A round of Toast: An anthology of contemporary shorts reflecting the malaise of the modern psyche.
Winners will receive full support free from the Mardiwriters’ team, and their books will be released in the second half of 2013.
This anthology has emerged from an open writing competition which we ran in conjunction with IdeasTap. The resulting several hundred entries astounded us by their quality and variety and we had a tough task whittling down to the final few winners.
The compilation and editing of the collection has been a joy. We have tried to create the collection as a whole without compromising the authentic individuality of the stories. Where American spelling has been used by native writers, this has been maintained.
The selection of stories reflect a sense of ‘carpe diem’. The immediacy and urgency of life; the choices we make and the circumstances we find ourselves in, show our own vanity and fragility on these page. The protagonists and antagonists we meet have few moral qualms. The malaise of the modern psyche is reflected herein.
We hope you enjoy the crumbs we bring to your table and that after today ‘the toast will always taste different.’
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Writer biography & story synopsis
Adam Blampied (Nothing but me)
A recent graduate of LAMDA’s two year Acting course, Adam Blampied is an actor, writer and comedian in the critically-acclaimed sketch group The Beta Males. He has won a short-film competition called Four Stories, curated by Roman Coppola and The Director’s Bureau. His winning film, Eugene, directed by Spencer Susser, currently has over three million views on YouTube.
‘Nothing But Me’ is a nail-biting thriller, detailing the struggle of a man trapped in a self-destructive cycle, who, for eight days, has been forced to fight his doppelgänger to the death. Can he escape this crushing chain, or will he fall prey to his ruthless tormentor once again?
Rachel Clutterbuck (Living with Davy)
Rachel Clutterbuck graduated from Lancaster University in 2011 with a Theatre Studies degree. Her main interests are writing, making films and playing the drums. She is also a Commissioned Officer and Troop Commander in the Territorial Army. Excerpts of her scripts have been performed at the Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter and at The Nuffield Theatre in Lancaster, whilst her experimental writing has been produced as a short film by Lanor Productions.
‘Living with Davy’ is a psychological and gripping narrative, illustrating a snippet in the life of a troubled young woman in her early thirties. As she struggles to cope with looking after her violent, adolescent son, it becomes apparent that the difficulty in their lives is much more profound and deep set.
Hannah Coneys (The Legacy)
Hannah Coneys is a student at UEA, reading English Literature. Inspired by the Gothic, she enjoys commenting on the genre by satirising its style and content. In the next academic year she will start an MA in creative non-fiction, and hopes to write biographies professionally.
‘The Legacy’ explores the Gothic genre and warns against dismissing the genre as ‘lowbrow’. As Mary, a female writer of vampire fan fiction, finds success and popularity, her husband’s jealously descends into something far darker.
Ruth Cornish (Punishing the Guilty)
Ruth Cornish is studying for an English and Creative Writing degree at Manchester University. Her passion for writing dates back to her early years, with countless notebooks to attest to this. She dreams about a career in the art of writing.
When two elderly people suffocate to death in the back of a bus, the blame is pushed onto
a forgetful care-home worker. An accident, of course. Or is it? Inspired by true events, ‘Punishing the Guilty’ makes you question the ones closest to you, promising twists and turns throughout.
Robert Frimston (Toast)
Robert Frimston enjoys writing and performing comedy as part of a sketch double act. He has recently pushed himself to do more individual writing, combating a lack of inspiration by experimenting with different approaches.
‘Toast’ is about choices – choices we make, choices we don’t make and choices that are made for us – told through the stories of two men who are given an opportunity to change. It is a story for those who have ever felt apathetic, trapped, or stuck in a routine of putting off a crucial choice until tomorrow.
Ramman Gautam (Nathan Laine)
Writing and filming are central to Ramman Gautam’s life as they allow him to speak to people en masse and to illustrate his voice. His life aims are to inspire, entertain, educate and be educated by the art of writing.
A soldier named Nathan Laine has not taken anyone’s life – until now. Through experience, he must learn about himself, his morality and what he stands for. This story proves how, despite the differences in culture, all men are threaded together by one common factor – human frailty.
Abigail Gregory (Mameer’s Mirrors)
Abigail Gregory is a postgraduate student at Bangor University, doing an MRes in Creative Practice, with a focus on the horror film/theatre genre. She enjoys experimenting with unusual structures and capturing a moment of a person’s life. Characters and their complexity are paramount to her writing.
‘Mameer’s Mirrors’ is based on a woman’s repetitive and lonely life, captured through an echoing structure and plot. The recurrent and poetic writing style is inspired by the short story Heloise Finds a Mammoth by Graeme Harper.
Peter Huntley (The Last Will and Testament of Leticia Gunn)
Peter Huntley is a theatre director, performer, writer and photographer. He has recently formed and runs his theatre company called Second Floor Theatre based in Yorkshire. When writing fiction, he does not do extensive planning, preferring instead to follow the characters and see where they lead him.
‘The Last Will and Testament of Leticia Gunn’ studies change, euthanasia and a woman coming to terms with her life and loss. When Leticia is diagnosed with cancer she decides to reclaim her life. By ending it.
Simon James (Fear’s Touch)
Simon had his first published short story success in 2008. In 2010 he was shortlisted in Penguin Books’ ‘A Story For Our Time’ competition, and in 2013, his first book Chapter One, a collection of ten short stories, was published. He has written articles for newspapers and magazines and was granted The Portico Prize for Non-Fiction in 2011 for a political opinion piece. He gives readings at literary events, in schools and on the radio.
In his spare time, Simon enjoys playing the cornet and the trumpet in various different bands, and has no hesitation in admitting his obsession for reading Spider-Man comic books. Simon is currently studying English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University.
Readers are guaranteed a fast-paced and exhilarating ride in the frightening thriller, ‘Fear’s Touch’, in which two friends are chased through the shadows of a cemetery by a dark and ruthless figure. Who, if anyone, will make it out alive?
Kylie Jensen (Little Miracle)
Kylie Jensen is an Australian writer living in London, studying for a Writing and Publishing degree. She has recently celebrated her first published print piece, a poem to celebrate International Women’s Day in the book She’s the One edited by Sarah Porter. Another short story is due for print with Wyrd Books.
‘Little Miracle’ is a lyrical tale, exploring the complications and conflicts of a woman as she navigates parenthood, when she had never planned on becoming a parent at all.
Lucy Kaufman (Pianoforte)
Mother of three boys, Lucy Kaufman is a 40 year old playwright, author and psychotherapist who mentors beginner writers. She studied Film & Literature at the University of Warwick, where she gained a first class honours degree in Creative Writing. Since graduating, she has worked in public relations, as a film and theatre reviewer and taught Film Studies. The themes of gender, relationships and class feature regularly in her work.
‘Pianoforte’ is a poignant and nostalgic exploration of a woman looking back on her younger years as she blossomed into an exquisite pianist. Overcome by grief at the men about to dispose of her piano, she plays for one last time.
Alison Kenward (Susan’s Number)
Alison Kenward has written and directed three plays, which have been produced on the London Fringe, Off West End and Henley-on-Thames. She is currently working on a political drama set in East London, which explores the life of Dr Alfred Salter, MP for Bermondsey, between the two World Wars. She has also written a number of short stories.
Susan is hailed as her parents’ little miracle. As their miracle grows however, so does the distance between parents and child, ending in a cold separation. When Susan enters a singing competition, her parents spend all their savings to keep her there. Have they forgiven her or do they have a special something in store for their beautiful child who abandoned them?
Martha Loader (Stranger)
Martha Loader is an undergraduate student at the University of Manchester, studying English Literature and American Studies. She is in the final months of her year abroad at UC San Diego. In the near future, she hopes to take a postgraduate course at a drama school and pursue her love for theatre as a writer, actor, and director.
An abducted child. A mother robbed of everything she held dear. Two strangers, connected by biology but not experience, must learn how to reconnect after fourteen years apart.
Adam Martin (Best Biscuits)
Adam Martin completed a Creative Writing degree. He loves the way language allows him to express himself, how words define humanity. He strays from his normal writing style in this short story, ‘Best Biscuits’.
Two brothers recount their mother’s life and the somewhat unusual way she keeps the roof over their heads and the Bobbies from the door.
Greg Meritt (The Attic)
Greg Meritt is a happily married 52 year-old who finds the early morning hours most conducive for creative production. He started writing a year ago and has completed a novel, written 14 short stories and has almost finished a novella. His favourite authors are Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Ray Bradbury, John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy.
Whilst cleaning out her deceased mother’s attic, Sandy uncovers a secret her mother hid for decades, a secret which changes her world forever. How well did Sandy actually know her family?
Bill Rayburn (Train Wreck : Final Stop)
Bill Rayburn was born and raised in San Francisco, has lived in New Jersey and currently lives in London. He has written a novella entitled The Dainty, set in 1969 Detroit, and is currently working on a Irish novel about his family.
‘Train Wreck: Final Stop’ transports the reader into the inner monologue mind of suicidal man. Tension explodes as the train grows closer – chugging towards the waiting man. Will his attempt be successful?
Dani Redd (The Genie of the Crispy Fried Chicken Shop)
After winning her school’s writing competition at the age of seven, judged by Dick-King-Smith, Dani Redd aspired to become a writer. She hopes her studies during UEA’s creative writing programme later this year, for which she received a ‘Postgraduate Difference’ scholarship, will launch her career as a published author.
‘The Genie of the Crispy Fried Chicken Shop’ is a heart-warming narrative, centred round Steve’s attempts to get closer to Arzu, a beautiful Turkish woman who works in a takeaway. Adopting a magical realism style of South American writers, Redd proves that not all love stories unfold like movie scripts.
Fiona Scoble (Sub)
Fiona Scoble moves between Kent and Galway, Ireland, working as an artist and illustrator. She studied English at Cambridge University and went on to be a documentary researcher for Maximum Exposure Productions, driving from England to India in a London taxi. She has also worked as a journalist. She was longlisted in the 2012 Over The Edge New Writer of the Year competition and was an Over the Edge Featured Reader in Galway City Library that year. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the Cúirt Festival / Over The Edge showcase reading.
‘Sub’ explores the nature of home and how it can evolve from a place of protection to crippling imprisonment. Trapped in a badly soured and dysfunctional relationship, Sarah subconsciously begins a metamorphosis to enact her escape.
Michael Springford (Journey to Zilair)
Being a scientist, Michael Springford has spent much of his working life as a writer of non-fiction. He was born and grew up in the Buckinghamshire village of Chalfont St Giles and still regards himself as a country boy. He has lived for periods in Canada, France, Russia and the Netherlands, but now lives with his Russian wife in Bristol where they attempt to keep track of their children and grandchildren in the UK and Russia.
A friendship is tested aboard a train journey to Zilair, housing refugees escaping the war. As guns point, tension mounts, and the only question left is whose life will end when the bullets fly?
Mark Triller (The Bodies Left Behind)
Mark Triller is a filmmaker and illustrator. His aim is to push his art to where others tend not to go and to address issues that usually remain undiscussed. He storyboards to survive, and runs an underground comic series called ‘Sicko Comics’.
‘The Bodies Left Behind’ is a dark thriller about a culture where spontaneity and risk without consequence are promoted like healthy vitamins. With a existential mythic twist, two strangers’ nights take a series of shocking turns beyond their wildest expectations.
James Troughton (Rabbit)
James Ross Troughton was born in Luton in 1985 before moving to the serene Cambridgeshire village of Leighton Bromswold. After graduating from the University of Leicester in 2007 with a degree in Sociology, he spent some time working in banking. In 2010 he moved to South Korea and spent three years working in private academies. He has recently returned to the UK and is now training to be a teacher. His main influences include John Wyndham, Phillip Pullman, Junji Ito and China Miéville. He intends writing a book in every fantasty genre, as well as entertaining his aspirations to write graphic novels.
When Rabbit visits, life changes. A friendship grows and it seems that this mysterious girl is changing a young boy’s life for the better. But things begin to turn ugly as Rabbit’s obsession with understanding how everything works results in dire consequences.