A Box of Chocolates: 50 Short Stories
by Various Authors. Foreword by Fay Weldon.
fifty stories in this book were all entries in Shaftesbury
Arts Centre’s first short story competition, held in
the autumn of 2008. The competition was meant for adults,
and most of the thirty-six adult entries are in this book,
but sixteen children also entered, the youngest just six
years old. Their stories are also here. Unsurprisingly, most
of the entries came from the Shaftesbury area but not exclusively.
Illustrating how wide Shaftesbury Arts Centre in Dorset
flings its net, there are entries from Salisbury in Wiltshire
and as far as Gloucestershire and London. The source of all
the children’s entries bar one was St Andrew’s
Church of England Primary School in Fontmell Magna, a small
village south of Shaftesbury, the initiative of an inspired
teacher there called Michael Salisbury. Competition judge
Fay Weldon selected nine stories for special mention - all
of which are in this book - and from these chose Jo Wilkinson's 'A chocolate Story' as the top prize winner. She praised
the skill, variety and imaginations of many of the authors,
suggesting they could and should go on to greater things.
It is possible this book could be the first of a series of
similar books encouraging, producing and promoting the creative
writing talent of the local area.
‘It was a wintry night. The curtains were not thick
enough to keep out the cold. Edie reached for the box of
Now write your story!
This was celebrated author Fay Weldon’s instruction
to entrants in Shaftesbury Arts Centre’s first short
story-writing competition. The brainchild of centre stalwart
Rosie King, co-chair of the centre’s fundraising committee,
the competition formed the highlight of SAC’s first
Chocolate Festival in the autumn of 2008.
Fay kindly volunteered not only to set the chocolate theme
but also to judge the result – no small commitment
from someone who has chaired professional judging panels
of national literary competitions such as the Booker and
The competition was meant for adults, and a surprisingly
large number of 33 adults entered, some from as far away
as London and Gloucestershire. But 16 children also entered,
the youngest just six years old. Fay shortlisted nine stories
for special mention from which she selected Marnhull author
Jo Wilkinson as the final winner.
So impressed was Fay by the overall standard that it didn’t
take the organisers long to agree to publish all the stories,
including those by the children – most of whom were
from St Andrew’s primary school in Fontmell Magna – in
this volume, proceeds from which are intended to bolster
SAC’s fundraising effort.
Not every author wanted to be included but this book contains
all the shortlisted stories, including Jo Wilkinson’s
winning effort, and represents an impressive array of local
talent. While the chocolate theme underlies all the stories,
there is an extraordinary variety of subjects here, from
the comic to the macabre to the tragic.
‘An amazing range of stories was submitted for the competition
and to tell some of them in under a thousand words just shows
what can be done,’ Fay told the local press, adding: ‘I
hope Shaftesbury Arts Centre will carry on this good work.’
It is to be hoped it will. Meanwhile this is a book to
be enjoyed for all sorts of reasons beyond most people’s
addiction to chocolate. Apart from anything else it shows
just how much talent is lurking almost everywhere under the
surface in and around this remarkable town of Shaftesbury – and
what creative talent it attracts.
If you like good writing you’ll love this book. But
if you like chocolate as well you’ll positively drool
over it! And at under £8 it’s a steal.
Shaftesbury Contact magazine, Feb 2009
£7.99 + £1.01 p&p