Posted in competitions, critique, literary festival, writing

BeaconLit Fourth Year 500-word comp Round 5 – Dec 2020 winners announced (and February’s open!)

On the day that January rolls over to February (Theme: Better To Have Loved And Lost), we are delighted to announce the top three stories from December’s entries are (in alphabetical order):

  • Big Black Boots with High Cotton Tops
  • Black and Red Promises
  • Party Boy

The theme for December was ‘The Fake Santa’. The three top stories will now go through to the final judging and the top ten prize-winning authors (not necessarily the same as the top ten stories as no author can win more than one prize) will be announced at the 2021 BeaconLit literary festival on Saturday 10th July (fingers crossed!). The results will also be listed here and on the main website (link below) and the winners contacted.

There are often more than three stories that could have made the top three but those that did were either closer to the theme or stronger (provoked more of a reaction after reading) so don’t be disheartened if yours hasn’t been mentioned.

If your story for this month isn’t listed in the above three, you are welcome to do whatever you like with your submission hereon in. If your story is listed, it’s possible that it could be placed in the ultimate top ten* which will be published on this website (and on in July so please do not send it elsewhere until after the final results are announced.

If you have requested, and paid for, critique, this will be with you in the next few days if not already.


Gareth’s feedback on the stories received this month:

December’s subject was The Fake Santa.

There are many ways to set a story to this theme: in the home, the department store and elsewhere. And writers came up with some novel treatments, while adhering to the truth that, from the child’s point of view, the very idea of Santa, anywhere, is enchanting.

Writers succeeded in conveying the mystery of the man and his world from many angles, and the way children interpret him. One of my favourites concerns a boy named Donald who ungraciously tried to expose the Santa as a fake at a Christmas party. Now who could this writer possibly have had in mind?

It was a good start to this year’s competition, although these were technically December’s entries.

If you thought you were in with a chance, you almost certainly were. It’s been so hard to choose winners. I have had to exclude from my top three several entries which in other months would have sailed in. So please don’t be too disappointed if your story didn’t make it. There wasn’t a poor story here. One or two were outstanding, making this one of the best competitions I have had to judge.

In many cases there is nothing I could possibly add to improve the story, except for some punctuation. People are working hard at descriptions – “there’s madness and mayhem with one piping voice, the party giver’s, shriller than the rest”, is just one example I like.

There’s a delightful story about Grandpa as a Santa, but told slightly obliquely so you have to think about it.

Another is a convincing commentary on the uncomfortable, low-paid lot of the men who do the job of impersonating Santa. Yet another was a neat variation on the Jimmy Boyd “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” perennial.

And clever, too. Rearrange the letters a bit, and Santa becomes Satan. Dreadful thought, or intriguing alternative reality?

One writer uses a string of cliches, but while I normally bristle at their use, there are times, such as this, when they can be used to effect. In this case in the voice of someone down on his luck, telling his festive tale in his own voice.

One or two people, or maybe their spellcheckers, slipped in unnecessary apostrophes before the final “s” in plural words. “Over seven’s”, for example. I’m sure it was a mistake. Just be careful when you read through. Especially when the rest of the writing in that particular story is so good.

I’m looking for turns of phrase that stand out. A sequence of words that I’ve never seen before – “underneath all, the black sparkling seams of coal that have paid for these luxuries” – created not recycled, which is one of the best elements of writing.

But this is not essential; I’m happy, too, with the story that is sparse and crispy told, that moves swiftly along.

I was reminded that ideas for stories come from anywhere. One writer based a very pleasing story on a ’Christmas Gift of Coal’ letter from the local mine owner, written just before nationalisation of the coal industry in 1948, found in a junk shop.


Although Gareth judges on the impact of the stories and the quality of the writing, it’s always disappointing when there are simple spelling mistakes or even simpler errors that should have been picked up during the editing process. Please do read your stories carefully before submitting and ideally show them to someone you trust for their opinion.

*Should you get through to the longlist of 30 stories (three per month over ten months), it doesn’t necessarily mean that your story won’t be chosen if it slips out of the top ten. No author will appear in the top ten twice so a story that came eleventh (or twelfth, thirteenth…) could be bumped up where there are author duplications.

You can also receive feedback on your story / stories at £5 per story with the optional critique service (given by the judge, Gareth Davies). This option is detailed on the main 500-word Competition page with an option to select critique within the entry form.

N.B. ALL the profits (fees minus PayPal charges) from this competition go to BeaconLit funds for the local libraries. No one involved in the competition charges for their time (including the judge!). Good luck!


Writer of 'dark and light' (crime / chick-lit) fiction since 2005, WordPress blogger since March 2011, editor since March 2012 (more recently just for Bloodhound Books), and creative writing tutor since Jan 2014. Also judge for H.E. Bates, and BeaconFlash / BBC Radio 2 / Althorp Lit Fest 500-word competitions.

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