Readers win honours in a ‘first paragraph’ competition judged by award co-founder and novelist Kate Mosse

There was a highly imaginative response to our competition to write the first paragraph of a fictional book called Just Ourselves. The contest was set and judged by Orange award co-founder Kate Mosse, and provides the first of this year’s Orange prizes for our winners.

Nigel McDowell, who takes the top prize, receives two tickets to the Orange prize for fiction awards ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall on 9 June, complete with accommodation in a luxury hotel. He will also get an HTC Desire Black Edition phone on Orange Pay As You Go and a complete set of the Orange award for new writers 2010 shortlist.

Two runners-up both receive a set of the Orange award for new writers 2010 shortlist.

Commenting on the entries, Mosse said: “In a high quality shortlist, Nigel McDowell’s story stood out for the clever balance between intrigue, suspense and quality of writing. I wanted to know who the narrator was, their relationship to the mother and daughter, and what had happened. It’s hard to build tension without sacrificing the beauty of language at the same time, and Nigel manages it. It also fits the brief of the story!”

“The two runners-up are Susanne Lee (wonderful description, full of colour) and Mike Morris (imaginative and bathetic way of seeing pregnancy from a male point of view).”

The winning entries, in full, are:

The winner: Nigel McDowell

‘… and here we are now. Me and you.’ She closed the book.’What was the point of that?’ asked her daughter, mouth outraged, eyes wide. Then answers her own question: ‘Nothing! That’s what the point was – nothing at all!’ Her daughter untangles herself; takes a while to shake some feeling back into her legs, feet, numb toes. Her mother takes a sip of cold coffee, regards her – because whatever she’s saying now, her daughter has sat with legs crossed, elbows on thighs, face in hands, and all eyes for three hours, all ears, rapt … listening to the story of how the world came to an end, words settling on her imagination like the shivering of fresh ash.

Runner-up: Susanne Lee

Ryo took Kari to Chungking Mansions. With its cramped elevators, discount travel agencies, Shanghainese tailors, money traders, counterfeit bag dealers, and African importers, it was unlike any building Kari ever set foot in. The smell of turmeric, ghee and coriander and rambutans permeated the corridors. Amid the bargaining and bickering in Chinese and Hindi-accented Cantonese, and Cantopop melodies, the vendors’ chant pulled her into a reality that was quintessentially Hong Kong: messy, sprawling and overflowing, qualities not unlike her life. That summer would send Kari’s life on a brand new trajectory; the next morning would find Ryo and Kari as lovers. They got off at the 11th floor and walked past guest houses and hostels. Behind a door with a hand-painted number was a joint in a delirious shade of chartreuse with flashing Christmas lights draped across the ceiling and a throbbing Bollywood beat pulsing.

Runner-up: Mike Morris

Baby makes three. Baby also makes lots of noise. Baby makes me tired. You too, though you told me, before you drifted off to catch up on your share of z’s, that sleep is the new awake, and anyway you’re used to it now. And we, half sleeping, half waking, now live in a permanent twilight zone of our own zip-fumbling making, that after the appropriate gestation period, when I watched your body bloom and blossom (your words), or swell and explode (mine), delivered unto us this bundle of boy who has taken up more space in our world – the world generally – than his tiny frame should allow for. I thought you’d leave after he was born. We’re no spring chickens. I thought you’d snaffled me to avoid the sperm donor, or the dreaded IVF of a too late yet loving relationship. You still don’t like the way I kiss. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds