‘Overly’ – 20 December 2016

We have to confess to being a bit cheeky with our ‘Very’ competition and choosing what we hoped would be a challenging theme to encourage you to flex your creative muscles. Thank you to everyone who accepted our most difficult 1000 word challenge to date.

The judges were intrigued to see how you would respond to the theme and surprised by how many of you created characters called Verity or Veronica. This was not an approach we had thought of when setting the theme but clearly one that appealed too many of you. It seemed, to the judging panel, almost a way of escaping the theme altogether and, although we had some good stories with central characters called Very, we didn’t feel they responded to the theme as strongly as some other writers who’d really considered how to interpret the word.

Your stories for this competition came from all over the world and dealt with love, loss and revenge. We particularly enjoyed Lubnaa J’s spot-on parody of a certain American President Elect and Amal Behbehani’s quirky tale of a dog and an umbrella. We also liked Jenny Kerrigan’s story about a society where a Magic 8 Ball determines people’s destinies.

Special mention also goes to Emma Myatt, whose ‘Verily Veritas’ really considered the origins of the word ‘very’ and reminded us that Mark Twain thought it should be removed from all writing!

We have published four stories that we hope you will enjoy as much as the judges did.

‘Sugar Cubes of Static Snow’ by Victoria Hunter is a rare gem, taking place entirely in the head of the central character as she sits in a cafe. It is so difficult to successfully tell a story with no direct dialogue or interaction with other characters, but Victoria paints a vivid and moving picture of her protagonist. She carefully considers life’s extremes and the contrast between young and old, sweet and bitter and hot and cold. For her subtle approach to the theme, we are delighted to award Victoria our first prize of £100.

‘An Island’ by Joshua Jarmon tells the story of two characters brought together after a long estrangement. Joshua’s entry stood out for the judges thanks to its sparse prose and the skillful way he tells us so much about his characters while leaving plenty of space for the reader’s imagination. Look out for the moment towards the end of this moving tale where ‘very’ packs a real emotional punch. Joshua wins second prize of £50.

We have given two third prizes of £25, each to two very different stories.

‘Very’ by Elizabeth Lloyd brilliantly creates a feeling of being very overwhelmed. At a time of year when many of us dread office parties and other celebrations, we really empathized with the central character who finds herself in the middle of a social gathering with which she struggles to cope. The judges felt Elizabeth really got under the skin of ‘very’ and had an approach to the theme that stood out from the crowd.

‘The Client’ by Nicky Winder is a truly uncomfortable read that seems particularly relevant in a year when the political landscape has really shifted. The central character is completely odious and exceptionally well-drawn and Nicky creates a deliciously tense scene. We think you will want to give this one a second read!

 Thanks again to all who took on the ‘Overly’ challenge.