The Pen to Print Awards 2022.
The 2022 Pen to Print Competition Winners Announced
The 2022 Pen to Print writing competition winners were announced on Thursday 30 June at The Broadway Theatre, our first in-person awards ceremony in three years. All of the winners receive a trophy and a tablet PC. The winner of the Audio Play competition will also get their play fully produced & recorded by our partner Alternative Stories.
Click the titles to read the full pieces.
And the winners are ...
You May Write Me Off As No One
You may write me off as no one.
A mere product of my birth.
Poke me in a pigeonhole
and water down my worth.
Shove me in the shadow lands.
Write me off before I’m grown.
Decide upon my future life;
hang it around me like a stone.
Insult and Nick my heritage.
Call me out for the way I speak.
Condemn me for my choice of clothing.
Lampoon me for the friends I keep.
But you can never break my mettle
for words salsa through my soul.
You may attempt to shut me up,
to sweet talk and cajole
But I’ve castrated your beloved canon
and scarified your sacred texts.
So beware my sage and learned friends.
I’m coming for you next!
© Tricia Waller, 2022
by Tessa Sparrow
No Place to Play
by Maire Buonocore
If You Can’t Stand The Heat Get Out Of The Kitchen
by Sean Webster
Tales from The Shop Floor
by James Marshall
Tales from The Shop Floor
I swipe in at 03:58 and walk through the noisy canteen where staff are drinking tea or coffee before their shift. One lady just SHOUTS all the time like a farmer calling in her cows across two fields.
‘Are we doing TikTok today?’
‘I don’t know- we might not have time.’
‘Ah. I can do that leg one, now.’
‘Yeah, I was practising yesterday and I got it.’
I walk downstairs, past the checkouts, along the alcohol aisle and into the loading area. Twenty big trolleys are lined up ready to be collected.
‘Good morning,’ I say to Melanie, an older lady with wild, curly, black hair.
‘Is it? I’m so tired I think I left my brain on my pillow. I can’t even remember my own name at four o’clock.’
‘We need a new term instead of, “good morning”. Whatever the heck is four o’clock?’
‘Let’s get this done before the customers come in. It’s a nightmare when they do.’ Melanie sets off first.
I pick up my scanner and read the note on the whiteboard,
“Pick faster, pack more carefully, select the right items. 139,000 items, 342 trolleys.”
I want to add, “Do it all on minimum wage and starting work at 0400,” but push my trolley out onto the shop floor. I’ve got to pay for my university course that I can’t attend and the accommodation that I can’t live in.
Check the scanner and turn left to start with three bottles of Pinot Grigio. Beep, beep, beep. Queen’s, ‘I want to break free,’ playing over the PA system. More staff walk past: the old lags squeezing every second from the five-minute window they have before they get penalised.
I follow the scanner’s directions. Each shelf is marked with a code in the corner that’s invisible to shoppers but essential to us. If an item is unavailable, a recommended alternative appears and if that is unavailable we have to make our own decision. The panic buying and stock shortages mean that certain items are always unavailable. Flour! Who knew?
‘Andrex, 9 rolls, cream.’ DO NOT SUBSTITUTE written beside. None are available. Alright then, shouty capitals customer, I won’t give you the white ones, you can have a dirty backside. I click the no-substitute-available button and move on.
I hear Barbara before I see her, partially deaf, her East-End accent out of place in Devon.
‘You have videos of men’s thingies on your phone? That’s not normal,’ she says.
‘If you were normal you wouldn’t work here.’ Barbara laughs like Sid James.
‘Good morning, Barbara,’ I say when I turn into the pet food aisle.
‘Good morning,’ she bellows.
‘How are you?’
‘Not good, why?’
‘I’m still not God.’
‘Ha. I’ve heard that there’s a vacancy. I can put in a good word if you like.’
‘Thanks but I’m always resurrected as a human working in Tesco. Next time I want to be a badger.’
’ ‘A badger? Of all the things, a badger.’
‘Can you imagine him running up and down the aisles? He would ruin everything.’
I search through the boxes of identical-looking cat food, my pace slows down as I rummage through the bottom of the shelves. I find the large box and heft it into the correct tray. The trolley is harder to push now, my calves ache as I steer it around to the veg.
‘My hair feels shorter.’ Karen pulls an auburn strand from behind her ear. ‘I think my husband might be cutting it at night.’
I bend down to pick up a bag of tenderstem broccoli and scan it.
‘Why would he do that?’
‘To mess with my head.’ She looks at her scanner, ‘Great. Eight single baking potatoes. That’ll speed my pick rate up.’
‘Who needs eight potatoes?’ I scan a pack of four that only counts as one item on my list.
‘Pretty boring meal.’ We push our trolleys out of the vegetable aisle and into the dairy. I shiver. Six 2-litre semi-skimmed, four 4-litre, one full-fat 2-litre and four 4-litre skimmed. 15 beeps: my list shortens and my trolley gets heavier.
‘What’s your favourite takeaway?’ Karen says.
‘Chinese,’ I say without thinking. ‘What about you?’
‘Indian. But my husband likes Italian. I think he fancies the girls who work there.’
I browse through the ready meals trying to find a Vegan Korma. There it is. ‘Have you tried these?’ I ask Karen.
‘No. I gave up bacon two years ago but couldn’t go veggie. I couldn’t give up on me bangers and mash. That’s one of my favourites. Spaghetti and meatballs too.’
‘I saw a place in Spain that was totally veggie. Some of the dishes they were making looked delicious and I haven’t eaten meat since.’ I don’t tell her that I can’t afford it.
‘Is that why you’re so slim?’ She grabs a roll of fat through her polo shirt. ‘I’ve put on so much weight in lockdown. I like my slimming world. I can drink alcohol, no beer, just spirits.’
Someone has ordered 27 bars of Mrs Molly chocolate. 27 bars! They cost 30p each. 30p per 100g. That’s the cheapest I have seen since working here. How much of that is packaging, marketing and shipping? I scan a bar 27 times and smile as my pick rate goes above 200 items per hour: the target went up to 175 last week.
‘Nice one,’ Richard says. He’s middle-aged, an outdoors type, tanned skin, with greying black hair cut short on the sides and a side parting on top. He eschews the uniform and wears a thick, cream jumper as if he’s in one of those adverts for healthcare or pension advice.
’206,’ I say and show him my scanner.
‘Good for you, I’ve had a load of household stuff that’s impossible to find so I’m on 134.’
He does like to chat with the ladies in the aisles. Not in a smarmy way but in a kindly-uncle way. Laid off from his labouring job 6-weeks ago, he wanted to work but couldn’t. He took a year off to look after his depressed wife but didn’t claim carers’ allowance and used up all his savings. ‘I fell through the cracks. I can’t claim Job Seekers Allowance, self-employed grant or Universal Credit. I want to work but I haven’t been able to sleep because of the worry of everything.’
These shifts deaden our brains but not as much as the shelf-stackers on the 11-7 nights. They all dress in black, have pale skin and various shades of dye in their black hair. I wonder if the role attracts the Living Dead or if it gradually turns them that way?
‘Working on the chain gang,’ by Sam Cooke is playing as I push my trolley back to the packing area.
My next trolley has no green boxes in it; the packers are already behind. I pick up two and try to separate them. They’re stuck. l try to shake it loose first. ‘Agh, my finger.’ Bruised but no blood or breakages.
Connor comes up and slides the boxes apart with a well-practised flourish. He grins.
‘Only ‘cause I loosened it first.’ I say to his back. Cocky sod, one of the few boys my age working here.
The morning rolls on, three hours into our shift and my eyelids are drooping. Barbara is in the spices and condiments aisle.
‘Alright? Steak for dinner tonight, I’m looking for some sauce.’ She pulls a sachet off the shelf. ‘Cor, they’re only 80p for four. That’s, like, 20p for one.’
I laugh, ‘Yep.’
‘Whatcha doing later?’ She says.
‘I’ve got an assignment to be in by Friday.’ If my brain fog clears. ‘What about you?’
‘I’ll do some housework, not a lot, just enough to say I’ve done some, then I’ve got a 6-pack of Bud in the fridge. I might just crack that open and sit in the paddling pool this afternoon. Makes me feel like I’m on holiday.’
‘Living the dream!’
‘Yep, come on, it’s only five minutes until break time. How many have you got left?’
‘Twenty-four.’ Five a minute, one every 12 seconds. My maths degree does come in handy sometimes.
‘Running up that hill,’ by Kate Bush is playing again as I ditch my scanner and go to the canteen. I used to love that song but I get a Pavlovian shudder whenever I hear it out of the store now.
I stand around the toast machine, with Karen and Connor, waiting for the slices to slide down the metal chute. The first piece flies out and Karen is too late to catch it. She recovers and blocks the second piece with her elbow. I’m ready and bend my legs, cupping my hands like a slip-fielder.
Once my toast is ready, I turn the speed up and the heat down because Connor is getting his Nutella. I choose smooth peanut butter from the array of half-empty jars for one slice and marmalade for the other.
Connor curses at his warm bread.
‘Can’t you even make toast?’ I say.
Two of the regulars are having a bottle of Coke Zero and two giant choc-chip cookies for their breakfast, another has two mini-pork pies, snippets of their conversation waft over me as I walk to my seat.
‘My mum’s a heavy smoker. I was going to give up for my 50th but want to enjoy my 50th party.’
‘But if you give up now you will have minty-fresh breath to kiss the boys.’
‘I like sitting here, watching the world.’
‘I do the same in my garden.’
My legs throb as the blood continues to pump after pushing a laden trolley around. Luckier than Sisyphus- he never got a break. As my back melds into the shape of the lime green plastic chair I sit back and think about the touch of my grandmother. Her prune-wrinkled fingertips would rest on my head and say, ‘Well done. Keep going.’ Kissing her on the cheek was hazardous in her last years, her flesh was gone and I didn’t want to clash cheekbones.
The smooth peanut butter manages to stick to my gums even after I have swallowed the toast. I prod around with my tongue, clearing any globules. My cheeks protrude as if my tongue is trying to escape from its moist prison. An unfettered tongue would leave a bloody trail across the table and canteen floor like the alien foetus escaping from John Hurt’s stomach. That would frighten the ladies silent. I need sleep.
Black coffee warms my stomach. I gulp it down and burp a silent, peanutty emission. The caffeine will produce a rush in about twenty minutes: enough time to let my two slices of toast go down, not enough time to let me slump and relax.
Richard bursts into the canteen, red-faced, he strides over to the coffee mugs and clatters and bangs the spoon and jar of granules. I look over at Connor and raise my eyebrows. He gives an ‘I dunno’ shoulder shrug.
One of the delivery drivers enters; his orange and yellow luminous vest a sign of superiority over us pickers.
Richard sees him and shouts, ‘You grassy cunt. Why did you tell her?’
The driver exits without saying a word.
Karen goes up to Richard and places a hand on his shoulder. I can’t hear what she says.
Richard is loud, ‘Have you seen how he treats women? If he says anything to me I’ll lay him out. I’ve been bullied before at work, I hate bullies.’
My break time is over.
Barbara nudges me in the ribs as I get my scanner. ‘Did you see Richard? He got dobbed in for having a fag outside.’
‘Yeah. But we’re all knackered and grumpy.’ She grabs a scanner, ‘Time to earn Tesco some more wonga.’
I push my trolley through the heavy swing doors, ‘Under pressure’ by Queen is now playing.
© James Marshall, 2022
A friend of mine had asked if I could take some portraits of her. I said I would. I’m only an amateur photographer and I don’t consider myself to be a portrait photographer but I enjoy capturing special moments that catch my eye. My friend is a very spiritual person and whilst I was looking for ideas I noticed her gazing up at the trees in bloom, she was so immersed in the experience. Just being present and very much in the moment. In a world full of chaos it’s good to step back and enjoy the beauty all around us. Soak in the scents, scenery and sounds.
© Kerry Adams, 2022
Michael Feld Winner
School Poetry Performance Winner
By Zackariah Gayle
Michael Feld Winner
The Window Watcher
By Ruth Ogbuokiri
School Poetry Performance Winner
The Boy Inside
By Levi Jenkins
School Monologue Winner
By Amira Ali
Stage School Monologue Winners
By Brody Keenan & Eri Odetoye
By Jane Ihegbu
By Molly Twyneham
Tired Of Life
By Eithne Cullen
By Lindsay Rust
I Am All Of Me
by Amy Pope
I Am All Of Me
I am all of Me
Feeling so broken you lose sight of your working parts
Like doing a puzzle in the dark just an excuse to fall apart
Trapped in this world you can’t see my restraints
They are lies I want to tell myself shackles I can’t break
Sometimes I feel like a fire roaring in the dark night
But the next day when it rain I lose that spark lose my fight
Living to a narrative of what others believe
When you wake up maybe you could see half of me
Every face of yours is changing endlessly
Each one has its place only in time you will see
In change I find reliability nothing ever the same
Don’t you see the beauty in being different every day
To everyone you meet your description will be incomplete
But when you read your book back it will make sense from where you are sat
You have been told who your meant to be our response to our own tragedy
Yet we are hard on ourselves our own narrative sets us up to fail
How do you expect to be the same when your life is constant change
How can the old me handle today I know tomorrow I won’t be afraid
Today I woke up feeling like glass weak and easy to break
But if It rains I will wash it away I learnt from the fire, I grew and I changed
I’ve realised I’m a thousand people so now I ask them all if their okay
Each one works together balancing my day
It is needed to survive in this world that is unkind
Taking over when it’s their time everyone has one day to shine
If any advice is needed for becoming who your meant to be
Is that your already so perfect changing and evolving, eternally
Each one a part of me
Exactly who I am meant to be
© Amy Pope, 2022
If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.
One should begin any work of fiction with the longest, most convoluted sentence imaginable, then try to beat that record.
Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the readers.
You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.
Writing is a great comfort to people like me, who are unsure of themselves and have trouble expressing themselves properly.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.
It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.
Creativity is contagious, pass it on.
To write successfully, one requires only a sharp pencil, a piece of paper and a hot cup of tea.
Poetry is when an emotion has found it’s thought, and the thought has found words.
Writing lets you break boundaries because you can go anywhere you wish.
The voice in my stories is sometimes authentic, sometimes it is foreign.
Sometimes it is old. Sometimes it is new. Sometimes my writing is Muslim, other times it is Sikh and many times, it is no one’s religion because as long as I am telling the story,
I am in control.
I am whoever I want to be.