I treated myself yesterday. I showed no self-restraint at all. I binged on mini-stories in the Binnacle 12th Annual Ultra-short Edition 2015. My intention was to eke them out, to save them as a little pick-me-up whenever I needed something more substantial than a tweet but not demanding the time commitment of a short story.
    Of course, I was curious to read the winning entries and find out how 'Harvest-time', my Editor's Pick entry, measured up, but I already knew from previous years that the standard would be high. At the risk of sounding like Forrest Gump, the contents are like a box of chocolates; you can never be sure what flavour lies under the exterior, but they're all tasty. I loved the winner in the prose category, 'Legless Bill' by Caroline Michalicki. It's totally satisfying with an ending that couldn't be more apt while remaining unpredictable. My personal favourite, however, is one of the Honourable Mentions, 'There Is a Garden Where Her Heart Should Be' by Eman Bouras. It evokes a complete picture of a setting that could be from Fargo or The X-Files. It ends with a question that has the reader searching for answers. Your imagination wants to fill in the background details and make up what came before and after. The police officer does little and isn't described, but you feel you know him. Genius!
    Maybe there were other things I should have been doing, but I feel yesterday's binge-reading was time well spent. It really made me want to pick up my pencil and produce something for this year's contest. Visit http://umm.maine.edu/binnacle to find out more about the Ultra-short competition. It's free to enter and doesn't close until 15th March. Even if you don't fancy entering, I can recommend it.
    Anyone interested in short stories and their authors can enjoy a binge of a different flavour at Thresholds, where you'll also be able to find my essay about Dorothy Richardson, the epitome of Modernist style and, in my opinion, another genius. Thresholds will be holding another essay contest this year, which is free to enter and closes on 6th March.