“A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend.” Emily Dickinson Maybe we’re not immortal just yet, but don’t let that take away from this week’s winner. Handpicked from a fistful of fun and challenging entries, please take a moment to congratulate first timer Annie M and her winning story Letter To Jane Austen From A Disapproving and Loving Aunt Coming up next we have the short list for ANNABEL’S LOST AND FOUND Award, followed by our major award for 2014 the MYSTERY OF THE CELLAR DOOR Prize. There’s still time to get an entry in for CELLAR DOOR, so head over to the awards page and check it out. If any of the authors for the DEAR AMANDA Award would like feedback …

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I was always encouraged to think outside the box and it was fair to say that I was quite good at it which was why I was so good at my job. Ideas flew into my mind like small birds flitting in and out; sometimes leaving before I knew they had come; abandoning me with a sense of vertigo and a chance missed. When they stayed, they danced about in my head spinning all my other ideas out of control like loose pieces of paper in the wind. And then, at times, ideas would come together and fight, vying for space in my thoughts. It was fun thinking outside the box and it was always safe but I went a bit too far and went out of the box completely. …

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To paraphrase one of the great philosophers of our time, “Short word counts and small turn arounds makes homer something something.” A focus on the mad, the crazy and the slightly off kilter in this week’s short list. Fair enough, We all go a little crazy sometimes. But a bit of friendly advice, just cause you’re thinking outside the box, doesn’t mean you need to lose your marbles. Full Short List here.

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We have been dining on the wrong side of life. It’s strange, really. This epiphany came to me on a certain chartreuse day, the kind of day where everything suddenly seems weird. Like when the taste of water is unbearable, and the washing machine seems to sing instead of complain about the feeling of wet socks slurping and slushing inside of him. Like when the ice cream truck plays Symphony No. 8 by Dvorák, and the ferns lean away from the sun instead of towards it. I woke up choking on dust. Nothing new, really. The air was still stale, and my creaky house was still dangling off the precipice of Mount Tsereve. Through the greasy, murky glass I could faintly see the other houses attached to the mountain by …

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Donald’s distressed groan woke Joyce immediately. She turned as quickly as her tired muscles allowed, her knees cracking in the cold. She observed Donald’s shadowed figure. He looked asleep, but his muscles were spasming gently. His leg quaked, and then his arm. ‘Don,’ Joyce said, shaking her husband’s shoulder. ‘Wake up.’ He whimpered, trapped in his dream, quietly pleading for somebody to save him. Joyce shook him again, a little more forcefully. He stirred. His eyelids fluttered and his eyes opened groggily. With an exhausted hand, he wiped away the sleep and pooling tears. A face haunted him. A little boy, alone in a dark room, water lapping at his ankles, rising to his thighs… Donald coughed, clearing the choking water and overwhelming sadness from his throat. ‘It’s okay.’ Joyce’s …

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>>>Trigger Warning: This story contains references to abuse. Some readers may want to skip it, or proceed with caution<<< “I am sorry for your loss”, Mr. Banks said as he put a hand on my shoulder. I knew that the concern on his face was genuine and he meant every word that he said. One of the few individuals I have known my life that were truthful in their manner and in their character. His forehead was white as that of a man gone sick and a bead of sweat trickled down on to his brow that he quickly wiped off with his handkerchief. Even though his words were sincere but they sounded meaningless to me. What loss was he talking about when he said that he was sorry for …

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Chelsea O’Connor sighed with frustration as she threw the last piece of paper onto the floor. ‘What does it mean?’ She gasped, clawing at her forehead. ‘What does it mean? How can I find out?’ She turned at the sound of footsteps to see her best friend, Pauline, standing at the door. Chelsea exhaled. ‘Pauline, thank God.’ Pauline walked slowly inside, unsure of how to approach this crazy woman. ‘Pauline, you must help me,’ Chelsea shook her head desperately. ‘I stumbled on these.’ She gestured towards the papers strewn across the floor. ‘They had words written on them. Words and pictures,’ Chelsea continued. ‘Yes, that’s generally what you use paper for. Words and pictures,’ Pauline raised her eyebrows, ‘Are you okay?’ Chelsea blinked frantically. ‘No. No, I am not okay. The …

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“Next case. Request 14875 on entry into the Houston Reproduction Program.” Commissioner Morris looked at his fellow commissioners. “Report on the genetic analysis?” Commissioner Buchman cleared her throat. “Yes, I have the results here. The figures are looking surprisingly well. Both samples are very promising and their combination might have a lot of potential.” “Historical background?” “I have those,” Commissioner Waldock said. “Our computers show no match between the relatives of the pair, as far as they can trace back. There should be no fear of inbreeding.” “Thank you, colleagues. So we have an agreement then?” The other two nodded, and Morris pushed a button. “Send them in, Sally.” Two people appeared, their worried faces trying to read an answer off the expression of the stern-looking Commissioners. Morris didn’t feel …

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I first noticed him when he was playing soccer with his friends under the blazing sun. He was drenched in sweat, his white uniform dirty and clung onto his body. But he was having a good time, laughing as he chased after the ball. Something about the way he laughed drew me to him. Later on, I would create all sort of excuses to hang around the field after school finished, and steal a glance at him. He was good looking, of course, but very clumsy. He always looked up at the clouds more than what laid ahead. Once, he tripped over a tree branch, and I couldn’t help bursting into laughter. He saw me laughing, and he laughed too. That was how we started to talk. “Do you like …

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Growing up is not as fun as we thought it would be when we were young. It’s a funny thing that can not even be described as a process, but more as a sudden event. We wake up one day, ready to go on with our lives the way we used to, and boom, reality hits us like a hammer in the head. We open our eyes and step into a whole new world, a world with no miracles and no magic. We have two alternatives: we can fight, or we can quit. And surprisingly, no one picks the second. I was the same; I had no idea whether I was an actress, a psychologist or a coach. Maybe I was a frantic journalist, I thought I would never know. …

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Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company. ~Lord Byron We’re in good company this week. Letters to modern comics, classic authors, distinguished scientists and… someone you might know Six hand written (or typed) letters to… who? Well you’ll just have to read and see. Thanks everyone for entering. Best of luck. You can find the short list here.   Dear Bill Bailey by Alice Griffiths The 27th Floor by Naomi Lolita Speaks by Lou Steer An Open Letter To Cousin Martin by Maya Spore (personal fav ha!) A Mother’s Words by Brooke Edwards Letter to Jane Austen by Anne M   PS Don’t forget this is the last month to get your entry in for the MYSTERY OF THE CELLAR DOOR Award.    

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In 2012 bestselling author Paulo Coelho made an unprecedented move, actively encouraging fans and would be readers to download his work for free. ‘Pirate Coelho’ has long been an advocate for peer to peer sharing. He’s not the only magical realism author progressive towards technology. It’s been argued by many that Argentinian mastermind Jorge Luis Borges actually predicted the internet  and NITH favourite Haruki Murakami even has his own app! You’ll find plenty of influence from these authors in the short list, but it was a far more musical tale that stole first place for the MARIUS DE ZAYAS Award. Needle In the Hay regular Debb Bouch lent her trademark appreciation of tone and rhythm to a tale that sweeps you away, only to twist every expectation on it’s head. Here’s …

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This week’s award asked authors to use Marius De Zayas’ portrait of photographer Alfred Stieglitz as the inspiration for a story in the genre of Magical Realism.

Seven’s a lucky number, a magical number even. That’s how many stories we have on this week’s short list, so head over and check out the full short list here

Also, a big NITH welcome to first timer Sandra Mendes!

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The curvature of his back delineated a life of lost love and carefree morals. A slouch designed to confuse the innocent. Shoes made for waltzing over carefully polished surfaces. Hair strands falling awkwardly around his head, like beloved trees caught in an unavoidable storm. He had been a debonair, a pseudo-intellectual, a suave master of quick romantic interludes between music halls and dance halls, street lights and stage lights. Until, that is, the Lady of the Night had flitted daintily across his path on a moonlit sidewalk: a small woman of such graceful moves and breathy voice that for a moment he had floated off the ground a bit. Two inches of air, a feeling of powerful joy, and none the wiser to his own fate, the slouchy dancer had …

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