Thursday, 23 April 2015
The chain of events began in January, the deadline for the Reader’s Digest 100 Word Story Competition was fast approaching, should I enter? Since coming to writing late in life, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of writing a story in just one hundred words. I’d used it as an exercise in my U3A creative writing group, finding it hard work but enjoying the challenge. This time, there was a story already in my head, begging to be written. The idea came from a Victorian painting by L C Henley called A Quiet Half Hour; but my imaginary ‘quiet half hour’ was very different to the cosy Victorian image depicted in the painting. Yes, I would take a chance and submit it as I knew there were a number of prizes, two runners up and a further story chosen each month throughout the year.
I’d had some success during 2014 when submitting articles for magazines, but this was a totally different challenge. For a magazine article, you can do the research, know exactly what type of article will appeal to a particular readership – and you usually have between 1,000 and 1,200 words to develop your piece of writing. Now I had just 100 words in which to bring the story to life.
Over the following weeks, I was mostly successful in putting the competition to the back of my mind. I expected the judging process to take some time and knew that due to the number of entries they would receive, I wouldn’t hear from them if my story wasn’t chosen. What happened next came as a complete surprise.
It was mid-February, I’d had a busy day and it was late evening before I had a chance to sit down, laptop on my knee, to check my emails. I was alone in the house; my other half was at Anfield watching an LFC mid-week home game. Only one email – but it was from Reader’s Digest! Before opening it, I stared at the subject line; ‘Re your 100 Word Story entry…’ Wow! I must be a runner-up… I clicked to open and read the first sentence:
Dear Joan, Many congratulations! After a long and difficult judging process, you’ve been declared the winner of this year’s 100-Word-Story Competition in the Adult Category and will receive the £500 first prize…
Anyone watching me over the next couple of minutes would have thought I was completely deranged. The laptop almost fell to the floor. I turned into a human windmill, arms flailing, as I jumped up and down, rushing from living room to hall, hall to dining room. At the same time, shouting, ‘Oh my God…Oh my God…’ And there was no-one to tell! I thought I would burst, unable to physically contain my excitement – was it too late to phone my sons, at least the two who live in this country? No, I felt justified at disturbing them; I knew they would be thrilled at the news, as Jim was when he returned home – after initially thinking my excitement was because Liverpool FC had won their match!
‘Our art department will contact you in due course about setting up a photo shoot…’
A photo shoot! It would be arranged for early March – but that’s another story…
My story is in the May issue of Reader's Digest, which is out now.