Our recent 200 Word Short Story Slam gave all the Chalk team the opportunity to read dozens of inspired stories on the theme Discovery.
Writers covered a vast range of possible interpretations from the discovery of a rare first edition, which turns out to be a hoax, in Jim Sanderson’s Novel Idea to Tom McColl’s ingenious revelation that both artistic merit and pornographic content may be in the eye of the beholder. There were personal epiphanies such as Jason Jackson’s sparse and elegiac analysis of grief, A Poor Empty Thing.  There were ingenious stories like Dawn Hart’s Apiarist, the unveiling of a bee-keeping lover’s face and Christian Rose-Day’s The Life and Times of Queen Elizabeth depicting the vicissitudes experienced by a coin. There were humorous stories like David Allan-Petale’s naughty schoolboys and their grim history teacher, Them’s Fighting Words, and Aleksandra Wiertelarz’s hilarious pushy, possibly murderous, Nappy Valley parents in Catchment Area. There was social realism from Matt Salts in The Walker, the moving story of a man whose obsessive behaviour has rendered homeless and lost to his family and himself.
Family intrigues, jealousies and secrets were a popular theme portrayed with panache by Annette Anderson in her bitter story of sibling rivalry in wartime London, Theft, and by Adam Fry in his wonderfully subtle tale of a junior blackmailer in Metamorphosis.  Nette Hargreave’s captured the poignant quest for an elusive family among other people’s discarded snapshots in All Gone.
We read them with great enjoyment and our eyes on original ideas, fresh use of language, engaging storylines, and resonant, thought-provoking endings.
At the semi-finals, performance transformed some of the stories from the fairly commonplace to the exceptional.   On the page, our winner Mary Bevan’s Cold Calling was a well-crafted but not entirely unpredictable tale of adultery. When ably performed by the author, however, it acquired depth, drama, and, that intriguing quality, a life off the page; it was a story that continued after the text had finished.  Our runner-up (pictured) Charlotte Morgan’s lyrical evocation of miscegenation in the steamy, segregated southern state of Carolina made its impact through the poetic imagery, the repetition of ‘white’, the contrasting use of ‘mahogany’.   It was a coming of age story in which neither the young protagonist nor the reader were entirely sure what they had witnessed.  Perhaps the most startling performance came from Tom Glover, in third place, whose cat-in-pain rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow, in character as his wannabe child star with the deluded showbiz mum, set teeth on edge all over South London.  The finalists received an Arsenal-scores-a-hat-trick type response from our audience who were creditably non-partisan; our winner came from Dorset and had only her husband there to vote for her which just goes to show that talent will out in Balham.
Ardella Jones
You can read our top stories on the competition page. U-tube footage coming soon…