This is the WASTED BLOG. For my main author website, click this link.

Awards: WASTED won the Read it or Else category in the Coventry Award and was runner-up in the North East Book Award. It is longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, and RED Awards.

Sunday, 20 June 2010


What a lot of entries I had for this competition! And the standard was quite extraordinary, in both age categories. I'd like to make a special point of thanking and praising an Edinburgh school, George Watson's College, for sending in so many entries and for producing the winner and several commended entries.

As I'm a chicken, I decided to choose an expert guest author as a judge. My first choice, and a very easy one, was the talented and delightful Nik Perring, and I was so pleased that he accepted. I knew he'd take it very seriously and consider the stories carefully, which I knew they deserved. But I knew how busy he would be, as he has just had a book out, and so I was all the more grateful to him for accepting. To make it fair, my assistant, Catherine, sorted all the entries into a document and removed the names, so that Nik wouldn't feel awkward if he recognised any of the writers.

A bit about Nik Perring:
1. He's had loads of stories published, plus a children's book, and most recently a brilliant collection of flash fiction pieces, published by RoastBooks and titled Not So Perfect. It's beside my bed just now and I am horribly reluctant to finish it because each one is such a gem. If you look on Amazon you'll see some amazing reviews and I will be adding mine.

2. He has a great blog - If you're at all interested in the process and art of writing, do check it out.

3. You can follow him on Twitter as @nikperring

4. He's lovely.

And now I will hand you over to Nik.
Before the winners are announced, I’d like to thank Nicola for asking me to judge the fabulous WASTED flash fiction competition – it was an honour and a privilege. I’d also like to explain a little about how I chose my winners.

What I look for in a good piece of flash fiction is, mostly, a good story. I want to be able to read something that’s believable and affecting and that moves me in some way; I want it to make me laugh or cry or think. And I want, ideally, the story to last long after the final word, to stay with me after I’ve put it down.

And in reading all of the entries (many times over two days!) I found that pretty much all of them fitted that, in one way or another. The quality was brilliantly high and I was impressed, not only that so many people had written flash fiction pieces, but that they’d written them so well.

Of course, that left me with a problem: picking winners.

And it was a BIG problem. So I ended up drawing up a short list, for both categories, of six. And from there, after much head scratching and frowning I eventually picked a winner. Eventually.

Congratulations to all who entered. And I’m not just saying this - but every entry was good.

I hope you all keep writing short fiction because you’re all rather good at it!
I second all that! And now, here are Nik's decisions. The winner in each category gets a signed copy of Wasted, or any other of my books. (By the way, you may notice that occasional punctuation or small errors have often not spoilt the overall enjoyment of the reader. I would also like to point out that I happen to know that most of the school entries were done in one lesson, without warning, and with no time to proof-read or do much tweaking.)

CATEGORY A – school age (including 6th form college students)

WINNER: Ellis Smith (13)
My head was pounding, everyone was unnoticeable, out of focus. The monitor was bleeping powerfully. The hospital bed was brick, my cuts and bruises were agonizing. Thoughts came and gone in my head, was it luck or fate for Marcus? Was he in the same position as me?
(Nik says: An excellent piece of flash fiction which does what flash should – it delivers a brilliantly affecting story which lasts far beyond the last word. Excellent.)

Eve Kelsey (17)
A girl lay in the field, her lover lay beneath her. They’d always dreamed of visiting Paris, and now they finally had the chance, after years of turmoil and disaster. She smiled, then suddenly wept- and reached out a trembling hand… to caress the broken cross, amidst the poppies.
(Nik says: I love the way this works as a whole story in such a small amount of, very cleverly used, words. Excellent and touching ending without being too obvious.)

Jonny Urquhart (13)
Harris was a boy, the luckiest boy alive. It all started because once he walked into a shop and bought a lovely chocolate ice-cream and won the prize of the thousandth person to buy it. He was very lucky because the boy in front of him had decided on vanilla.
(Nik says: I really liked the narrator’s voice in this. And it made me laugh. Excellent work!)

Heather Philp (age not known but I think 13, as in same school class as the other 12/13 year-olds)
She bowed her head as a river appeared to flood from her eyes, drowning her black patent shoes in tears of sorrow.

I wanted to comfort her, to tell her that everything would be all right. That mum would get better. I was wrong, fate just wasn't on my side.
(Nik says: A story packed with emotion which was brilliantly and concisely told. And a killer ending.)

Daniel Baird (12)
My Stolen Jet
The alarm sounded to tell us there was a Luftwaffe attack. I ran outside to find my plane but someone was already at my jet.

"Oi! That my jet!"

 He never heard and was taking off.

 I saw my jet in the sky. It was a giant ball of fire.
(Nik says: Excellent and atmospheric with impressive dialogue.)

Hannah Nicholson (13)
Looking back on Chance.
There was once a boy.  An unusual boy.  You were never certain of what he was up to, in fact you were never certain of where he was.  He was never around in daylight.  He only showed up, creeping in shadows at midnight. Maybe it's chance I never knew him.
(Nik says: A lovely, mysterious short tale)

CATEGORY B - adults...

WINNER: Tanya Byrne
Cats and dogs
Mum says that rain is God crying.  Actually, it’s me.

It rained the day she died; at the funeral; at the foster home while I waited for someone to tell me that I was going to be a hero, that my powers would save the world.

It rained and rained.
(Nik says: This is a perfect example of what flash fiction is and can do. The word count’s tiny and yet there’s SO MUCH here, and it echoes long after the final word. And when all that’s coupled with smooth writing and an excellent and believable voice it has to be my winner. Brilliant and affecting. Congratulations.)


Stephanie Butland
He shouldn’t have left. Not tonight.

Sharp shadows spike from his feet as he runs, runs, lungs wailing, to a wired white room where her breath barely shivers the air.

He is almost here, but corridors, lifts, stairs sprawl between them.

Her cold hand suddenly colder.

He’s too late.
(Nik says: A brilliant piece which captures so much in such a small number of words. Full of atmosphere and excellent writing.)

Barbara  O Connor

I always said, “It won’t happen to me”.  I was wrong and you were born.  It’s strange that we can produce another life, yet can’t always save our own.

 I feel that part of you, so unselfishly given, filling me with life. I am so glad you happened to me.
(Nik says: I love the language used here, love how the writing’s to the point and all the words are the right ones. There’s a lovely, honest tenderness here too.)

Kate Kelly

Keep playing, bows on strings. Don’t stop. All paths converge on this moment. Nothing could have changed that. Fate.

The sky is starlit clear, the air filled with screams. They can’t drown our music with their panic. But the music will drown. The deck tips. Titanic sinks.
Keep playing.
(Nik says: Brilliant in its brevity and it captures a moment we’re all familiar with wonderfully. It’s what’s unsaid that makes this work.)

Dan Metcalf

“If you got pregnant now, would you keep it?”

We’d been arguing.  I guess I wanted ammunition.  I just wanted to know if she loved me.  We’d been dating for years, but I wasn’t convinced.  It was a cheap trick.

She turned, eyes glistening:

“What do you mean ‘if’?”
(Nik says: A perfect snapshot of a life-changing conversation. Well written. And it made me laugh.)

José Kilbride
"So, what do you think it was? Luck?"
"Okay, what then?"
"Sheer bloody stupidity on my part and an extraordinarily forgiving
(Nik says: Another piece that made me smile. I especially like the form of this – I think the writer’s been brave and that (s)he’s produced something believable, funny and moving.)

Congratulations to all the named authors and especially, of course, to the two winners, Ellis Smith and Tanya Byrne! Catherine will be in touch to ask where to send your prizes and I will sign the books and write to you personally.

To the others: remember, all fiction reading is about personal response. A different judge might have made a different choice. I might have made some different choices. If Nik had eaten something different for breakfast, HE might have made a different choice! That's what Wasted is about, after all, the tiny things that make us do what we do.

The choice you made, the thing you could and did control, was to enter the competition. And in doing so, who knows what positive changes you have created in your life?

So, whether or not you were lucky this time, well done and thank you for contributing to a wonderful standard of entries. Oh, and on Tuesday I'll be announcing some winners of other competitions. Meanwhile, there are still two competitions to enter. Go here and check out the last two on the page. If you don't enter, you can't win!

PS - the librarian at George Watson's has just emailed me to say that "by chance" (as always!) my email telling her about all their success came on the morning of the year prize-giving, so the pupils had their achievement read out in front of the whole year group. Lovely!!


catdownunder said...


Nik Perring said...

Congratulations all! And sorry to those I didn't pick - they were ALL brilliant.


ohthatanya said...

*gasps* Oh, my goodness. I wrote 'Cats and Dogs' and I'm absolutely thrilled. Thank you, Nicola! This is such a wonderful competition with so many great entries - I love Jonny Urquhart's piece! - and I honestly can't wait to read WASTED. And thank you to Nik, too. I am touched beyond words for your very kind comments. I hope you know how much you've made me smile. Thank you.

Yours very excited,

Kate said...

Oh wow - I'm really pleased to see my effort in the line up - the others are so good it's great to be counted among them.

Thanks Nik.

Nik Perring said...

Congrats to you both!

José said...

To echo Kate - Oh wow! (I said this a lot this morning).

Thanks Nik for the very kind comments, and it is very pleasing to be considered alongside such excellent pieces of fiction, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Tanya - well done, loved reading your piece, and am still extrapolating stories beyond it. Superb stuff.

And yes, I am a 'he', penchant for manbags not withstanding.

Nik Perring said...

Jose (sorry - can't do accents on this keyboard, or rather, I don't know how!) - your piece was terrific. I was really impressed by it. Congratulations! And keep writing them!

The gender confusion was more about the entries being anonymous than your name btw! :)


Barbara O'Connor said...

Wow! I am so honoured to be commended. Thanks for your lovely comments, Nik.

Nik Perring said...

A pleasure, Barbara - and congratulations again!