Writing competition – the Runner-up


by Dudley Martin

It’s a creature. The thought seems to lie in wait for the sound. I can’t tell if it’s hunger or curiosity which freezes me. The noise comes again from the reedbed, in a slightly different place; a spoor of crumpling, fracturing. Something moving.

First rule of listening: stop. Now scan, locate. A fox does this, can swivel its ears through half-circles. Is it reynard in the swamp, tempted by ice-bound waterfowl? I look for a viewpoint, a gap between blackthorns. But you cannot see far into reeds before the eye falters. A bittern understands, stretches a vertical neck, hides itself in slender rushwork.

Unusual here, so near the coast; ice. Golden sunshine falls on ivy by the track, blue flies bask. It might be Summer, but for a damp tunic. It is ivy Summer. Contrary as the back of the moon, ivy wears her garland of blackjacks; which the redwing gathers with its needle, the fieldfare with pruning shears.

Farther away now, the movement. Twitches and waggles of reed seedheads. Bleached and wispy, they hold their own frozen light, give body to the wind. I think about deer, have seen roe not far from here. Might one have strayed into the reeds and got into difficulty? I hope for a flashing white rump, a roe hind jumping clear. There is no deer.

What if it isn’t mammals at all, or birds, but fish? Maybe pike have woken to see winter midges settle on the surface of the ice; black stars in a white firmament? Pike stirring, rousing their great hulls to smash through ice. No. Midges are small meat. Pike will be lying deep and still, silent as boatwrecks.

Staring low into the edges of the swamp. Oily, rusty water skinned with white wafer-ice. Evidently the flood has receded and the surface frozen several times, because the ice is layered like thin-breads. Leaves of ice clasping stems in Runic shapes. A feather breeze shivers the reeds. A volley of shattering slingshot-falls, yet no shot was flung. Imagine a Winter feast, the revellers all eating crackling.

A chorus of squeals. I clutch my bowstring, crouch lower, but it is not boar. I’m losing sense of their spoor, beginning to forget their sound. Water rails are calling deep in the reedswamp. Sharmers. They squeeze between reeds like shuttles through the warp. I’ve seen very few in all these years. They know who the creature is.

Dudley Martin is 53 and lives in Worcester with his partner and daughter. On Twitter you may find him @ivysuckle, where he tweets about garden wildlife and and close encounters with nature. One of his true loves is the natural world and it is in the wonder of nature that he finds the inspiration to write.

Dudley Martin

Writing competition – Final results


David Abbott, for The Next Good Joy That Mary Had


Dudley Martin, for Spoor

Also shortlisted

Catherine Edmunds, for Winter Needs Watching

Darren Gillen, for Spider, Spider

Carolyn Stockdale, for Chapter 39

Special mention

Samuel Dodson, for The taste of champagne

Lucy Kaur, for The Illustrator

Sarah McPherson, for Ice Age

The runner-up’s story will be published on Saturday, 18th February,

The winner’s story will be published on Sunday, 19th February.


Writing competition – Revealing the Shortlist

I had 32 entries. They were anonymised for me for judging. I scored each entry out of 10 for each of the following criteria:

  • Originality
  • Completeness
  • Emotional impact
  • Word painting

All of the shortlisted entries scored over 30. I have also given a special mention to the entries that scored 29.

I will be contacting all those who entered individually. The winner and runner-up will be offered publication. All those shortlisted or given a special mention will receive a couple of lines of feedback.

Congratulations to the authors of the entries listed below. Feel free to broadcast the fact that you have made the shortlist or got a special mention, but please don’t identify which piece is yours until the final results have been announced.


Chapter 39

Spider, Spider


The Next Good Joy That Mary Had

Winter Needs Watching

Special mention

Ice Age

The Illustrator

The Taste of Champagne

Come back on Friday 17th February for the announcement of the winner and runner-up, and names of those on the shortlist and with a special mention.

Ice shards

Writing competition – Update – Deadline extended

I think I may have fallen foul of the new Twitter algorithms, so that some (many?) of those who might be interested in entering my competition didn’t read about it until recently – or at all!

So I’m extending the deadline by a week.

You now have until Friday 10th February, 5pm, UK time.

See my previous post for the picture prompt and all the details.

Send me your best. Any form. I’m looking forward to reading your words.