12 Short Stories Announces 2018 Short Story Competition Winner

Writers Write and 12 Short Stories are thrilled to announce the winner of the short story competition for 2018.

And the winner is:

Ellen Eigner for The Cottage (You can read her story at the end of the post.)

We loved her never-ending tale about the enchanted cottage.

Well done, Ellen!

12 Short Stories Announces 2018 Short Story Competition Winner

Ellen wins the Writers Write Online Course & a full copy of the desktop version of Scrivener.

  1. Scrivener is the go-to app for writers of all kinds, used every day by best-selling novelists, screenwriters, non-fiction writers, students, academics, lawyers, journalists, translators and more. Scrivener won’t tell you how to write—it simply provides everything you need to start writing and keep writing. The winner will receive a full copy of the desktop version of either Scrivener for Windows or Scrivener 3 for macOS.
  2. Writers Write Online is a complete introduction to novel writing. It consists of 60 Modules with 100 writing exercises. You will receive a PDF version and a printable workbook. It covers everything from plotting and pacing to publishing. It is self-paced, internet-based and includes eight writing consultations via Skype with Mia Botha. The course is valued at US$599.


And congratulations to the following runners-up (in no particular order):

  1. Adam Jeffrey
  2. Kali S Goodenough
  3. Birgitte Necessary
  4. Anusuya Khasi
  5. Jens Grabarske

Prizes: The five runner-up writers will each receive a writing consultation with Mia Botha via Skype.

Congratulations to

  • Kim Kneen

who won Reader’s Choice award for her story and will also receive a writing consultation with Mia Botha via Skype.

Well done!

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition. I loved your stories.

Keep writing.

Here is the winning story:

The Cottage by Ellen Eigner

Prompt: The Cottage | Word count: 1200 words

The cottage. The white cottage. The white cottage with the thatched roof. The white cottage with the thatched roof and the ivy vines crawling up its walls. Surrounded by a wrought iron fence, there it is at the end of the pebbled path. It was always there. Even the oldest of the town’s inhabitants cannot remember a time it wasn’t there. People enter and people exit the cottage, but no one knows who lives there if anyone lives there.

It is pristine. It is perfect even though it seems that no one lives there. Its gardens are perfectly kept. Hydrangeas and hyacinth and honeysuckle. The porch is always swept. The leaves are raked. No weeds dare dot this garden. 

The curtains are drawn at night and open during the day. Peeking in the window, you see the table is set - blue and white chequered tablecloth, pewter dishes, a bowl of fruit, a pitcher of milk, a plate of cookies.

You walk by it often. The first time, you approach tentatively. Your steps crunch on the pebbled path. You gaze over the magnificent but simple garden, tidily kept. You knock on the door. You peer in the window. You try the door. It is open but you hesitate to open it.

The next few times, you slowly open the door and step inside. You stand in the doorway and look about. The cottage seems inhabited, yet empty. You are not afraid. You somehow feel welcome yet manners win over and you do not entirely enter.

Finally, curiosity overwhelms you. You enter and sit at the table. You pour yourself a glass of milk and help yourself to a couple of cookies. They are delicious. They are magical. You should feel uncomfortable, you are aware of that, but you are completely at ease. You feel as if the cookies and milk are meant for you as if you are invited. 

Soon, this becomes a routine. You visit the cottage daily and help yourself to a healthy snack. You begin to look around a little more. You try each chair. You lie down on each bed. You spend some time rocking in the rocking chair with the crazy quilt cushions. You search the cupboards and closets for clues as to who lives here, who set out this magnificent snack for you. You want to know who it is and then again you don’t want to know.  

You return, day after day. Each day, it is the same. The table is set, the cookies, the pitcher of milk, yet you never see a soul.

Curiosity getting the better of you, you decide to return at different times of the day to see if anyone is around. You arrive in the morning and knock at the front door. No one answers, yet you smell coffee brewing. You enter slowly. The table is set with the same blue chequered tablecloth, white napkins and plates. Yellow daisies in a vase. A pot of coffee. A plate of pancakes. Fresh creamy butter and a jug of maple syrup. “Hello! Anyone here?” you call. No one answers. The broom is in the corner as if the floor was freshly swept. You go out the door, then turn back quickly hoping to catch the inhabitant who may have been hiding. No one.

You return a couple hours later. The coffee pot, pancakes, syrup and butter are gone. Even the tablecloth is gone. Only the daisies remain. You look for the broom and find it stashed neatly in a long skinny cabinet with a duster and a bucket of rags.

Returning a couple of hours later, you find the door open. You look around outside to see if someone is in the garden. The path is freshly raked and the flowers are neatly trimmed. You return to the cottage to find a plate of sandwiches and a pitcher of lemonade. You help yourself. You know they are for you and whomever else may come along. You no longer worry about intruding.

Returning in mid-afternoon, the table is again empty except for the daisies and some playing cards. The hands are dealt in neat piles, the return pile in the centre by the daisies. Some knitting sits in a basket by the rocking chair. A book of fairy tales lies open on the bed. A pot of soup is bubbling on the wood-burning stove. You decide to return at dinner time.

At dinnertime, the table is set with four steaming bowls of soup, a basket of bread and a pot of tea. Once again, you help yourself and resolve to stay the night. You peruse the tiny bookshelf for the book of fairy tales. The books are tattered and worn. Desperate Times, Gabriella’s Garden, The Troll Learns to Dance, Magic Picnics, Potions and Poisons, Spells of Great and Little Importance, The Bell Tolled. You find the book of fairy tales and settle in on the pallet bed in the corner. You pull the multi-coloured crazy quilt up over your knees and settle in...Tales to Delight and Bewitch. You fall asleep and dream, a wonderful dream, a wonderful magical dream that eludes you in the morning.

You awaken with a tingly feeling that you just can’t place. You open the shutters. You start the coffee. Digging around in the pantry, you find some pancake mix and syrup. You start the fire and make a couple of pancakes. You find the butter in a crock on the counter. With great pleasure, you eat your breakfast then take your coffee out on the front porch. You drink your coffee on the porch while gazing over the beautiful garden. It needs some trimming, you think.

Once you’ve cleaned up the dishes, you sweep the cottage and leave the broom by the door. You rake the errant leaves from the pebbled path and trim the dead blooms from the flowers. You return and make a plate of sandwiches, even though it is only you in the cottage. You eat your lunch and pick up the knitting. Even though you’ve never knit anything before, the skill comes easily and soon you have the beginning of a lovely scarf. You take out the playing cards and deal them into four piles. Then you get the fire going in the stove and begin making a heaping pot of soup.

That night, you go to bed content. The actions performed that day become your daily routine - the pancakes, the sweeping, the raking and trimming, the sandwiches, the knitting and card playing, the soup.

One day you hear footsteps on the pebbled path. The visitor looks in. Two days later, the visitor enters, has a cookie, looks around. The visitor seems to be unaware of your presence, neither looking at you nor speaking to you. You go about your daily routine, the visitor often showing up for meals. Sometimes there are multiple visitors. They also seem unaware of your presence. 

And then it happens. You knew it would. One visitor decides to stay the night and curls up in the crazy quilt on your bed. The enchantment sets you free and you walk the pebbled path into the dark horizon.

 by Mia Botha

If you want to learn how to write a short story, join us for Short Cuts in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

Buy Mia’s book on how to write short stories: Write the crap out of it and other short story writing advice

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This article has 4 comments

  1. Paul

    Congratulations to Ellen Eigner for winning the short story competition. Well done.

  2. Jenifer

    Wow! What a great story! I LOVE it! It drew me in, perfectly paced and now it’s in me… it sticks! So beautifully rendered. Absolutely delicious! So glad you won, Ellen. Congratulations! Happy writing. Where can I subscribe for more of your work?

  3. N. L. Hollow

    This is beautiful! I love this kind of stories. While I was reading I came up with a different ending… can I write it somewhere? I’ll credit the original author, of course, and Writers Write

  4. Wanda Hughes

    Congratulations to you Ellen for winning and even more, for writing this magical tale. It was lovely to read, drawing me with the first sentences, keeping me going along the magical path and setting me free at the end. Now I wish for a magical cottage of my own. And then I think, perhaps we all live within our magical cottages and we just don’t realize it yet.

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