Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – Beki Turner

Together We Can by Beki Turner

Beckiturner

I live in Brighton with my daughter Rosie and my dog Frankie, and I have been here since 1999, moving impulsively from London after ending up at a party in the basement of a record shop.

Brighton is a very special and magical place, and it felt right to base my story here. I wanted to highlight the subject of loneliness, and how people of all ages can be isolated and lonely for a number of reasons. I’ve worked extensively with homeless individuals and quite vulnerable adults over the years.

Everyone has a reason for ending up in Brighton, and sometimes people get lost along the way.  I wanted to show how kindness and coincidence can bring people together and change lives, and how people coming together can be really powerful.

Perhaps the characters in my story will be developed in the future because they all have a story to tell and have the potential to help each other.

I have always loved writing fiction as a hobby and promised myself that if I was one of the winners of the competition, I’d start taking it seriously…

Extract from Together We Can

Gav is drunk. You can see it in his ordinarily militant body; His usual brash march is more of a meaningful flounder as he meanders across the pebbles. Gav opts for an unnecessarily loud exit from the blaring serenity of Brighton beach, striding past the bank holiday families with their middle class picnics, and the hipsters with their disposable barbeques bought with their disposable incomes. They are all being circled and Gav ruffles the seagulls’ feathers as he strides noisily past them.

Tourists and locals huddle around tables, drinking premium beer from flimsy cups as the sun starts to set. Gav turns back to look at the glitter bomb ocean. The sky is as beautiful as a Bierstadt. Gav breathes in the wafts of charred meat, cigarette smoke, aftershave and salt. He listens to the voices shouting over the deafening base lines and the sirens overhead. He pulls his last can of lager out of his pocket. It’s still perfectly cold. He holds the can for a moment, feeling it penetrate his hands and enjoying the sensation. He cracks it open and takes a swig. The beer simmers in his mouth and the taste is wondrous. And at that exact moment, Gav knows it’s a good time to die.

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – David Benedictus

Protected Housing by David Benedictus 

DavidbenedictusI am 79 and I am a theatre director and writer. I have written lots of stuff – too much really – and published about 15-20 novels from The Fourth of June (1962), a scurrilous book about Eton, to Return to the Hundred Acre Wood (2009) an authorised sequel to the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

I am a member of Nightwriters, the writers club in Brighton. My second published novel, You’re a Big Boy Now (1963) was filmed by the (very) young Francis Ford Coppola in New York. I worked for the BBC on many occasions and was commissioning editor for drama series at Channel 4 from 1984-1986. I was a London tour guide and ran a horse-race tipping service for 25 years. The Daily Mail said I was going to marry Princess Anne , but I didn’t. At the BBC I initiated the programme Something Understood.

I have 4 children, a QC, a novelist, a psychotherapist and a theatrical producer. They are amazing. I have also written a number of musicals, one of which was started in 1955 and is still awaiting a full production

I don’t know where the idea for Protected Housing came from but with just a few hours to go before the deadline I thought I ought to do something  and this is what emerged. It’s not like anything I have written before and although it would benefit from a second draft I like its poignant atmosphere.

You can read more about David’s life  here

Extract from Protected Housing

‘It really was the most marvellous garden,’ she said. ’Not that I had anything to compare it with.’

He tried to recall it. ‘It smelled so beautiful. No chemicals of course then, and it rained only when you needed it. I remember a tree,’ he said. ‘Because I used to sit in the shade and make up names for things. Then you came along, and you thought of miraculous names. Like Flutterby.’

‘You improved on that one.’ She smiled. Although her skin was so wrinkled these days, she retained a smile to charm the birds out of the trees. They seldom spoke of those days because they seemed not only to belong to a different age but to two different people entirely.

‘Would you like to go back?’

‘Well, we couldn’t, could we? For one thing, we’d never find it.’

Meet the four winners of the Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com ‘Everyday Epic’ short story writing competition – Jenny Gaitskell

On the Threshold by Jenny Gaitskell
My-Wife B&W

 

My default state is daydreaming, and some days I have to go to work and pretend to be sensible, but I write stories whenever possible. While I’m writing, I can go to places I’ll never see, travel in time, meet impossible strangers and be somebody else for a while. When the stories are published, my hope is that readers will imagine something new too. I blog about daydreaming, my creative brain (who calls herself Gonzo) and the unexpected encounters which inspire me. If that sounds like fun, have a look on jennygaitskell.com, or come and say hello on twitter @jennygaitskell.

When I wrote , I’d woken up into one of those mornings when everything feels impossible, even making stuff up. Under those circumstances, obviously the best thing to do was mess about on the internet, and that’s how I found the theme for this anthology, Everyday Epics. Yup, I thought, each day’s a toughie. My page was blank and my mind was blank, except for a woman stuck behind a door. I asked myself, if she could only make herself take that first step, out into the world, what might she try next?

Extract from On the Threshold

On the threshold, Emily told herself: you can become the version of you that’s needed, send another letter, take one more step forward. She took it, and closed her front door quietly behind her, for the sake of neighbours who’d never noticed her. Once again, the street smelled of last night but the sky was pink with possibility. Passing across the square, she recognised, from identical mornings, another early riser. He didn’t see her smile, was too busy examining the inside of his frown. There is always tomorrow, she thought. She was right on time for the park, and ready for the dog walker’s half-hearted salute, which might really be no more than a shaking of the leash. She threw her first ever greeting, but it fell short. The walker didn’t turn to pick it up, didn’t wait to see what might happen next. But a word had been spoken, and that was better than yesterday.

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com exclusive short story writing competition based on the Brighton Festival 2017 theme of ‘Everyday Epic’. Competition entries extracts.

Ridiculous, unsettling coincidences

Across the cliff top she walked for a while, picking her way along the path by the light of a low moon that hung over the sea. She paused occasionally to shoot her voice over the water that surged against the rocks far below. Seagulls flew around with angry moans. By now it was three in the morning. Liz couldn’t bear the thought of another night coming on. The void calling beneath her was something she would fall into, never to rise again.

Silence. Nothing. No one. That was it then. For three or four minutes, Liz stood, suspended on the edge of the abyss. She could not turn herself back to the solid cliff behind and prepared to take a step into the ultimate experience of nothingness.

A co-incidence. A ridiculous, unsettling conjunction; two separate points of the universe colliding that should never have come together.

As Liz took a step into the chasm of sea and darkness beneath, just then, the phone rang. What on earth? Here? Of course it was the mobile phone still in her coat pocket. As if wandering disconsolately along the cliff at Beachy Head was unreal enough, this was surreal. “Go on, answer it,” she said out loud. Instinct took hold as the curiosity of the self she had been about to extinguish rose from the abyss.

“Hello?” she said. She couldn’t believe it. Rev Bill?! Here. On the phone? Now? This time of night! It had to be the oddest thing that had ever happened.

“Liz, I had the strangest and strongest impulse to phone you. I know how late it is. And you will tell me to back off and go to bed. But something has made me call. Tell me you’re all right?”

Liz took a deep breath and couldn’t resist smiling at the situation. Maybe all her experience did not have to be a long extended conversation with oneself. Perhaps there was someone out there able to break in upon us. What should she say?

“Yes I’m all right”. Even as she said these words, she felt herself struggle back over the cliff to find a foothold once more. “Look, thanks for phoning. I’ll go back now” (though she didn’t say where she was), “come and talk to me soon” she added, almost as an afterthought. Liz thought she saw a crack in the sky. There were choices to take and moves to make. And she sat there for an hour until pale flecks of morning began to line the eastern sky. A new day.

(Christopher, Brighton area)

In the slave room

Later that evening there were no punters for an hour, and I was able to sit and talk with Sylvie. “I have a right to be here and I live only in fear,” I told her quietly, but she said nothing, just looking at me sadly for a few moments. She seemed about to speak when Angela came in, and stood watching the rest of the news report while sucking on an e-cigarette, and cursing the lack of business.

She paused to draw on the e-cigarette again, its tip glowing with cold heat, then gave a strange smile to us. “You two should be glad the punters couldn’t care less where any of you come from. You’re just a collection of holes to them!” She paused, then waves her e-cigarette at Sylvie. “Though you’re a bit special, of course, Sylv. Brown sugar special request…. A taste of the exotic with our wild African temptress.” She laughed.

“I wish I was back in Africa,” said Sylvie quietly. “It’s not exotic to me – it’s home.” This defiance made Angela go mad. She slapped Sylvie, and called her a “f****** ungrateful bitch”, then threatened to get Danny upstairs to brand her. “Put the f****** mark on you like a prized cow,” she spat out. “The closest you’re ever going to get to Africa is if you get moved to the flat in Brixton.”

The buzzer had rung during Angela’s outburst, and now rang again, which made Angela stop suddenly, swear, then compose her greeting face. She snapped at us: “Get back in the lounge, and look f****** ready – ready for f******.” Then she left to go and greet the punter and take their money.

Sylvie had a strange blank look on her face as she walked past me towards the lounge. I gulped down the last of the tea, then took a few moments to swoosh out a sludge of Hobnob in the bottom of the cup, then began working on my punter face.

When I walked into the lounge I just stared, trying to take things in. Sylvie had taken a tasselled cushion from the sofa where we sat for punters with our skirts high up our legs, and she had set it on fire using the bars of the heater. Now she was walking quickly, precisely around the room holding the flames to anything that might burn. She turned to me sharply, and with a fierce voice told me not to make a sound. “Help me push the sofa against the door so that bitch can’t get in,” she spat. “We have to keep her out until someone out there sees the fire and calls for help.”

We pushed harder than we had ever pushed before, slowly pushing the sofa until it was against the door. All around us cheap fabric began to burn – a chair, a worn rug – then flames began to destroy the dark curtains that blocked the outside looking in. We retreated to a far corner of the room and began praying that someone would see.

(Norman, Brighton)

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com exclusive short story writing competition based on the Brighton Festival 2017 theme of ‘Everyday Epic’. Competition entries extracts.

It was just one of those things   

She tipped the contents of the barrow into the English Channel, and smiled: Nobody could find him now! The police could investigate, and the media speculate as much as they liked; in a couple of weeks no-one would give a damn about the disappearance of a guitarist in a boy band. She’d got away with it!

The barrow was easier to push now that it was empty, but a small plastic sandwich bag remained in the bottom. Helen stared at the bag; damn I’ve forgotten his bits and pieces after all! Oh well, they can go in the fridge. I’ll go to the pier and feed them to the seagulls tomorrow

The voice from behind her came as a surprise, ‘Allo. Allo. Allo. What’s nice a girl like you doing in a place like this in the middle of the night?’

Helen turned slowly, ‘Oh hello officer! I’ve been taking some rubbish to the dump.’

The police officer looked into the wheelbarrow, where at the bottom, Justin’s sad looking bits and pieces along with his fingers and toes were clearly visible in the transparent sandwich bag, ‘What the f***…’ he said and stared at Helen in disbelief.

Oh well you can’t win them all.

(Marita)

Protected Housing

‘It really was the most marvellous garden,’ she said. ’Not that I had anything to compare it with.’

He tried to recall it. ‘It smelled so beautiful. No chemicals of course then, and it rained only when you needed it. I remember a tree,’ he said. ‘Because I used to sit in the shade and make up names for things. Then you came along, and you thought of miraculous names. Like Flutterby.’

‘You improved on that one.’ She smiled. Although her skin was so wrinkled these days, she retained a smile to charm the birds out of the trees. They seldom spoke of those days because they seemed not only to belong to a different age but to two different people entirely.

‘Would you like to go back?’

‘Well, we couldn’t, could we? For one thing, we’ld never find it.’

‘There’s a few clues. The Land of Nod.’

‘But what’s that mean? It’s just a metaphor. It means you might see it in your dreams. You might. I haven’t had a dream for months.’

They were sitting either side of a plain oak table on which lay the remains of a frugal lunch; soup and some unappetizing fruit. Their conversation was interrupted by power drills and the cheerful blasphemies of workmen for whom every day was predictable. The village was being reinvented.

‘I did dream about the snake once. He was an old charmer, despite everything.’

‘It must have been part of a plan,’ Adam remarked. He wanted to continue talking and to leave the dishes till later. ‘And when you consider all the aspects of it, it was a weird kind of plan, because I don’t believe we had any choice. It would have been helpful if we had some record of it all; photos maybe.’

(David, Hove)

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com exclusive short story writing competition based on the Brighton Festival 2017 theme of ‘Everyday Epic’. Competition entries extracts.

The Beginner’s Guide To Being Arrested

I worried about being ‘on the system’. I wasn’t online – I didn’t have broadband, Facebook or Twitter – they just it weren’t for me. I’d given up on the landline as it was too expensive and just use a pay-as-you-go mobile phone. When it rings it’s always a random cold caller and I can barely text. It takes me ages to send just a couple of words. I’d kind of lost contact with the world and now I was suddenly thrown into the 21st century by biometric data.

After the samples and prints had been taken it was back to the cell. I fell asleep to be woken up and asked if I would like dinner? I said “no” thinking it was still morning and this was some trick to confuse me. I developed a mindset that everyone was against me. I had gone out that morning, been attacked then gone home but my place-of-safety had been intruded upon by police arresting me.

The hatch in the cell door slammed open waking me. I’d fallen asleep sitting up again.

“Your Solicitor will be here in forty minutes”, someone shouted through the hatch then slammed it shut. It was no good knowing that. I didn’t have a watch on. I waited in the cell in which the temperature was now unbearably hot. I decided to go to the toilet ignoring the overhead camera. Immediately after I had finished, the cell door opened. “Your duty solicitor is here”, the custody assistant said.

(Matt, Shoreham By Sea)

 

On the Threshold

On the threshold, Emily told herself: you can become the version of you that’s needed, send another letter, take one more step forward. She took it, and closed her front door quietly behind her, for the sake of neighbours who’d never noticed her. Once again, the street smelled of last night but the sky was pink with possibility.

Passing across the square, she recognised, from identical mornings, another early riser. He didn’t see her smile, was too busy examining the inside of his frown. There is always tomorrow, she thought.

She was right on time for the park, and ready for the dog walker’s half-hearted salute, which might really be no more than a shaking of the leash. She threw her first ever greeting, but it fell short. The walker didn’t turn to pick it up, didn’t wait to see what might happen next. But a word had been spoken, and that was better than yesterday.

(Jenny, Lewes)

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com exclusive short story writing competition based on the Brighton Festival 2017 theme of ‘Everyday Epic’. Competition entries extracts.

Master of the Rolls

The groan that oozed from Amir’s throat pitched as horror, sadness and pity took turns to confront him. The barbeque was tomorrow. And now £95 worth of meat – the beef-burgers, the lamb-chops, the vegetarian sausages – was all gone; destroyed. And £20 of breads used as tennis balls? This could not be happening. Everyone in The Building had been invited: ten families; thirty two stomachs. He couldn’t cancel. He must think of a solution – one that didn’t involve shelling out money. Because all he had in his wallet was a maxed-out credit card and a £10 note. Nothing in the bank until the cheque he’d paid in for the Matheson’s loft job was cleared. It would be Wednesday, at the earliest, before that £200 was in his account. Amir heard his wife sniffling her sobs under control.

(Michael, Eastbourne)

Nice Light

One of those days in Brighton where the heat is thick. Everybody lying on the grass watching everybody else. Ice lolly sticks all over the playground. Dogs with their tongues out, dry. Max sleeping next to a crate of Foster’s. No clouds. A teenage boy in a grey t-shirt tapping me on the shoulder. Sweat patches, smiley. Tells me he’s looking for alcoholics. Making a short film for college. Just thought he’d ask around the park. Hot day, you know? Writes his mobile number on a rizla. Don’t have to decide now, just something to keep in mind. He’d appreciate it.

Put the rizla in my back pocket. Remember being seventeen, on a bus. Woman with a sandwich turned around in her seat to tell me to go easy on the drink. She’d seen me on this route before. Couldn’t even walk straight at eleven in the morning. Better kick it before it’s too late. Got a whole life ahead of me. Not a thing to waste, a life. I thanked her for the advice and got off at the next stop to buy four K Ciders. Guess I’ve got it written all over my face.

(Saba, Brighton)

Brighton Festival, nabokov and Lulu.com exclusive short story writing competition based on the Brighton Festival 2017 theme of ‘Everyday Epic’. Deadline extended to midnight 24 May 2017

The deadline for entries to the Brighton Festival and Lulu.com short story writing competition has been extended and is now open to entries until Wednesday 24 May.

The quality of the entries so far has been very high and so we have taken the decision to extend the closing deadline to allow more authors the opportunity to submit their work.

Extracts from Everyday Epic stories received so far. Please follow this blog to receive extracts on the story submissions.

Don’t say a word

Starting to work through her ‘to-do’ list, Dani is interrupted by the new starter who had emailed her earlier that morning. She demands to know why Dani won’t meet with her, that her time is important and that she insists that Dani attend the meeting. Dani is unprepared for this and starts to panic. She grabs her whiteboard, writes that she can’t talk now; that she can’t talk at all. The new starter doesn’t go away. The voice becomes more strident. Dani looks for an escape route but her way is blocked by the woman with the loud voice. Dani starts tapping, but it doesn’t calm her this time, and the tapping gets closer and closer to hitting but the voice still continues; Dani can no longer make out the words, only the harsh tone. She needs to run but can’t get away. She starts hitting her head against the wall next to her desk, trying to make it all stop, trying to get herself away from the pain that the voice causes her.

(Julie, West Sussex)

Heartbreak

My husband would be furious if he knew I was here. I’d broken my promise not to see this boy again, but I just had to see him one more time. The choir shuffled onto the stage, not quite the grand entrance that had been rehearsed. A few younger men broke up the ranks of grey-haired chaps fumbling with their song sheets. Most of them were men of my own age, or slightly older, dressed in an assortment of rainbow colours, as requested by the choir director. The early evening sun shone through the stained-glass windows of the old church. Friends and family fanned themselves with the programme of tonight’s show and I caught the scent of decaying lilies placed beside the altar.

(Christopher, West Sussex)

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