New Writers Awards 2016: Karen Ashe


Karen Ashe was brought up in Airdrie and now lives in Glasgow with her family and crazy dog, Scout. Her first ever short story took 2nd place in the South China Morning Post short story competition and she went on to complete the MLitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow University. She now spends Monday evenings in the inspiring company of Chryston Writer’s Group. She grapples with poetry and the short story, recently placing third in the FWS Easter poetry competition, and making the shortlist for the Glasgow Women’s Library Short Story competition. She also tries her hand at flash fiction and has been published online in Paragraph Planet. She has been shortlisted for the Fish Short Story and Flash Fiction prizes, the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction, and was published in the Mslexia Curious Incidents section.


Writing sample

We were to call her Myrtle, she said, cos she didn’t feel nothing like no Great Aunt. When supper was done, she lit the largest of the candles, then used that to light the others, poking at the curled-up wicks with the flame till the last of them was lit.

The dinner was lying heavy in my belly after seeing what Myrtle had done to the bird; one minute it was bok-bok-boking in the yard, next it was crisping in the smoking-hot skillet.  Laurel’s dead weight across my lap didn’t help, but every time I tried to get out from under her she clung tighter, whining. Billy was playing This Little Piggie, with my feet, gripping my toes with his hot little hands.

To get into the rocker, Myrtle needed to hold on to her knees, for balance, or something, and she made a sound, somewhere between a sigh and a whistle, like when you blow through a blade of grass. The candles flickered some, stretching out their necks, then shrank to burn steady. An owl hooted, or it may have been the echo of the hoot we were hearing, we were so deep in the country.  Billy stuck his thumb in his mouth. Myrtle snuck a peek at him as she tamped tobacco into her pipe. When she sucked on it her face fell in on itself.

Tell us a story. Billy’s cheeks were pink from the sun, his eyes wandering the way they do when he’s tired. Mamma always tells us a bedtime story.  I was about to call liar, but Myrtle spoke first, smoke trailing every word. 

A story, huh?  Crickets cracked the silence. Seemed the darker it got, the hotter it grew. Well, I don’t know any fairy stories, for sure.  She polished her glasses on the hem of her skirt.  And you musta heard the one about the disappeared girl?


Karen says:

"I am absolutely thrilled, at my advanced age, and after many attempts, to be the recipient of this award. It is a marvellous honour, and I intend to take full advantage of the opportunities it will bring, and maybe, finally, at last, get this novel finished."