The Sceptre Prize 2014, Cottiers Theatre, 6th June 10 p.m.
The Winner of The Sceptre Prize 2014
The Sceptre Prize 2014
Part of the West End Festival
Friday 6th June, 10 p.m.
Cottiers Theatre, 93 Hyndland St, Glasgow G11 5PU
Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow and Sceptre Books present a thrilling event that will include performances by some of the best new writers emerging from the University’s M.Litt Creative Writing Programme. The three short-listed authors, Stephanie Brown, Paul McQuade and Kevin Scott, are all recent graduates, who will read from their work. There will also be a Q&A with a Sceptre Books editor, and the event will conclude with the prize-giving of the Sceptre Award and a £1,000 cheque to the winning writer.
Free event – no ticket required.
Example of Stephanie’s writing.
Linda wanted something of her own to love, so badly. She had never had anything, not even a cat or a hamster. Once she had fallen hard for a chinchilla in a pet shop. It was ‘filthy,’ according to her mother.
She thought it would help to become a midwife but it only made the hole in her heart seem larger. It was as though she had stuck her finger in it and wiggled it around. Each new baby that was born was a fresh poke around.
Jimmy did his best; they both did. Being upside down was useless, Manuka honey was a rip-off, and the ovulation calculator was obviously broken. There was one last thing that might work, so why not try it?
That day, Linda made sure she was the one to take charge of the medical waste bin. She wheeled it off casually in the direction of the incinerator, and once she knew she was in a camera blind-spot, she whipped open the lid and nestled the bag of pink slime to her bosom. Later that night, she made a lasagne. She had seen this done on the television channel Really. Jimmy even tried a bit. He said it was ‘no bad, but a bit spicy.’
(Congratulations, Paul. Winner of The Sceptre Prize, 2014)
“Beneath the Skin”
published in Gutter #9.
Two beds once pinstriped: pale blue and white, tattered. The social worker notes their misshapenness, the uneven bumps made by a series of different bodies: dog-shapes, cat-shapes, man-shapes, bird-shapes. There are small tears in the fabric from claws and beaks and she makes a note of this too. I eye her sheet of paper as best I can, but I am not a good reader. I don’t trust shapes that stay still.
The Mojave. Afton Canyon sees the river burst its bonds of dry earth. It rises from below, as a kind of a resurrection, and the dead land is there made green. A jackal skulks warily through the sparse colour before lying in the shade of a railway bridge. Its ribs press against its skin as if demanding release. A train rackets over its laboured breathing.
Everything in the desert is death, they say. A place where the earth will not give. Here no corn stalks, no carrot flowers, no apples swelling red as blood drops. Only the bones of silver aircraft lined up in tombs near Mojave City.
The desert has its own relief. In the skin of cacti, in the soft pulse of aloe. At night the desert is pure silver. Lizards mine it. Snakes slither and cool bellies stewed all day in rock caverns waiting. Eggs crack in the dark.
Two coyotes meet on the desert plain. Black clubs of cactus shield them from the night wind. There they meet, two wanderers in the land of death. They circle each other hungrily.
Not pain but pressure. The body contorts. The head at the centre displaced, moved forward as the shoulders course in one great wave. There is a point, an instant, a moment of indecision. Then slowly, slowly. Slowly the bones come to a form. The skin moves like elastic, pulled as far as it will bend, then snaps into something new.
This is how a woman becomes a spider,
how a frog becomes a prince,
how wolves take human form
and discard it in the light of the moon.
My brother’s skin writhes. He is not good at being human.
The social worker does not see. She sees two children, meek as mice, shoulder to shoulder on a ratty bed. She is also adept at transformations. She transforms us into words: hair (clean), skin (no sign of violence), teeth (some decay), weight (on the thin side, but not malnourished).
She does not write: Alice and Munroe are two happy children who like living at home. They have no toys because all their pleasure is inside them: tail-chase, claw-dig, balance of a lizard leg on the sofa edge. They do not need school or words or other people. Theirs is a world closed off to others. The formation of a pack. Cease investigation. Burn the files. Let the wind take the ashes.
She writes: Cause for concern.
An extract from The Gift
The only noise in the room is steel scraping against porcelain as they eat. Ian picks while Ollie devours. In two days it will be Christmas; the first one in fifteen years without Ian’s wife waking next to him like an excitable child.
In the nine months since he took the phone call at work asking him to confirm his name before telling him there had been a car accident, everything had fallen apart. His job – gone: ‘We’re sorry, we know the timing is terrible, but you must appreciate these cuts are necessary’; his friends – staying away unsure of what to say or where to look; his son – broken, crying into his dad’s helpless arms night after night for weeks until one day, inexplicably and unexpectedly he just stops. His wife…
Ian chews slowly, eating only because he has too. He rubs a hand over his flat stomach.
‘Done. You’ve got the beating of me again.’
Ollie gulps down the last couple of forkfuls and triumphantly discards his cutlery.
‘I’ll get the dishes Dad, go and play for a while.’
Ian smiles and looks inquisitively at his son. ‘Seriously, Dad. It’s fine.’
‘You’re a good kid Ollie,’ says Ian as he rises, his throat croaking as he coaxes the words out.
‘Get out,’ screeches the boy, laughing as his dad ruffles his hair.
Ian walks down the cold hallway into the living room and lifts the black Gibson Epiphone Les Paul guitar from its stand next to the fireplace. He sits down on the couch that was bought before the crash but delivered after it and begins to pick at a blues riff. His fingers move effortlessly across the fret board, but the sound is feeble with nothing to amplify it. In his mind reverb echoes throughout the room as it once did. He casts a glance at the bare television unit and his fingers stop moving. He got #400 for the TV and his beloved amplifier: a good deal, enough to fill the kitchen cupboards for weeks. Ian thinks with Ollie’s stomach these days; his own heart and mind jealous bystanders.
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