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EXETER AUTHORS ASSOCIATION

Crediton Literary Festival - 2018

The Winner of the adult category of the Crediton Literary Festival was Bruce Evans.

Elsa won the Under- 18's Short Story Competition.

Elana Evans won the Highly Commended award in the Under-18's category of the Crediton Literary Festival. 

The 2018 Under 18 Short Story Competition Winner - Holly Whyte and the Secret Package by Elsa

As I sit down at the table, the entire kitchen cleaned, I decide I need to make my life easier. If only my step-mum hadn’t banished me from the house. It all started when my mum sadly passed away...

My dad was looking for a new girlfriend, seeing as he didn’t have enough money to pay the bills and buy food. He was going out all the time, trying to find that perfect someone. When that day came, I was not happy. Everything about her displeased me; it was clear that she thought the same about me. Even after all of this, things still got worse. My dad was in a car accident, he didn’t make it. As we were having dinner one night, my step-mum told me that she wanted me gone from the house by morning and that she never wanted me in her sight again. As I was lying in bed that night, I remembered that I had seen an advert for housework and lodging, that would be perfect! Finally, after a bit of time, I got the job… So that is how I got stuck here, house cleaning for seven ex-miners who don’t have the time to do anything in the house.

I’m sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Holly Whyte. I am known as ‘Snow’ to my friends because of my chalky-white skin and dark, icy make-up. My hair is nearly as dark as the night and, to be honest, I look a bit like a goth. I have been cleaning this big, shiny kitchen all day now, and it has given me a headache. As I go outside to get some fresh air, a boy about my age (16-17) runs into me, knocking me over. He offers me a hand, but I don’t take it. I stand up and brush myself down. He apologises and starts to walk away. He runs over to bus no.5 and just as he gets on, I notice that a small, round object falls out of his pocket. I run over to the busy bus stop, darting in between all the people to see what the small object is. When I finally get to it, I pick it up and find a quiet spot to study it. It is a round item, wrapped in shiny, worn out paper and held together with a silky, golden bow. It is making a weird purring noise and vibrating slightly in my hand. I decide that I need to get this back to the boy. I stride back to the bus stop and ask if they know where the bus no.5 is going to, but they don’t know. Eventually, a nice girl wearing two glass slippers kindly tells me that it is going down Queen Street, past the Kings Arms and ending up at Regency Square. That’s good luck because I know a short cut to Regency Square, although it means going through the forest…

When I enter the forest, it very quickly gets dark and gloomy. In the pale light that just makes it through the dense trees, I notice a silhouette of a woman. She seems to be getting closer and closer. As I walk towards her, I can see that she is wearing a nightgown, a cap and some small round glasses. “Excuse me”, I mutter, “Is this the right way to Regency Square?” Making sure I am still on the right path. She replies in a low, gruff voice, “Yes my dear”. I thank her and say goodbye, but I can’t help noticing what big teeth she has, not to mention the smell of wet dog! A little further along the path, I come across two small children. I ask them if I am still going the right way for Regency Square. The boy looks at the girl, whose mouth is full of toffee, and she nods. He turns back to me and says, “Gretel says yes.” As I thank them and walk away, I realise that they are surrounded by breadcrumbs, and that they smell strongly of gingerbread!

When I finally reach the end of the dark pathway of the forest, I come out into a busy, bustling street. People are going into shops and coming back out with armfuls of bags filled with expensive goods. I decide to go into the Kings Arms for a rest and a drink. When I go in, all the tables are full apart from one empty table with one, sad looking person sitting there. It’s only when I sit down that I realise that it’s the person I’m looking for! I greet him with a friendly, “Hello!” He replies with a sad, “Hey”. He is obviously sad about something. “What’s wrong?” I ask. “It’s my birthday and a special package that my nan told me to open on my 16th must have fallen out of my pocket. My nan is dead and that package is the only thing I had to remember her by,” he replies sadly. I slowly pull the package out of my back pocket and place it on the table. He looks up at it and a smile of pure happiness emerges upon his face and he jumps up with a big, “YIPEE!!” He smiles at me, unable to stop. He sits back down again and looks slightly nervous. “Can you open it with me?” he asks. “Sure,” I reply, in a soothing voice. “3 2 1…Go!” As we open it a bright light flashes before our eyes and I feel a power surge through me! Then everything returns to normal. Except, everything doesn’t. We have powers; powers to help us through life. I will be able to summon up my own house and not have to pay for food and bills! I will finally be free of the housework! I will finally be happy.

By Elsa, age 12

The 2018 Under 18 Short Story Competition Highly Commended Story - The Array by Elana

In the two years Quilliam had been alive, nature had forced him into hibernation from some time in November to early April. Sure, he wasn’t one to turn down some extra sleep, but a four-month lie-in did seem a bit excessive, and frankly, rather boring for a young hedgehog.

That was the driving reason to why Quilliam didn’t much like the whole hibernation shebang, and that whole build up gorging himself on the chewy, tough winter bugs to gain a bit of weight was anti-climactic. All that effort, spending extra hours scrounging around in the drizzle for bland English bugs and squabbling with squirrels for scraps of the bird food, for what? To go to sleep. How dull. Which is why Quilliam has decided to give it up and go on holiday. To Australia to be exact.

It happened one soppy October morning. Quilliam had just finished his evening forage when he snuffled over what wasn’t the woodlouse he was expecting, well the woodlouse was under it but that’s not the point. The hedgehog had stumbled over a leaflet, down trodden and grimey, but still glossy, bright and exciting.

“Australia…” Quilliam mused, eyes suddenly a lot brighter, as he stared at the bold font, golden beaches, tumbling waterfalls, and best of all, the luscious forests promising the juiciest of bugs. It looked like heaven. The perfect holiday destination to wait out the winter.

Two days later Quilliam left for Australia. He wasn’t quite sure where exactly Australia was, but he thought he’d start by following a river because a lost seagull once told him that rivers lead somewhere interesting. He had barely travelled a quarter of a mile, which was quite a lot for his short legs mind you, when he came face to face with a fellow hedgehog. They stared at each other for an awkward minute before Quilliam broke the silence.

“Umm, excuse me could you move aside please? I’m in a bit of a hurry.”

“Oh, I do apologise,” he chuckled good naturedly, whiskers bobbing. “The name’s Pokey, I do hope not keeping you from anything important.”

“Actually, I’m going to Australia!” Quilliam declared, trying but failing to sound cool and nonchalant about the wondrous statement. When Pokey tilted head in confusion, Quilliam rushed to explain everything of this magical place, exaggerating a tad by adding a few new things here and there. By the time he had finished Pokey was in absolute awe of this place filled with unicorns and delicious beetles the size of mice. It sounded so exotically wonderful, especially compared to the drab, straw coloured grass bank they were standing on right now, that Pokey couldn’t help but ask this burning question.

“Can I come with you?”

Quilliam blinked in surprise, before sniffing the air and giving his ear a quick scratch.

“Sure.”

Thus, the adventure continued, this time with a companion. Then, another companion. Then another and another until Quilliam was surrounded with a crowd of 100+ chattering, hopeful hedgehogs each with their eyes fixed upon the horizon. It turned out that hedgehogs don’t have much to do.

Quilliam, of course, was leading the pack. It felt good being at the head of this immense herd, and seeing the dumbfounded expression on every fox, badger and bird’s face as they rolled past, kings of the forest. Every now and then some of those ugly looking two-legged things would appear, gabbling excitedly and pointing some shiny black flashing things in his face, which was an inconvenience but didn’t bother Quilliam too much.

All this talk of a ‘hedgehog migration’ did wonders for his ego too.

After a week of progressive walking, slipping down the side of muddy banks and scrounging through cities with the occasional dustbin break, Quilliam and the rest of the hedge hogs had finally done it. Almost. They had reached the end of the river.

Quilliam squeaked at the endless blue that ebbed out in front them, the sharp smell of salt stinging his nose and the chilly late October breeze ruffling his quills. It really was quite magnificent, a body of water so endless, so ongoing, and promising so much, promising…Australia. Then a sea gull squawked and ruined the moment.

A nervous chatter began to rise among the hedgehogs which quickly reminded Quilliam of two pressing thoughts. One, he was hungry, and two, what were they going to do next? There must be at least 200 other hedgehogs now, and if they failed it was bound to be traced back to him. He shuddered, sweat dripping down his furry face. Hedgehogs could be viscious sometimes.

Looking around, Quilliam tried desperately to think of a plan. He had to cross the big blue, but how? His eyes then fell on a giant inflatable, the kind that those weird bald two legs climb on for ‘fun’ and inspiration struck.

Hijacking the vessel was simple really. All it took was for them all to charge at the two-legs that were in the water screaming the hedgehog war cry and the cowardly beings deserted it without even putting up a fight. Pretty disgraceful, if you ask Quilliam.

Soon all the hedgehogs had boarded, and the vessel, fondly named ‘The Water Hog’ was away, a team of hedgehogs propelling it through the waves by artfully kicking their back paws in the water. It was a long journey, 3 days out in the turbulent seas, surviving off algae and the limpets stupid enough to grow on the side of the inflatable before the hedgehogs finally spotted a slither of land.

“Australia!” a cheer rose up from the crowd of sea hardened hogs, most slightly wrinkled and pruned from the brine.

It was 5 o’clock in the afternoon when the coast of South France received the surprise package of 200 hedgehogs swarming onto the beach squeaking manically. For weeks baffled Frenchmen would describe images of hedgehogs reclining in the sand and stealing baguettes.

Quilliam didn’t find Australia, but I guess this will have to do.

By Elana, aged 15