Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize - Winner

Carrie Hynds

Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize


Carrie works as an editor and proofreader based in Brighton and Hove.
She loves walks by the sea, kayaking, kickboxing, pubs, dogs, and storytelling in all its forms. Creating a story from scratch is a completely different challenge from editing what is already there, and she would like to thank her friends and partner for their encouragement to keep writing.

Kamali By Carrie Hynds

Life is hart today.
I look at the words scratched into my arm, trace my fingers over each letter. Notice the spelling mistake too late.
Ashamed, I pull down my cuff and hide the compass in my clenched fist. Pair of compasses, Mrs Bingham always says, because a compass is on ships and this one draws circles. Except mine are never circles, they’re almost-circles with a bump where my finger is. How does everyone else get their fingers out of the way in time?
Imagine if nobody could. We’d have knobbly bits sticking out of roundabouts and clocks.
“Oi, Marley! Think fast!”
The apple core bounces off my head and I look up in time to see George fist-bumping his mates. They honk and snort and cackle and I wish I had powers like Matilda because I’d make the apple fly back towards his smug face and then make the stick bit at the top go up his nose.
And by the way my name’s not Marley, it’s Kamali, and my family’s not even from Jamaica. George actually stinks but he scores goals so he gets fist-bumps and everyone pretends they can’t smell him. Except Mrs Bingham who says he Should Take A Minute To Freshen Up but it would take more than a minute.
Then the bell rings which means the end of playground torture but more sums torture. I stare at my page. The numbers jump around. I lean closer to Becca who sits next to me but the numbers are jumping around on her page too.
“Ow,” she complains, and then Mrs Bingham is against me too because I Shouldn’t Be Cheating and Should Tie My Hair Back Because It Distracts The Other Students.
I am given an elastic band and Excused. In the girls’ toilets I stare at my reflection over the tiny sink and wish, wish, wish I could disappear.
My reflection winks.
Startled, I step back. The Kamali in the mirror has the same uniform, same Afro, same elastic band dangling from her fingers, but she’s taller and she’s smiling.
She rolls up her sleeve and shows me her arm. It has the same words as mine but in black marker pen:
Life is hart today.
Then she rolls up her other sleeve. It says:
Try again tomoro.
Then I blink and regular Kamali is back.
I try to tie my hair up but the stupid elastic breaks and I hear Mrs Bingham cry Help and wonder how she knows already.
Then she makes a weird noise like PEEPEEPEE.
In a flash I am in the corridor at the First Aid Kit, then at Mrs Bingham’s desk and her face is grey and I roll up her sleeve and without a second’s thought I stick the epi pen into her arm.
And there is silence but I know it has worked and I say, “You’ll be okay now,” and Mrs Bingham smiles as if those words are meant for her.

Judges Comments

It's impossible not to be engaged with the voice of the first-person narrator in Kamali, the winning story in WM's Grand Flash Prize. In a 500-word story, Carrie Hynds has created a persona that is raw, vulnerable, bruised, upfront and so absolutely compelling that we're on her side right from the beginning. She doesn't fit in within the classroom context and her self-esteem is on the rocks but because of the vivid immediacy of the way Carrie conveys her the reader can see she has other, more valuable qualities: courage, insight, individuality. And the ability to act under pressure.

Carrie's narrative approach is all about allowing Kamali to express herself - precisely what the character doesn't feel, initially, able to do. The first-person voice of the interior monologue is angry, intimate, and full of defensive humour. 

Kamali is a contemporary, original and refreshing take on the the triumph of the underdog trope that reveals the interior damage caused by exclusion and intolerance of difference. The reader is rooting for Kamali from the start, but the ending, where she begins to root for herself, is inspired. It's an emotional, powerfully compressed story about identity and self-discovery that packs a strong punch in a very short space of time.

Runners-up and shortlisted
Fourth place in the Grand Flash Prize, winning a WM Courses critique, was Jane Broughton, Urmston, Manchester.
Fifth place, a year’s subscription to WM, was Jean Cooper Moran, Cinderford, Gloucestershire.
Also shortlisted were: Rachael Charmley, Harleston, Norfolk; Ruth Edwardson, Rochford, Essex; Tracy Fells, Ashington, West Sussex; Tracy Geddes, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire; Barbara Henderson, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland; Sharon Kemp, Surbiton, Surrey; Emma Lord, Swindon, Wiltshire; Helene du Mauri, Dawlish, South Devon; Angela G Pickering, Ely, Cambridgeshire; Emily Rumsey, Sheffield, South Yorkshire.