This Exisle Academy competition generated many entries, about 100 more than our previous competitions.
Among the many fiction stories, we were encouraged to embrace our scars, and asked if mindsets are hereditary, and shown that the destructive habits of the dead can be passed down through generations. We were posed the intriguing question of what if you had only three memories to pass on, what would they be? Other stories shared joys in inherited artifacts–pendants. One writer captured the sense of guilt of living when close relatives have passed on. Letters took their place in several stories including passing letters onto our future selves. A particularly lovely story had a wartime lover’s first letter passed on to the next generations as a wedding gift. Other stories commented upon the sexism of inheritance which, to our writer at least, still seems unequal. Another strong tale had the father’s inheritance encapsulated in a box which, after some struggle, was thrown overboard.
Our pick for the winner was Georgia Cook’s “Mother Mother” which uses a unique blend of surrealism, pathos and vivid imagery to generate a haunting and telling story of what was passed on.
In the nonfiction category the passing on of pendants (again), watches, and a great grandmother’s wedding handbag were included in the range of physical items. So too was a father’s football shirt and a grandmother’s typewriter, both being symbols for the memory of their past owners. There were many dresses. Memories of food along with recipe books were popular subjects. So too were thimbles. Beliefs and attitudes being passed down included fear of white supremacists, a sense of entitlement and a ‘know it all’ approach to life. Habits too have been passed on including the choice to be alone, as well as how powerful words passed on at school helped build lives.
Traditional values and rituals were mentioned from a variety of cultures and physical attributes too including thick eyebrows and being tall. One writer recorded that within his community respect for his grandfather was passed down to him and another recorded that much was passed down with the powerful line ‘their genes sleep with me.’
Our winning pick is Elly Sparrow’s “Because I Worry,” coming face to face with the attributes passed onto her as she walked to her Grandmother’s hospital bed.
Along with magic quilts, escaping paintings, and cute animals, Greg Beatty’s “They Both Won the Bet,” was the stand out winner with a lovely interplay between older and younger generations. There’s a nice ‘parents aren’t always right’ element and the scientific/natural world focus is very apt.
Gareth St John Thomas is CEO at Exisle Publishing and EK Books, and a Senior Mentor on the "Become a Successful Published Author" mentorship program.