Welcome to the second LWB Page 100 writing competition
I'm thrilled to announce my 2020 winning writers!
Without further ado, here they are...
First: A Boundless Place by Pamela Stockwell
Second: The Enemy at Home by Christine Howe
Third: A Mouthful of Silence by Reshma Ruia
And here are the top three page 100s. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
Pamela's Page 100...
A few days later, Violet was working in her backyard, tending to a few tomato plants growing in pots lining her small patio when Tommy appeared at Mrs. McCabe’s. Mrs. McCabe showed him her tool shed and set him to work on some shrubs. Violet doubted ten minutes had passed before Arabella bounced over and introduced herself and began peppering him with questions as he clipped hedges on the side of the trailer that faced Violet’s house.
“Do you have brothers and sisters?”
“One older brother.”
“What grade are you in school?”
“Going into twelfth.”
“What’s your favorite subject?”
“I don’t know.” He stopped clipping the branches and regarded Arabella.
“Do you like to read?” she asked.
“Oh. Do you like movies?”
“What’s your favorite movie?”
“2001: A Space Odyssey. Why do you ask so many questions?”
She shrugged, not the least bit offended by his terseness. “It’s how I learn things. Why don’t you ask any questions?”
“I just did,” he said, and his lip twitched a little.
Arabella laughed. “Well, you could ask me how old I am and stuff like that.”
He went back to clipping. “I have a feeling you are going to tell me whether I ask or not.”
“I am seven years old, and I live over there. I have a baby brother. And Miss Violet is my best friend.”
“Isn’t she a little old to be your best friend?”
“See? You can ask questions! I don’t like seven-year-old people. They are annoying.”
“You don’t say,” he said.
This stood out for me from the very first reading. I knew I would long-list and probably short-list it too. The dialogue is pitch-perfect and reveals character, information, and I suspect it reveals plot too. Dialogue needs to earn its keep and work hard and this is a great page of dialogue. Its gentle humour is fun to read - and there is plenty of subtext! Impressive. I'm so looking forward to reading more of this novel and working on Pamela's first three chapters.
Christine's page 100...
would have to write to her.
Even Ursula's desire for privacy did not permit of any more time to be spent in her frigid bedroom, and they had long abandoned having fires lit in the morning room. In the sitting room her mother was again scribbling in her pocket book, sitting close to the newly-lit fire, whose flames had just begun to lick the coals.
Mummy makes lists and I have my cigarettes. What does Kurt do to settle his restless thoughts?
She unlocked a neat bureau at the back of the room; it opened up to provide a leather-covered writing surface. Her chilled fingers penned a brief note to the elderly lady, asking if she might call on her for some advice on violin music. A straightforward approach was called for, so she added that the music was for a prisoner at Featherstone, a quite accomplished player. With a bit of luck the old bird might dig out some no longer needed pieces.
Envelope in hand, she stood up.
'Have you given Arthur any commissions today that require use of the car?'
A surreptitious payment to that horrid man, Bert Dane, bought them black market coupons, but even so, discipline had to be exercised when it came to car journeys. It was all very tiresome.
'None at all,' her mother said.
Ursula bit her lip and tapped her fingernails on the bureau.
'There has to be something we need, Mummy! What if I were to see if I can get more of that half-decent soap you liked?'
'Do as you please, dear,' her mother said listlessly. 'When the petrol is used up, it's used up.'
The only time her mother had shown a spark of vitality recently was when they had hosted the POWs on Christmas Day. Mostly, she sat by the fire composing her lists.
Well, I don't know about you, but I find this glimpse into the world of these characters rather enticing... lovely attention to detail... and a nice bit of intrigue... what indeed does Kurt do to settle his restless thoughts...? And a great word choice, that, restless... tells us quite a lot about Kurt, doesn't it? I love the weariness that permeates the scene here; you can sense how Ursula might be feeling.
Reshma's page 100...
‘Why don’t you go to bed, Geeta? It’s getting late.’ My voice is gentle and dutifully, she leaves the room.
Her heavy tread is on the stairs. I hear her pause outside Sammy’s room and then carry on to our bedroom. My shoulders relax. I push open the patio doors and step outside. The security lights come on as I walk towards the mango tree. I stroke the naked branches, fragile like a child’s bones, stripped of flesh.
‘My life’s changing,’ I whisper to the tree.
Geeta is asleep when I finally go upstairs. The happiness I’d felt making love to Esther, disappears the moment my head hits the pillow.
I go over what I had just done in a hotel room with a woman who wasn’t my wife and an ugly knot settles within me making me retch. I go to the bathroom and take a long shower wanting to wash away the crime.
A dull moon, the colour of a two pence coin hangs outside the window. I ask its forgiveness, but it stays mute and reflects back no solace.
The Guptas are punctual dinner guests. Gupta boasted that his life ran on British standard time, BST, not IST Indian Shit Time.
‘Magnificent house,’ he says, opening the lounge door.
‘We’re sitting in the kitchen,’ I tell him.
‘Let me admire your plasma TV, at least. I hope you got it in the sales.’
His mouth is smiling, but his eyes behind their glasses are alert and envious.
‘You always say the same bullshit.’ I hand him an orange juice and pour myself a whiskey.
Gupta’s wife, Usha stands next to him. She may have been beautiful once but now she’s just round, her face a soft blur of circular features. They could’ve been twins, Geeta and her. I imagined Gupta making love to her every Thursday. He would do it dutifully, his eyes closed, probably even count to ten before coming. There’d be a box of tissues on the bedside and salt and vinegar crisps and a box of After-Eights for after. His wife was partial to both.
Another intriguing slice of these characters' lives here. The details make for a rich read: the mango tree like a child's fragile bones; the moon the colour of a two pence coin... you know exactly what that moon looks like. There is a fabulous sense of connection here, between writer and reader. I also love the "My life's changing" comment whispered to the tree. Beautiful writing.
All-in-all, three fantastic page 100s with characters who lift off the page, even in these short extracts.
Big thanks to all who entered the competition. I will soon be emailing a bit of feedback to all the long-listed writers... and Pamela's report on her first three chapters... when I get a few hours to sit down and do it all!
I'll be running the competition again next year, opening for entries on
1st June. Pop it in your 2021 diary... and of course let's hope we actually need diaries next year!