2022 Doris Gooderson Competition – FIRST


by Christine Howe

Gerald’s eyes no longer brightened on seeing Joyce, but he would raise his shaggy eyebrows when she sat down and took his hands in hers. These days it was all about clinging to the little positives. Was it preferable to lose your other half suddenly, or to have this disappearing-into-the woods sort of loss, wanting to beckon him back? Joyce visited twice a week at The Magnolias where Gerald was cared for, but captive.

She bent to give him a hug, but he wrestled himself free of her embrace. 

‘Lewis,’ he said, ‘Lewis.’ His voice was growly and cross.

‘Who’s this Lewis?’ A care assistant rustled by in her plastic apron, dispensing tea in beakers and drinking cups. ‘He says Lewis all the time now.’

Joyce shook her head. ‘I’ve no idea.’ To Gerald she said, ‘Tell me about Lewis. Shall I bring the photo album next time and we’ll look for him? Yes?’

Gerald mumbled, and withdrew his hand from Joyce’s patting. She watched him eat gingerbread and drink his tea; calm only when eating. He was restless these days, pacing about the lounge while the more sedentary residents tracked his movements like spectators at a sporting fixture.

Back at home Joyce phoned their daughter Catherine. ‘Did your dad ever mention someone called Lewis? He’s got this Lewis on his mind.’

‘Inspector Morse’s sidekick?’ Catherine laughed. ‘Honestly Mum, it could be anyone.’

Joyce frowned. In her mind’s eye she saw Gerald pacing, eyes not brightening on seeing her, arms pushing her away. 

For her next visit she put the photo album in her shopping bag, together with short-sleeved shirts for Gerald to wear in the warmer weather and a pack of his favourite caramel wafers. She called in at the library before catching the bus and found an illustrated book of dog breeds, and put that in the shopping bag too. The bag was heavy and it dragged on her arm as she toiled up the hill from the bus stop to The Magnolias. Gerald resisted when she went to greet him with a hug. It wasn’t an aggressive resistance, just a firm push away. 

‘Still repeating Lewis,’ a care assistant said chirpily. ‘Not solved the mystery yet?’

‘Doing my best.’ 

‘Well, not to worry. He enjoys his meals and he’s a good sleeper. Doris over there says toodle-oo from morning ’til night.’

Beneath the cheeriness Joyce sensed that having to listen to both toodle-oo and Lewis endlessly repeated during an eight-hour shift was wearing. She smiled in acceptance of the young woman’s attempted comfort; words as sugared as the cake now being dished out with the afternoon cup of tea.She opened the dog book and began to turn the pages. 

Gerald jabbed a sticky finger at a page. He’d marked the image of an Old English Sheepdog with a smear of butter icing. Unlikely that such a large dog could have been the family pet.

‘Oh, clever you — you’ve remembered the dog from those paint adverts.’

A spark had been ignited in a dark recess of Gerald’s mind. Another little positive. She took a tissue from her handbag and wiped the page clean. Next, she tried him with the photo album, which they had looked at together several times, but not with the Lewis objective.

‘Catherine.’ He pointed at their daughter squinting into the sun on a holiday photo. Another achievement to chalk up that day, but still no Lewis.

That night Joyce lay awake. How could it be that in all their years of marriage Gerald hadn’t mentioned Lewis? Or perhaps he had related an anecdote about him and she had been inattentive, his words and the name drifting over her head like a balloon while she concentrated on her cross-stitch. If she had failed him then, she mustn’t fail him now. In the darkness she wiped her eyes. Etched in her memory would be his repetition of Lewis and his endless circuits of the care home lounge fuelled by his frustration.

Their next significant wedding anniversary would be Diamond, if Gerald lived long enough to greet it. The thing with a long marriage was that it seemed like your whole life and all your experience.

By the time the sun came up she was cheerful, though gritty-eyed. She’d identified other avenues to pursue in the search for Lewis, so those sleepless hours hadn’t been wasted. Lewis could be a former colleague at Fraser’s, or a pal from the carpet bowls club. Gerald and their neighbour Sydney had gone off to play carpet bowls every Wednesday afternoon with their bowling shoes in drawstring bags, until Gerald had become too unwell to play. 

Sydney was hanging out his washing and she called to him, ‘Sydney, did Gerald ever mention someone called Lewis? Bowls club maybe?’

Sydney shook his head. ‘Why?’

‘He’s got this Lewis on his mind and I don’t know who he is, or was. Any ideas?’

Sydney picked up his laundry basket. ‘Didn’t Gerald do National Service? Maybe Lewis hails from that time.’

He scuttled back indoors, leaving Joyce standing by her empty washing line. She hadn’t seen any photographs of Gerald on National Service. She would look in the sideboard for their large manila envelope labelled Miscellaneous Photos. Joyce found the envelope and in it a photograph of a Fraser’s staff Christmas meal from thirty years before. It hadn’t made it into the album as the photo was a poor one of Joyce, catching her with a forkful of turkey half-way to her mouth. Several potential candidates for Lewis, though. From the bus that day she admired people’s front gardens. The season inspired hope.

She was completing her entry in the signing-in book, glancing at the clock on the wall, when a care assistant passed by and said, ‘Your Gerald has a visitor. It’s the mystery man, Lewis. Been here an hour.’

Joyce dropped the signing-in Biro on its tethering string and rushed to the dementia wing. Through the toughened glass panel of the lounge door, she saw Gerald with a man she’d never met, a man who held Gerald’s hands in his. Faces in the lounge turned to look at her, but she had eyes only for Gerald and Lewis. Gerald bent forward and rested his head on the other man’s shoulder, his face turned in to his neck. A sob rose in Joyce’s throat.

‘What a burden you’ve carried all these years,’ she whispered, her breath misting the glass.

She turned away, and deposited her shopping bag containing more summer shirts and a further supply of caramel wafers in the corridor outside Gerald’s room door. And then, touching the wall with her hand to steady herself, she made her way back to the main entrance.

‘Not staying for a cup of tea today, Joyce?’ a care assistant called after her.

Over her shoulder she said, ‘No, I’ll let Gerald enjoy Lewis’s visit. They’ve waited a long time.’

‘I’ll sign you out. It’s not like you to forget.’

Joyce hurried away, down the hill to the bus stop. Gerald’s retreat into the woods had come to a temporary halt. Hers had only just begun.


Christine Howe lives in Cumbria and is a member of Carlisle Writers’ Group. The urge to generate some words of her own came after the passage of many books through her hands while working in libraries. She is currently planning her fifth novel and hopes to find a publisher for at least one of the other four. In 2020 she was awarded second prize in the Louise Walters Books Page 100 competition. Her short fiction has been published in anthologies such as The Best of CaféLit, shortlisted in a Flash 500 competition and is featured in the Carlisle Writers’ Group latest anthology and on their blog: https://carlislewritersgroup.wordpress.com/

Christine’s own blog, Writing from a Small Place, can be found at https://christinemhowewrites.wordpress.com

On Twitter she is @christimhowe


2022 Doris Gooderson Competition – SECOND

The Potent Lily

by Heather Alabaster

When I first saw Jane, she was standing, in that odd way she does, with her arms folded behind her back, among the seasonal lily display. When I say ‘among’ she was right in between the pots, head low to inhale the scent, so that her coppery hair all but tangled with a bevy of golden stamens. I was bewitched, there and then, by her subtle beauty. 

I was on what we called the ‘shoplifter-lookout’ till – with a good view down past the racks of small items, seed packets, string, hand tools and so on, and a partial sight of the plant courtyard beyond. Jane looked stunning, roaming along the racks and stands, scanning them intently – a picture in her sleeveless summer dress. When she picked things up, I could see her slim-fingered, pretty hands. I glanced at mine – well, half a lifetime of heavy work, lifting and shifting, had left its gnarly marks. Strong hands they are though, capable.

So I watched out for her after that, and I was lucky, she came in often, sometimes checking a list, always purposeful. She bought netting and stakes, a curved pruning knife, weedkiller, and one day an axe, chosen carefully for its grip. She nearly always bought gardening gloves too. I watched her try them on; at first she bought the flowery cotton sort, but soon moved onto thicker ones: canvas, then leather. The day she searched for heavy, rubberised builder’s gloves I was standing behind her, and I saw her poor hands close up. They were now coarse and red, grazed on the knuckles, and I think there were blisters on her palms. I wanted to kiss them away.

That was the day when everything changed. She beckoned me and asked for a pair in her size. I picked them from the display like precious objects. When I put the gloves into her hands I couldn’t help holding on. I held on to her hands, and she looked right into my eyes, and through my flesh and bones it seemed; before she pulled away.

‘I’m so sorry’, I murmured. ‘I can see your hands are sore, and these gloves are stiff, may I help you ease them on?’ And she let me smooth them over her fragile hands, while I flushed with ridiculous confusion. 

‘That’s kind, thank you.’ she said hesitating. Then twisting back to the shelves, she spoke softly over her shoulder; I could see her cheek and the side of her pink-painted mouth as it moved. 

‘It’s just that there’s rubbish I have to clear up, useless leftovers, that wouldn’t … that I couldn’t get rid of. So I’m burying everything, smothering it. It’ll rot down into compost, mostly. I’ve made a good start, but it’s tough going and I need to get it finished.’ Her face tensed, and the rubber-hidden hands clenched into fists.

‘Is there anyone to help?’ I was fishing, and she knew it, and again took her time to reply.

‘There was, but well, it didn’t work out, it was suffocating me’. Her voice was low, there was even a catch in it, but then it brightened. ‘So I’m clearing up, making a new start. I suppose you could say I’m turning things round.’

And then she did turn round, and shot another questioning look from under her eyelashes, and I swear she was smouldering at me. I took a risk and held her elbow, angling myself beside her, so close that she must surely have felt the heat of me. She didn’t draw back.

‘If you’ve come this far, and you’re nearly finished, let me help you.’ Which was when she unpeeled the gloves, took firm hold of my capable hands and pressed them to her breast.  


 Ruthie continued working at the garden centre. She didn’t move in with me until long after the fuss over Harry’s disappearance died down. Investigators, reporters and earnest counselling volunteers came and went. I gave them tea and lavender biscuits, sitting on the terrace, all through the sultry remnants of summer. 

‘Harry was a private person, secretive.’ I told them. ‘A little selfish too. I’m afraid there were girlfriends, more than one. I didn’t confront him, I didn’t want him ever to leave me, I wanted him close. But whatever has become of him, I feel sure he cannot forget me and our last hours together.’ Then, when I wrung my hands or dabbed an eye and bravely pushed back my hair, they would pat my bare knee lightly, squeeze my shoulder for a long moment, or even offer up a prayer.

We began to grow more lilies Ruthie and I, our favourites. Because the barrow we had made was perfect for them, arching quite naturally out of its tranquil spot. Close to the river, and fretted with shade from a shimmering silver birch, the earth was moist and deep. So, through grasses and summer campion, we had dug, heaped and sculpted a smooth mound, turfed and set it with lilies and twining periwinkle, like the shrine of an ancient idol. And of course, as Ruthie drily remarked, there was no need of extra nourishment for the soil. 

So now, at midsummer, Lilium Regale rise up like a troop of tall angels lifting their slender, rosy-backed trumpets to the sky. There are proud folds of Stargazer and white Casablanca too, whose gales of scent billow from their extravagant, jostling heads. Such luxurious abandon, such rich pleasure — it was always at the root of us, it bound us. Ruthie would bring me sheaves of lilies in the early days, and still sometimes now. When she does, she is perfumed by them, and there may be amber dusts of pollen on her sleeve.


Heather Alabaster lives in Durham with her husband. She wrote occasional stories and poems from early school years, though work years, in libraries and in publishing, were all about facts and not fiction. Now that her focus has changed she often has themes in her head – then when the opening lines show up, she knows she can get on and create interesting characters to give life to them.

2022 Doris Gooderson Competition – THIRD

The Other People

By Denny Jace

The Other People walk past our flat all day; I watch them through the window. They hold bags, phones, steaming cardboard coffee cups and sometimes each other’s hands.

Yesterday a mum and dad swung their boy right off the floor like he was a monkey. Every two steps they’d stop and swing him high. His face crumpled with laughter, I was too far away to hear his shrieks of joy, but I imagined his mouth open wide and so I made the sounds myself until the window fogged up. I rubbed it clear, pressed my cheek against the glass pane as they passed by, straining to see, not wanting them to disappear. When they’d gone, I stretched up both of my arms, high above my head and imagined it was me swinging and not just The Other People.

Today the streets are empty, the storm has frightened them all away. The livid wind hurls debris from its wicked fingers. Bashing walls and bending trees until their leaves scatter and die. The birds that sit on the pilons have gone back to their nests; the air too thick to fly.

I roll my forehead across the glass pane and then look up. The sky is low, swollen and bruised. I worry it might fall but then I remember that I can catch it because I’m a brave little chicken.

I wish the storm away and for The Other People to come back and then I see two boys on the pavement down below, arguing and shoving each other. They puff out peacock chests, their hair soaking glossy helmets, clinging to their heads. From up here they have no faces, like God forgot his pen.  I bang on the window; they can’t hear me but I’m giggling because I imagine them with drawn on moustaches and wobbly spectacles. They look so small, the same size as my fingers as they press against the glass. 

Outside is like a dolls house; The Other People are tiny puppets; new ones appearing throughout the day. If I opened the window I could reach down and scoop them up, carry them in the palm of my hand. They could come inside to play; they’d be perfectly safe. If they stayed quiet. Perfectly safe as long as you stay quiet, that’s what Mum says when she knows Laura Parker’s coming to visit. Nosey fucking Parker is also what mum says. Laura wears a lanyard with her picture on and carries a clipboard. I wear my clean dress and smile. She asks questions to catch mum out and makes lots of notes and nods. They talk about what The Other People do and what we should do, but don’t. 

I push at the plastic frame, run my fingers across the locks that don’t have keys. The windows don’t open, Mum says it’s not safe outside so that’s why we stay in. Mum is right and Laura is a liar. But then sometimes, mum makes a play promise’; next week I’ll take you to the park. But a promise is like a dream, it’s not real, it won’t happen and eventually you forget about it.

The rain batters the street, shards of glass stinging the pavement. It bounces up and stabs at my window. I stretch my eyes open wide, play a little game with myself where I refuse to blink, even when I think the glass will smash and splinter itself right into my eyeballs. 

I am bored now that The Other People are hiding. ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with… ’ No one answers so I use my other voice but that doesn’t work either. My breath fogs up the window, so I use my finger as a pen to make shapes on the glass but the shapes cry tears that trickle down into a puddle on the window ledge.

I look behind me, the lounge is as empty as me. I don’t like to be alone.

I am not alone. Mum is here and so is Gary. The last time I checked, they were asleep on the kitchen floor. He was wearing a tie with yellow ducks that didn’t quack. But it was tied tight around his arm instead of his neck. He’s not like The Other People, he’s real like us. He fixes Mum with needles and pills, foil and campfires. He doesn’t live here but when he comes, she is as happy as a clown and dances around the lounge, turning the radio up full blast. But then they fall asleep, and mum forgets about our dinner and our tea. I think that she forgets about me.

My tummy rumbles, the angry lion is rattling my ribcage. I know the cupboards are full of nothing, so I mooch around the floor searching like an anteater. Yesterday I found a lonely apple that had rolled under the sofa. It was velvet with mold. I didn’t eat it. It was a bad apple, which is sometimes what Gary calls me. 

On the coffee table are little sweets in a tiny plastic bag, pretty rainbow colours. I crawl on my hands and knees towards them. Too small to be Smarties, too flat to be Skittles. I know that they are special because of the look Gary gave to mum when he pressed the bag into her hand. They had kissed and I hid my face behind a cushion

Share and share a like, mum says when I sit in her bath water, so I’m sure she won’t mind sharing her kissing sweets. I empty them into my hand; Eenie Meenie, Miney Mo. 

2018 Anthology Cover Vote

It’s that time of year for the great anthology front cover vote! Make your selection by Saturday 13th April!

Scroll through the potential front cover images, then vote for your favourite at the bottom of the page ….

Approaching Storm




Beach Hut


Criccieth Archway








Snowdonia Across The Sea

Wrekin Writers – Doris Gooderson Short Story Competition 2017

Hello, can you help us? Wrekin Writers are desperate to receive short stories of up to 1200 words for the 2017 competition. It closes on 10th July so time is running out. At least half the proceeds are donated to the Severn Hospice so every entry will help. If you know anyone who may be tempted to enter please forward on this email to them and also please enter yourself. I have attached the competition rules and entry form. Submissions can be made digitally or by post. There is an open theme. Each entry costs £5 and the prize money for the top three stories will be: £200, £100 and £50 respectively. Winner are announced on the 2nd October.

I hope I’ve tempted you to help us.

Many thanks
Darren Bailey
Wrekin Writers


2016 Anthology Cover Vote

Yes, it’s back! It’s time to vote for your preferred front cover for the 2016 anthology front cover.

A range of images were identified and these three were selected as the better options for placing text against.

Please view the images below and then make your vote! (Voting closes at 23.59pm on Saturday 18th March 2017, or when I wake up on Sunday morning.)

Option 1. Entrance to Cynghordy retreat (by Diane Perry)


Option 2 – The Cynghordy Viaduct encased in scaffolding (by Simon Whaley)


Option 3 – Cynghordy Viaduct (by Mike White)


Vote closed Sunday morning (19th March). Result:

In Memory of Bob Johnstone

Sadly, former member, and past Secretary to the group, Bob Johnstone, passed away on 31st January 2016. Several members of the group were able to attend his funeral on 18th February 2016, at Telford Crematorium, and it was lovely to see former member George Evans raise a toast in the Red Lion afterwards to Bob, and all friends around The Wrekin.

Bob Johnstone Service

Donations in Bob’s Memory can be sent to The Stroke Association.

Some found writing a little more tiring than they thought.
Some found writing a little more tiring than they thought.

2015 Wrekin Writer Workshops with Nick Fletcher and Catherine Cooper

This year, as part of the Wellington Literary Festival, we had two fabulous workshop facilitators: Nick Fletcher and Catherine Cooper.

Nick gave us an insight into the world of freelance journalism and writing for magazines, sharing with us his tips and advice, drawing upon his many years experience working for the national newspapers and also selling to magazines across the UK.


By the end of the workshop, everyone was fired up with lots of ideas. Editors, I hope you’re inboxes are ready for our pitches!

Then, in the afternoon, Catherine Cooper arrived, with friends, to demystify the world of writing for children …


She had us busy creating characters, delving into treasure chests and picking out a mysterious object to inspire our character and take them on a magical journey. Writing for children means releasing your inner child!







Many thanks to both of our guest speakers for two fab workshops!



2013 Anthology Cover Vote

* * * V O T E  R E S U L T S * * *

The vote for the new anthology front cover is now closed and the results are as follows:


Vote results
Vote results



Which image would you like to see on the cover of the Wrekin Writers’ Anthology 2013? Scroll down and view the possibilities below, then at the bottom of the screen you can vote for your choice. (Please note you may only be able to vote once from your computer.) JUST TO CLARIFY – the use of any image containing the passing resemblance to any member of Wrekin Writers will be subject to their final approval for use on the front cover, if it proves the most popular choice. Should approval not be gained then the next most voted for image will be used for the cover.


1 - rocky beach
1 – rocky beach

2 - pebbly estuary
2 – pebbly estuary

3 - fenceline to Snowdonia
3 – fenceline to Snowdonia

4 - Aberdovey beach shadow
4 – Aberdovey beach shadow

5 - Llanfendigaid door
5 – Llanfendigaid door

6 - Llanfendigaid landing window
6 – Llanfendigaid landing window

7 - Bryan and friend
7 – Bryan and friend

8 - Lanfendigaid property
8 – Lanfendigaid property

9 - passing fishing boat
9 – passing fishing boat

10 - Jackdaw's tail-end
10 – Jackdaw’s tail-end

11 - Starburst beach scene
11 – Starburst beach scene

12 - Crashing groyne
12 – Crashing groyne

13 - Reflecting Diane
13 – Reflecting Diane

14 - Calves
14 – Calves