Writers – get involved with us in 2021

Hello Writers
First of all, Happy New Year. We hope you’re keeping safe and well, and looking forward to a busy 2021.
We’ve been quiet over the past month or so, what with Christmas, New Year, and a huge relocation to beautiful rural Northumberland. (The view from our office window now is loads of fields, a river, and a few cows – it’s great!)
But now, the office is refurnished and the internet is re-established, and we’re up and running again for 2021. So we wanted to share with you some of the plans we have for this year, and how you can get involved.
First of all, of course, our quarterly competitions continue to run. The next deadline is Jan 31st, for our 1500 word short story comp.
It’s worth noting that this quarter is the last chance writers will have to enter 4 stories for the price of 3.
And if you fancy a go at flash fiction too, our next 500 word comp deadlines on 28th Feb.
Speaking of flash fiction, our most recent winners were announced. You can find the shortlist and read the winning stories here.  (‘Soup Kitchen’ by Rose Walker-Taylor is a particularly pleasing read today. Have a look – you’ll see what we mean!)

And now – on to some of our other plans for the coming year… (and how you can contribute)
Podcasts. As part of our writing competitions and independent publishing arm, we’re planning to produce and release a podcast of some of the best winning stories – as well as short- and long-listed ones – from all our competitions. Kind of like our very own audiobook library. Every eligible story that’s entered into any of our comps will also be considered for the podcast, which will be released on all the usual platforms (Apple, Spotify, etc.), and will, of course, be completely free to download.
Writing resources. We’re planning to produce and build a collection of resource articles for writers on our website. ‘How To’ articles, writing prompts, tips, inspirational quotes from other writers, etc etc… You know the kind of thing. We’re proud to be a small, independent publishing house, with our writers and contirbutors at the heart of it, and this resource will be part of our commitment to inspire and encourage writers of all stages and abilities. We expect to open up for submissions for these articles, so do keep an eye on our website and social media for more details.
Author profiles/interviews. As we say, our writers and contributors are at the heart of what we do – so it’s about time we found out more about them! We want to interview our writers and find out what makes them tick. How their writing day works; where do they get their inspiration; what do they love/hate about writing; what tips can they pass on to fellow short story writers; where can you read/buy more of their work; plus lots more.
To begin with, these interviews will be done by email and published on our website. We’re hoping to get in touch with writers very soon to invite them to take part – but please do let us know by reply if you’d be interested in getting involved in the future.
There’s quite a few other ideas that aren’t yet fully formed (including a magazine-style newsletter and a YouTube channel), which we’ll be letting you know about as they develop.
In the meantime, here’s wishing you a happy, healthy, and prolific 2021! Thanks for being involved with Cranked Anvil so far, and we look forward to reading more of your work and submissions in the future.

November 2020 – Flash shortlist and winners

Our first flash fiction competition attracted a huge number of entries, and it has taken longer than ever for the judges to chose the shortlist and the two winning stories. (Christmas and New Year, plus the small matter of relocating the entire Cranked Anvil HQ up to rural Northumberland, didn’t help to speed the process along!)

But the results are now in, and we are delighted to publish the following placed entries:

1st: Hannah SutherlandWarm Milk

2nd: Rose Walker-TaylorSoup Kitchen

Prize money is on its way to you, and your stories are published here on our website.

Well done to the following writers who made it to the shortlist:

Benjamin Britworth
David Butler
(1 story)
Linda Fawke (1 story)
Mary Francis (1 story)
Martin Kirkbride (1 story)
James Mason
Jodi Moxon
(2 stories)
J M Thomas (1 story)
Gillian Welby (1 story)
Barbara Young (1 story)

As you can see from the list above, many of our writers enter multiple entries, and hve made it onto the shortlist with at least one of their stories.

Both our writing competitions are open all year round with quarterly deadlines, so why not have a go and enter your work – we love to read and publish the best, both here on our site and in our annual print anthologies.

Enter our 1500 word Short Story Competition – next deadline 31 January.

Enter our 500 word Flash Fiction Comptition. – next deadline 28 February.

Good luck!

Warm Milk

by Hannah Sutherland
1st place – Flash Fiction November 2020

He’s drinking the glass of warm milk as he’s always done before bed, a ritualistic habit, born from his childhood. Slurps it down, wipes his lips with the back of his hand, says a satisfied “ahh,” then puts the glass in the dishwasher after rinsing it with lukewarm water.

I think it’s the only pleasure he gets in a day now, warm milk.

He slips in beside me, being extremely careful not to touch my arms. I wouldn’t mind, I want to say, if his skin accidentally brushed mine. Wouldn’t mind at all. But of course I don’t, because we don’t talk anymore, and how ludicrous I’d feel, as his wife, saying such a statement.

He’s showered before I wake, pulling on his trousers, straightening his tie. It’s as if with every added pressure and stress at work, his suits get tighter, suffocating him until he’s barely breathing. Hardly able to function at all. He stands, looking at his reflection in the intricate mirror above my dressing table, barely holding it together, but to a stranger, he’d look every inch the professional he alludes to be.

I take myself to the park on my lunch break, desperate for my fix of fresh air, to wipe away the cobwebs, as my co-workers say, pleased with their cliché. I’m walking, kicking my boots through the fallen leaves, shades of yellow and brown, covering the greenery, and I see him. I think I’m imagining it, the way he leans over, cocooned into himself, rubbing his eyes, looking small but finally accessible.

So I stand, observing, hiding behind the overhanging oak, the bark imprinting on my hands, and in my mind, I walk over to him, sit beside him and without saying a word, he knows. He rests his head on my shoulder and he’s suddenly not so heavy anymore. “I’ll quit,” he tells me, and the relief is so strong I vomit. After a while, we kick through the leaves, walking home, holding hands like we used to do when he loved me, when he loved himself. And together we are more powerful than when we are alone.

He gets up and stretches, shakes away his feelings, and he’s back, the steely man in the suit who looks completely fine to everyone.

Almost everyone.

I walk over to him, feeling bold, and as he sees me, his face falters. We embrace, folding into one another’s bodies. I don’t know what will happen next, or if I can help him, if he will even let me, but I’ll try. And just before we break our hold, I whisper into his chest, “I’ve got you.”

Soup Kitchen

by Rose Walker-Taylor
2nd place – Flash Fiction November 2020

I had my fiftieth birthday at the end of April.

I look around me now and struggle to believe that at fifty years old, I now sit here. The path had been so clear, glinting and gilded. Yet, this is where I am now.

Despite the preconceived notions that I was dim, this could not have been further from the truth. The plan had been immaculate, executed perfectly. Eight languages learned, alongside the study
of architecture and design. Even the modelling had been a calculated choice, how else do you escape a forgotten town like that?

The soup kitchen I now wait in is suffocating. The oil of a thousand previous meals hangs in the air. The particles falling gently, saturating my hair. My “everyday” clothes that have been imposed on me sweat and suffuse the grease so deep into my skin that if I were to press my nails into my thighs I am sure they would sink in without any resistance. These rags are a far cry from the pieces I had worn just four years ago, drawing eyes, awe and envy with my every step. Before everything changed. Now I must fit in, avoid unwanted attention.

I close my eyes and try to shut out this filthy kitchen. How had my path forked so violently right?

It was him. He couldn’t keep his damn mouth shut. His brash, quite frankly reckless behaviour had thrown me down this one way road. Despite his lies and the outlandish things he had said and done, I had still been startled by the reaction of those who had decided his fate, and in turn my own.

Marrying him had been an obvious contract. It was not love, but I had entered it gladly, this final part of my plan. I had kept to his predictable and sometimes brutal needs of the arrangement,
maintaining my beauty and figure at all costs. He had promised me that I would never work again, never want for anything. Yet here I am, in this rancid place, waiting for my name to be called.

There is no going back now. I will have to grit my teeth and make it through the months ahead, knowing I could have been anywhere but here. Hoping his next fall will inevitably be a victory for myself.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, as Mayor of our beloved little community, I am honored to welcome the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump!’

I stand, smooth down my jacket and go to greet the wretched public.

November 2020 – Flash Long List

Our first 500-word Flash Fiction competition has proved incredibly popular, and the judges have loved reading all of the eligible entries.

We had a hugely diverse range of themes, genres and ideas, and we just know that our Flash Anthology – which will be publihed in 2021 – will prove just as popular as our Short Story Anthology did earlier this year.

However – Just like our short story competition, we did receive some entries that did not adhere to our rules, and therefore were disqualifed. If you’re entering the competition, please read all the terms of entry very carefully, to ensure your story is in with the best chance of being considered.

Even if you’ve entered our competitions before, go back and check the rules again.

Make sure you’ve got everything right – not just the word count, but the layout and document title requirements too. Make sure your document has a covering page, containing all the information we need.

In the meantime, we’re delighted to reveal our long list of authors for the November 2020 Flash Fiction competition:

Karon Alderman
Edward Barnfield
Kathryn Barton
Cath Barton
Georgia Boon
Ruth Brandt
Benjamin Britworth
Sharon Bromberger
Jonathan Buckmaster
Alyssa Bushell
David Butler
Chelsea Chong
Georgia Cook
Kathryn Crowley
Adrian J Curd
Marie Day
Eoghan Doyle
Linda Fawke
Richard Ferraris
Mary Francis
Patricia Griffin
Tania Hershman
Jeremy Hinchcliff
Edna Hutchings
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jones
Martin Kirkbride
Deborah J Mantle
James Mason
Sarah McPherson
Sherry Morris
Jodi Moxon
Rachel Robbins
Louis Rossi
Charlotte Schelling
Claire Schon
Edward Sergant
Kerri Simpson
P J Stephenson
Mark Stocker
Hannah Sutherland
J M Thomas
Marilyn Timms
Rose Walker-Taylor
Alison Wassell
Gillian Wellby
Elizabeth Meg Wilson
Barbara Young

Congratulations to you all!

The short list will be announced, and the two placed stories published here on our website, in mid-January 2021.

In the meantime, we hope all our readers and writers have a very merry and safe Christmas, and an inspiring and prolific 2021!

October 2020 – shortlist and winners

An unprecedented number of entries this quarter meant an unusually large longlist, but the judges have worked long and hard to get it down to this final shortlist and the three winning entries.

Every single qualifying entry was read and studied [yes, we are still receiving some entries which go into the disqualified pile because they don’t follow all the rules of entry] and we’re delighted to publish the following placed entries:

1st: Tesni JenkinsSoldier Boy

2nd: Rachel RobbinsWinning

3rd: Guilherme RibeiroA Summer Carol

Prize money is on its way to you, and your stories are published here on our website.

Well done to the following writers who made it to the shortlist:

Emilie Akoka; Cath Barton (1 story); Simon Birinder; Hollie Brennan; Gillian Brown; Rebecca Burns; Colette Coen; Paddy Doherty; Eoghan Doyle (1 story); Jonathan Gurling; James Hancock (2 stories); Radhika Iyer (1 story); Gwenda Major; David McVey (1 story); Sherry Morris; Liane Smith (1 story); Andy Stewart; M Q Tate; Gillian Welby (1 story); James Woolf; Alex Zyms.

Both our writing competitions are open all year round with quarterly deadlines, so why not have a go and enter your work – we love to read and publish the best, both here on our site and in our annual print anthologies.

Enter our 1500 word Short Story Competition.

Enter our 500 word Flash Fiction Comptition.

Good luck!

Soldier Boy

by Tesni Jenkins
1st place, October 2020

Soldier-boy sat on the bottom step, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He watched his father tie his shoelaces with care, pulling them tight against his ankle before twisting them into loops. His shoes were boots, heavy, dark, and leather. Soldier-boy wore similar boots, only his were suede and a more yellow colour. Father’s face was one of concentration. He was that kind of man, the kind that cared as much about how well his boots were tied as he did about whether or not he was wearing any. The house was always orderly and always clean. When he’d said at school one time that Father liked to clean the house, Soldier-boy had been met with laughter, “What does your mother do then?” one boy had jeered. Soldier-boy had an answer, an answer he’d herd Father say jokingly before he kissed Mother on the cheek. “She messes it up.”

Soldier-boy wasn’t his real name, of course, but his real name was a lot more boring. He’d earnt the more exciting version from the old tin helmet he had been given by his Grandfather. It was dented in places, and the green paint was chipping away to reveal silver, but it was still a thing of beauty. “Soldier-boy” his Dad had called him when he’d worn the hat home, “Soldier-boy.” He’d told the kids at school that was his name now, the nice ones, not the ones who laughed, and when he showed them the helmet, they all agreed it was a fitting name. Father had finished getting ready and had slung his satchel over his shoulder. He held out his hand, and Soldier-boy lifted his helmet onto his head before taking it. Together they walked into the street, pausing only to lock the front door.

Perspective is a funny thing, and from the perspective of a child war was fascinating. It was black and white, good guys and the bad ones, simple. Soldier-boy knew they were good guys. His brother flew planes and he was a good guy. Mother helped build those planes and she was the best person he knew. She hadn’t known how to build planes before the war started, but after all the men who used to were sent away they taught her how. Her hands were more scratchy now, but that was the only difference building planes had made. She still came home and made her mess; potato peels and carrot tops across the kitchen counter, recipe cut-outs from magazines piled on the dinner table and her coat hung across the banisters, instead of on the hook where it belonged. Outwardly, her makeup was still the same, accept when she couldn’t find the right shade of red lipstick in shops, and had to opt for a lighter colour. Inwardly, she seemed the same too. She still read bedtime stories in the same thin, sweet voice, only now the reminders at bedtime included where his gas mask was and what to do if the house caught on fire.

War was also, from where Soldier-boy stood, cool. He’d seen the posters and heard the adverts on the radio about how brave all the men who went to war were. He’d even met a soldier on a train, years ago, who talked to him about his family and showed him his knife. The soldier was a young man, and handsome, with floppy brown hair and docile eyes. When Soldier-boy’s stop had arrived, he’d waved goodbye to the soldier, who raised his hand in return. Just raised it and kept it there, didn’t shake it. That was how Soldier-boy waved from then on, lifting his hand, holding it there for a moment, and then bringing it back down. Each time he did he felt jittery with excitement. His arm for a moment, he thought, felt like the arm of a man, the arm of a soldier.

They passed the corner store with the green sign and white doorframe and Father agreed they could go inside. He told Soldier-boy to pick out whichever sweets he wanted and rummaged around in his satchel for the ration tickets. The man who owned the shop had an old, round face and wispy grey hair. He had a grown-up son who was friends with Brother, and Soldier-boy asked him how he was. The shop owner nodded and smiled sadly, “He’s alive.” Soldier-boy was too young to understand the full weight of the shop owner’s answer. He saw it only as informative. If he had been older he would have noted the bitter sarcasm in the shop owner’s voice. He would have understood this as a jab at the authorities who had killed so many young shop owner’s sons that simply being alive was considered a notable state. But he didn’t, he only smiled and took his bag of rhubarb-and-custards from the counter.

Soldier-boy and Father sucked on a sweet each as they continued their walk. Mother was going to meet them at the station, Father said. Soldier-boy nodded, it would be nice to meet Mother at the station, but it would be sad that Brother wasn’t there. Brother was even cooler than soldiers, and now he was also a soldier he was double as cool. He had blonde hair, different from the rest of the family, and the same piercing blue eyes as Father. He was cool enough that when he was eighteen, a year before he had to leave to fly the planes, he’d had a girlfriend. She was nice, Soldier-boy thought she was probably the nicest girl in the world apart from his mother. She always wore knee-length skirts with patterns like strawberries on them. She would play scrabble with the family sometimes and would bring presents for them from the shop her father owned. When Brother had left, she still came around with these presents. She brought Soldier-boy a little model plane once, and she read him aloud a letter his brother had sent from France. She hurried off to the bathroom after she’d finished. Soldier-boy assumed she just needed to pee, but if he’d been more observant he would have seen the slight red in her cheeks when she came back. She was a nice girl.

Soldier-boy’s sweet was almost finished, and he found himself trying to save the final part of it, sticking it between his teeth to keep it out of the way of his tongue. The station was just one turn away now and was feeling less and less appealing with each step. He asked Father with a shaking voice whether he’d remembered to pack the model plane, to which Father said yes and placed a hand on Soldier-boy’s back. Soldier-boy’s legs turned jelly and he gripped Father’s arm as they shuffled around the final corner. Mother was there, her work clothes still on. She crouched and opened her arms wide.

In brother’s last letter he’d told Soldier-boy to brave, that this was his mission and he had to complete it to make sure the country was safe. Father had read the letter out when they sat around the table for dinner one evening, and he had echoed Brother’s words of encouragement throughout the week since.

Soldier-boy sank into his Mother’s arms, crying thick tears that landed on the shoulder of her shirt. Father crouched besides them both, taking one of Soldier-boy’s hands while Mother took the other. “This is your mission, Soldier-boy,” he said, “You have to go on this trip, and you have to stay alive. Britain is counting on you, Soldier-boy.”

He caught his breath, “Father, you have to make sure you keep tidying up the house while I’m gone, and Mother keep making a mess or he’ll have nothing to tidy.”

Father handed him the satchel, and he opened it, triple checking his plane was inside. It was there, along with all his other necessities and his bag of rhubarb and custards. He pushed his helmet further down his head, took a last look around the station and, with the help of a kind lady in a dark blue uniform, climbed up onto the train.