By Irene Waters

She Did It was the prompt for the memoir ride in the Rodeo.

The four judges were given a judging sheet: was it a complete story, grammar, and spelling, structure, use of language, adherence to memoir rules (not accusing, showing the bad- not telling, reflection and was it believable) and then a subjective score worth 35% of the marks.

I couldn’t have asked for better judges with Helen, Angie, Gil and myself all being diligent in reading and evaluating the pieces.

Reading memoir is quite different from reading fiction. As a reader of memoir, you have a pact with the writer that you will believe the facts being told and this, makes the focus of your reading change. You read to gain understanding, to see how someone has coped and how it has changed their life. Memoir also touches our emotions and shows us ways of dealing with our own condition. It may give the inarticulate a way of both expressing how they feel whilst showing them that they are not alone. One memoir will affect multiple readers differently and the same reader differently at different points in their lives.

All the entries were of a good standard. Only one was disqualified as it went under the word limit of 99 words. A number of entries did not give their work a title, or they called it the prompt “she did it.” A tip for future competition entries – give your work a title. It isn’t counted in the word count, and it is a chance to impart some additional information to your reader and makes it easier for the judges when collating the results.

We were impressed by entries that put you in the scene with wonderful description such as Rebecca Cunningham’s: “Twenty-nine anemic Earl Grey tea bags sat dried to the top lip of the sink” – I have lived in that place. Sherri Matthew’s: “For weeks I searched for him in the crowd until one Sunday, I found him.” What woman doesn’t relate to this? Nez Hewitt’s anxiety of returning home from vacation fearful that her dog would no longer love her. Again, I relate – I too have had those worries. There were humorous entries, emotive entries, topical entries and all had great merit. One, however, stood out and takes the first place prize.

Because That’s How Things Were Done Back Then.

Because boys can’t help it? Because she let him? Because of Babycham? I don’t know why she did it. I don’t know what ‘it’ is.

Because “You made your bed, now lie in it!” Because the neighbours. Because abortion’s a sin. My friends think the wedding’s at eleven but it’s really half past three.

Because my mother’s smile is wooden. Because I hate hairspray. Because my auntie caught me faking bellyache, I shuffle behind my sister to the altar steps.

Because I’m not allowed to question. Because weddings need bridesmaids. Because hypocrisy’s the shotgun that slays my parents’ shame.

This entry was my first choice, equal first for another judge, third for another and rated well with the other. Angie Oakley wrote, “A great deal covered, powerful use of repetition, no wastage, and much said about culture, and the way lives were ruined.”

Gil Hinsby said, “I really like this one and the structure and style of writing made it interesting but needed second reading. It probably would have been a better flow without the line My friends think the wedding……….marked it down for that and still got top three.”

I particularly like the reflection of why things were done in a past time. There was no condemnation – it was just the way it was. The repetition of ‘because’ was powerful and the imagery evoked of the child who didn’t want to be bridesmaid was vivid.

Congratulations Anne Goodwin. $25 is coming your way.

In second place was

This Time

His angry words still rang in her ears as she climbed the unfamiliar staircase:

“Come one step closer and I’ll punch you in the face.”

She had heard these words before but had always swept them and the apologies and promises under one of the many rugs in their beautiful home.

This time, however, they had drilled a deep hole into her heart and the last dribbles of love she felt for him were seeping onto the bare floorboards of this tiny apartment.

“When can I move in?” she stammered softly.

“Whenever you like, madam.”

“Now. Right now, please.”

Helen said, “This was an emotive piece. I felt for the abused and it evoked admiration for the actions she took. Felt her desperation through the use of expressive language.” I loved the sentence starting “this time….”

Angie said, “Strong ideas, economically expressed.”

Congratulations Juliet Nubel who wins the e-book of The Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1.

In third place was

Red Sky at Morning

She stood by last night’s bonfire. Flames leapt high, our drunken faces and dancing limbs in hideous relief, like Dante’s inferno on the shore of this northern bay.

Driftwood burns to cool embers. We flee to our tents to couple, or sleep it off.

Night shifts, heavy indigo to thin green, cool breeze shredding night to red dawn.

She slips off her shoes, shucks off sweatshirt and jeans, no zip cracks the morning silence. Wasted thin by her disease, she steps into the water to die on her own terms. She did that.

That part I want to remember.

Angie said, “A great deal said in few words, and some beautiful language choices. “Night shifts…red dawn.  Consistent and powerful voice. Well structured.”

I loved the language choices and the high definition scene that was painted. I was unprepared for the sadness at the end which made it all the more poignant.

Congratulations Liz Husebye Hartmann who wins the e-book of The Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1.

I would love to mention every single piece and hope you will read them at Rodeo #2: Memoir. I will, however, end with each judge’s own personal favourite.

Helen had two that she rated highly – Changing worlds by Saifun Hassam for the wonderful last line that packed a punch and Tasters Choice by Jules Paige for its poetic qualities.

Angie Announcing the Marriage by Geoff Le Pard because “Lots of ground covered economically. Showing, not telling yet making a deeper connection with the way women’s choices were limited by the culture and the circumstances. Original.”

For Gil My Aunt Remembered by Nancy Brady, Showtime by Kerry E.B. Black and  Because (our first place recipient) were the ones Gil chose because “What these have in common was they all felt real, emotional and complete. They really told a whole story in so few words, resonated with me, the characters came to life, the stories showed emotion and had some lovely lines.” As for me, I found something to commend in each and every entry.

Congratulations to all entrants. It was an honour and a pleasure to read all your entries. Thank you to my committed judges. It was a pleasure working with you and finally a big thank you to Charli for hosting the rodeo for the second year. We look forward to next year’s event.


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