Prize Giving afternoon at the Craft House for the Creative writing competition

Here is Mike Farren (far right), and the winners of our flash fiction and poetry categories- from l to r:- Colin Neville runner up for flash; middle Chris Grogan who took 1st place in both flash and poetry; then Martin Webster runner up for poetry, as photographed by April the owner and manager of the Craft House.

crafthouse competition winners group pic

It was a lovely afternoon, with the prizes being given out, the winners reading their work, then Mike read poems from his collection:-

Pierrot and his Mother Paperback – 26 Jun 2017

which is available to buy at Salts Mill bookshop or from the poet -here is his website

Mike also talked about how he turned to poetry, his experiences and successes. I read a new piece of flash fiction and after the break we had a mini q&a.

Drum roll- here are the winning pieces exclusive to my blog, as kindly given permission to post by the authors, who retain copyright.

1st place for flash fiction

A powerful, thought provoking fable of our times:-

Fading Fast

by Chris Grogan

The first thing Kate gave up was carbs. She swapped spaghetti for courgetti and tried unsuccessfully to make pizza without dough. When her daughter made muffins at school Kate showed her The Truth About Sugar on YouTube then chucked them in the bin.

Meat came next. Sunday dinners became a thing of the past and the mere suggestion of a burger provoked a shudder of disgust from Kate. Her husband started taking the children for walks after tea and Big Frank at the chip shop was happy to oblige, double wrapping cod suppers for them to eat in the park.

Dumping lattes for ‘Americano, no milk’ signalled the end of dairy and the fridge was purged of eggs. The kids rebelled and refused to eat the crispy kale that was no substitute for Walkers cheese and onion and made them both targets of ridicule at school.

Alcohol was the last to go. Kate struggled to accept that anything as reviving as her evening pinot grigio could be seriously bad for her.

You’ll fade away,’ said her mother, secretly wondering if a change of diet might do the same for her cheekbones as it had for Kate’s. Her reluctance to attempt to pronounce ‘quinoa’ in Aldi and her love of millionaire’s shortbread soon put paid to that.

By Easter (no chocolate, the children got grapes) Kate was colour coding her food. A traffic light diet of plant based, guilt free, clean-eating meals.

Green for breakfast, a smoothie of cucumber, spinach and kale. It tasted disgusting, a sure sign thought Kate it was doing her good. Amber at lunch time; pumpkin soup and carrot sticks and mango lassi made with almond milk and turmeric. And red in the evening for suppers consisting of cranberries, tomatoes and plums. Her husband took the children and moved in with his mother.

As her flesh melted away Kate experienced a lightness of body and mind she had never previously known. She rejoiced as the outline of her skeleton became clearly visible through her increasingly translucent skin, no longer muffled by pillows of muscle and fat.

She stopped going to work; shopping and juicing took up most of her time. She barely noticed her children were gone.

Before long her bones took on a crystalline quality. Still solid, but see though and shimmering. Passing the hall mirror one morning she was amazed to see the reflection of the coat rack that hung on the wall behind her quite clearly through the reflection of her own face.

Delighted, Kate reconfigured her menu to include only clear foods; ice cubes and cabbage water, ginger tea and lemon jelly set with agar-agar. She considered adding vodka but decided against it.

When her mother called round she was sure Kate was out. She was about to leave when she felt a draught, a stirring of the air in the apparently empty room.

Hi mum’, she heard Kate’s voice. ‘You’ll stay for a glass of water?’


1st place in poetry

Mothering On by Chris Grogan

She searches the rain sodden hillside

for sheep that have lambed on the fell

Alerted by crows to a cold-stiffened corpse

Eye sockets pecked clean

She lifts the dead lamb

Slits its skin from the throat to the arse

and peels off the pelt like Chanel

Malodorous jacket fits snug on an orphaned pet lamb

C’mon son. Time to meet your new mam

In the barn the bereaved yow resists

Not yet fooled her dead young has returned

He heat-seeks his way to her tits

Head-butting and mewling he persists

till milk flows

Binding tighter than blood

Job done

It’s called mothering on

She will not acknowledge my child

Can’t accept we are mother and son

Won’t admit to his place in my life

In my heart

Never uses his name, calls him boy

Says I’ll never know love

till I nurse my own kin

Till I birth my own young

That he’s not mothered on


Runner up in flash fiction

A witty, telling piece which plays with our society’s views and expectations before turning it on its head.

Case Study by Colin Neville

Sara took out her notebook. The couple and the young boy in the train seats opposite would be good for her case study.

‘Observe people.’ Barbara, the Counselling course tutor, had urged. ‘Look at how they relate to each other physically. Their body language can tell you important things about them.’

Sara wrote rapidly, casting glances at the trio.

‘Woman: 30-35. Man, similar age. Child: Boy, about 5 or 6.

The woman – boy’s mother? The child is all over the woman; won’t leave her alone.

The boy is ignoring the man. The father?

Man is completely indifferent to the woman and child – staring into space. Shaved head. Looks a bit aggressive.

Child and woman, leaning in toward each other, whispering. Boy seems besotted with the woman – must be his mother.

Man: fiddling with his Smartphone now- still no interaction with the other two.’


Sara continued to observe and make her notes. The District Line train passed through six stations on its journey into the east London suburbs.

‘Man seems in a world of his own.

Woman and boy – are they excluding the man. Or is he excluding them?’

Sara strained to hear the conversation between mother and child, but two teenage girls in the seats next to her were talking loudly into their respective mobile phones.

‘O my God! O my God! He didn’t say that, did he?’

‘It ain’t like that! You got that wrong, Wayne.’

Sara’s notes were flowing.

‘Man has cut the woman and child out of his life.

Clear break-down of communication.’


This is what happened with Jack and me. Sara almost said it out aloud. She looked carefully at the man opposite. He even looks a bit like, Jack. She scribbled on.

‘Man like a zombie.

Absolutely no connection between him and them.

Child over-compensating with the woman.’

The teenage girls left the train. Sara strained to hear the conversation between the child and the woman. The boy was fiddling with the woman’s necklace that hung low over her cleavage. He suddenly fondled her breasts. She gently pushed his hand away, laughing.

‘You’re too old for that now!’

‘Why? Daddy does it, and he’s older than me!’

The man and the woman looked at each other and burst into laughter, the man showing fine white teeth. His face was transformed.

The boy turned to the man and hugged him. ‘You do, Daddy!’

The trio left the train. Sara put a line through her notes.


Runner up poetry piece:-

The Little Blue Boy by Martin Webster

I see him lying there, here, but not here, still, new, blue, behind the flimsy barriers of the incubator, but glass-sharp memories cemented on a wall-top stop me looking over.

In my hope against hope he is boy me again, running home with a model aeroplane, spinning propellors swooping over ash heaps, loop-the-looping away from local bully Christopher Brown’s daily persecution. Camouflaged, the plane can hide, but my balaclava, knit blue-for-a-boy, kingfisher-flashes in his peripheral, predator’s vision.

And the chase is on.

Those holes in my plastic sandals designed to collect grit do their worst, pin-sharp predictors of an inevitable prat-fall onto the sweeter targets that are my hands and knees.

Up, with wings broken, cries unspoken, breathing loud across the Ghost-house garden, through limping iron railings to the street.

Mrs Greenwood, local bobby’s Mother, saves me with born authority. ‘I fell’ I tell her, as her Father had at Tobruk.

She knows my fear, knows my pain, knows my loss. She knows as only mothers do, as did my own.

I have no Mrs Greenwood here, in silent echoes looking-down at this tiny, blue boy. No grit burrowed traces on his palms and perfect fingers wrapped around nothing. Ever

No missing plane, just pain.

His counted blessings came up short of mine.

My only son.

Who will never run.

To a Mrs Greenwood.

To me.



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