Tag Archives: Competition

Ho ho ho!

Time for another Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction entry. And this story was LONGLISTED! Even more surprising is I actually like this one, so I’m sharing it. It’s also very appropriate for this time of year in this year!

December 2020 Furious Fiction criteria:

  • First sentence must be exactly 3 words long.
  • The story must include a gift of some sort.
  • Must include the words ROSE, PALM & MATCH (or longer versions of those words, provided the word remains intact e.g. MATCHing

My Story Placed: Longlisted! (it’s times like this that I wish Word still had marching-ants font – I’m showing my age now)
My Story Word Count: 498
My Story Title: Christmas 2020
My Story Story: The first three words came to me in a flash, then the rest of the story wrote itself. I was convinced every other story would start with the same 3 words.

Christmas 2020

“Ho ho ho!” I stop myself before I say ‘Merry Christmas’. It’s been banned this year. Not just because there isn’t a lot of Merry around, but it’s not considered inclusive enough. Just another in the long list of disappointments that 2020 has served up.

The next kid vaults onto me before I’m ready. The bones of his bum dig into my thigh like an angry masseur.

“Not this year,” I laugh through tears of pain as I try to slip him off. “Don’t forget social distancing.” He’s already counting off what he wants on his fingers. He doesn’t even look at me.

“A PS5, earbuds, smartwatch, electric bike…”

As he rattles things off, I manage to push his legs to the ground, relieving the agony in my leg. That’s when I realise he’s not counting his requests on his fingers, he’s reading from a list he’s written on his palm. He clearly didn’t want to forget anything.

His mum lifts her phone while I’m grimacing. I guess with the mask on it must look like I’m smiling. She snaps a few photos and I reconcile myself with losing another $5 commission for the official store photo that won’t be purchased.

“Well, laddie, that’s quite a list you’ve got there.” And worth more than I’m likely to earn this year, even with Job Seeker. “Here you go,” I hand him a gift from the box beside me. “Remember, don’t open it before December 25th!” We don’t want any tears here – I know he’s going to be disappointed.

I watch him walk away. When I turn back there’s a little girl standing next to me, a rose in each cheek and emeralds for eyes. She looks frightened. Wise kid. I drop my voice a little in the hopes of appearing less scary.

“And what would you like for Christmas?”

“To find my mummy.” Her bottom lip quivers. Looking around, I can’t see anyone trying to take photos or watch my hands like a good parent should.

“Carol,” I say to the woman who drew the short straw today. Her name’s not Carol, but the contract we both signed says it is for this gig. “Give me the mike.”

“Sure, Santa,” she says, passing the microphone like a baton.

“Attention, everyone! We have a lost child. Please come and see Santa if you have lost a child.”

A desperate woman breaks through the crowd of shoppers lined up at a juice bar beside us. The matching set of wild emerald eyes tell me we’ve got the right woman before the joyous squeal beside me confirms it.

“Thank you!” the little girl says. She darts in to hug me before her mother sweeps her up in an embrace of her own. They start to walk away.

“Wait!” The little girl cries. She turns her bejewelled eyes onto me. “What do you want for Christmas?” she asks. My heart melts.

“I want everyone to have a reason to be merry this year!”



It’s been a while between posts. After a great September, I had a tough October (from a writing point of view) and I’m only starting to get over it.

The nadir was after a week of three rejections, Sisters In Crime tweeted that they had selected their finalists for the Scarlet Stiletto competition. They promised they would call winners shortly.

In a quirky joke from the universe, I got three calls that week from telemarketers based in Victoria. Each time I answered with my heart in my throat thinking ‘it’s happened at last’ -only to have someone try and sell me solar panels or insurance.

I never got ‘the call’ and after two agonising weeks of not getting it, they announced the shortlist. My name was not on it, no matter how many times I read it. I felt empty.

I prepped for this story unlike any other before. I read years of previous winners before writing a word. Then I plotted, wrote and tightened, making sure every word had a purpose and moved the story forward. I finished it two months before it was due, then let it sit for a month before my final edit. I was confident it was prize-worthy

There are over 10 prizes, and one of those is for cross-genre fiction. I’m a spec fic writer and I had a crime story that was equally dependent on the spec fic element and the crime. I didn’t think I would necessarily get a shot at first or second prize, but I thought my story was a great candidate for the cross-genre or best movie idea prizes.

It got nothing.

So, I’m slowly working through that disappointment. After trying so hard and getting nowhere, it made me question my own ability. I know that’s something all writers go through – which is why I wrote this post today, just in case someone else going through this reads it while wondering if they should give up. Please don’t.

I am in the process of picking myself up and dusting myself off. I will send the story to a spec fic market and hopefully get it published. The experience hurt, but I’ll move on. That’s a big part of what being a writer is about. And I can’t lose sight of the fact that at the very least, I got a story out of this of which I’m really proud.

And in all sincerity, congratulations to those who did make the cut for the shortlist. Except the people in the running for best cross-genre story – kidding! Mostly. 😉