and look briefly at them passing. They notice how the blue silk defines her.
Something has entered the hive. Something they fear. Something they desire.
In his office the Book-keeper sits with the book open. Some of the numbers in the book have green circles beside them. These numbers are unwell and will return to duty. Some of the numbers have red circles against them, these numbers are old and slow, they will be paid less.
The numbers with black lines drawn through will not return.
The Book-keeper closes his eyes. Behind his eye-lids, where no-one else can see, he looks at the woman again. At her quiet gentle face and her black eyes that offer no resistance. He can almost feel the warmth of her body against the blue silk which she wears so proudly. His hands reach out. In his black book, beside her name, he draws a tiny blue butterfly. This much he can do. This he wants to do.
The hive is settled for the night. The workplace closed and silent. Within the hive something bestirs itself: something brave, something blue, something free.
In their beds the women dream. Some of them speak in their sleep, shouting out their own names.
SMALL ACTS OF REBELLION by Jay Andrew
I reckon we all like to think we are rebels at heart.
My generation in particular
Who grew up under Thatcher
Marched against apartheid
Strident anti-Trident, being all anarchic and bohemian
Drinking warm Red Stripe Jamaican lager
At the monthly reggae discos
In Maryhill Community Central Halls
And snogging our best friend outside the Halt
When our boyfriend wasn’t looking
“Having a home birth”
Smoking council and drinking pots of tea
In high rise flats
Listening to mixtapes called “Sex Grease”
And cackling at Father Ted
But when you get on a bit
Like I have
Where the silver in your hair
Has you looking more like the mother of dragons
And not the amazing woman who you nurtured
Into a trove of her own complexities and contradictions
What is there left to rebel against?
You leave the old dude
In his dressing gown and rusting motorbikes
Whose skinny boyish arse you once thought farted sunbeams
And who told you he hasn’t loved you for ten years
Though he let you suck his cock
For another five
Trudging your meagre belongings
In a granny trolley on wheels as shaky as your resolve
A maelstrom of anxiety and misgivings
To a red sandstone tenement
One up, with the bay windows you always wanted
That you fill with all your pirate hoard
Buying cushions and candles
Plastering the walls of your bedroom
With posters of shiny-faced
Pretty Korean laddies
With names like Namjoon and Seokjin
Young enough to be your sons
Who tell you to Love Yourself
And Orlando Bloom
Who you have lusted after since he was Legolas
While fancying Keira Knightley just as much
Staunchly vegan you adopt a cat
Free of the pressures of the anti-nuclear “family”
You become best friends with the child
Now woman who looks like your mother
And at the same time her own magical self
Eschewing digital downloads
You fill your shelves with the music and the movies
That you like
And join a singing group
Even though your voice
Sounds like foxes fucking on the wasteground
Outside your window
Dressing in Vans, Converse and Adidas
Dolce and Gabana from charity shops
Primark and George at Asda
You take a lover online
An Englishman who calls you
Sweetness and snugglemuffin
Sending you flowers on your birthday
Sexting and Tweeting
And grinning like the cougar you are
When he tells you he was born in the year
When those defiant acts
First stirred in your wayward ventricles
The biggest act of jacquerie you can conjure
Is to offer this outpouring
To an audience outside of your own head