Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize - Runner Up

Ann Baillie

Runner Up
Grace's Index
Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize


Ann Baillie has been writing for a number of years, having completed the Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course as well as a two-year programme with New Writing South in Brighton. This was her first attempt at flash fiction, which morphed out of a character development piece for her second novel. She is currently trying to find an agent for her debut novel.

Grace's Index By Ann Baillie

Stars in the milky way: 100 thousand million
If the sun were to stop burning and form a black hole the diameter would measure one and a half kilometres
Space and gravity: Rab – ½ Rgab = Tab
Countries in the world: 174
Countries that I have visited: 4 (including England)
Population of London: 6.8m
% of people I know in London: Not statistically significant
Distance from the earth to the moon: 233,855 miles
Distance from London to Glasgow: 403.6 miles
The number of times I have visited my parents in the last eighteen months: once
The number of times my parents have argued: infinity
Chances that my dad was unfaithful more than once: 95%
The number of times my mum found out: once
Probability that mum or dad will ask me to take sides in their argument: 100%
Average number of minutes after my mum has finished a bottle of wine that she calls me: Five
Number of Tube stops I’ve visited in a year: 9 (Highgate, Bank, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Embankment, Charing Cross, St Pauls, Hampstead)
Number of slats in the blinds of my office: 94
Size of my office: 8 square feet
Number of clients: 15
Percentage of clients that like me: Unknown
Chances that my boss will say it is a little early to be thinking of promotion at my next appraisal: 100 %
Probability that I’m good at my job 50:50
Percentage of graduates that would kill for my job: >75%
Number of Americanos with an extra shot consumed on an average weekday: six
Probability that Calum loves his job: 100%
The number of times that Calum and I have eaten dinner together in the last month: 3
The number of times Calum and I have had sex in the last month: 1
Percentage of sex that was good sex in the last month: 100%
Percentage of times that Calum has unloaded the dishwasher: 5%
Percentage decline in sex life over 5 years: 15%, year on year
Number of nights shifts Calum has done this week: 5
Proportion of days when Calum’s on shift that I’ve drank a bottle of wine: 100%
Number of times I’ve hoovered the flat this week: four
Size of this flat: 1200 sq. foot
Books on the bookshelf: 231
Proportion of books unread: 15% (All Calum’s)
Distance from the flat to Highgate cemetery: <1 mile
Size of Highgate Cemetery: 37 acres
Number of graves in Highgate cemetery: >53,000
Number of times I’ve walked around Highgate cemetery: 6
Moles on my face: 1
Bones in my body: 206
Percentage of bones in Freddie’s body broken: 10%
Cars that mowed Freddie down: one
Chances of Freddie defying gravity: Zero
Rab – ½ Rgab = Tab
Number of brothers: One zero
Number of times I’ve visited Freddie’s grave: zero

Judges Comments

Flash fiction is a wonderful place to experiment with ways of telling a story.  Ann Baillie's Grace's Index, the runner-up in WM's Grand Flash Prize, began life as a writing exercise - but in its own right, becomes a powerful, list-based story that builds a picture of a layered life with a family tragedy at its heart.

By deploying the fictional device of using what appear to be (but aren't, because this is story) facts, Grace's Index initially  trips the reader into believing that this is an unemotional tale. But, as the list moves on from Stars in the Milky Way, each item on the list becomes more personal, and more revealing. With each listed item now a 'clue', the reader becomes increasingly invested in discovering who Grace is and what her life is like. Every item adds a layer of information, and as the list bores down, becomes more and more personal. Simultaneously building up (information) and stripping away (artifice), the way Ann has handled the list format creates and impressive, and effective, piece of fiction that really demonstrates how playing around with ideas can lead to a winning flash of inspiration.