Traditional. Worthless. Obscene. Perfectly ordinary — and extremely useful — words, aren’t they? Yet according to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, they hadn’t been a part of the English language until the Bard coined them; there are many others in his remarkable lexicon.
One of the glories of English (which itself comes in so many global flavors) is how flexible it is, how amenable to new coinages and phrasing. So it was really delightful to challenge our Creators’ abilities to make new words that we might all find ourselves using, right now or — who knows? — in centuries to come. But of course, that wasn’t the only challenge: the trick was to coin the word and use it in a mini-story. And these were a triumphant set of entries.
Congratulations to Rebekah Conard for Excalcifate: a verb, “to soften or remove a hard or stony exterior, esp. gradually”. This is a terrific word, first of all, and the story that follows is a micro-lesson in how to draw the reader in subtly yet powerfully, building a moving portrait of how trust, and eventually love, might grow between a child and her carer. Beautiful.
In second place comes Penny Fuller with The Ailehpos of Apartment 21D — “ailehpos” is “the space we hold for those who are missing” and this tale hands the reader its subjects’ longed-for ghosts, not all of whom have gone to the afterlife. It shows how grief can have a near-physical form… and yet one we can’t quite reach out and touch.
As ever there were some fine runners-up. Kali Mailhot’s Felincense recalled our own beloved cats; D. A. Kamerman’s Repitrage was the perfect description of the fury that comes from having to repeat yourself too many times.
We’ll add a little note about a recent challenge misstep here too, a snafu, the perfect word to describe it. An extra syllable snuck into one of the runners-up of the Snafu Senryu Challenge, for which we can only apologize. As humans, we are not immune to the occasional oversight (we are fully aware we've made this type of mistake more than just once..), and we are committed to continually improving. Regrettably, we had to disqualify Parwana Fayyaz’s captivating word/story Exoquilt in Love from the Neolomicro Challenge shortlist. This sophisticated love story, which beautifully bridged two lives and cultures, exceeded our stipulated word limit of 250, coming in at 256. We mention this example not to diminish its merit—on the contrary, we truly admired it and want to get it in front of more readers' eyes. It serves as a gentle reminder that both reading and writing demand meticulous attention, urging us all to bestow our work with the care it deserves.
You can check out the full list of winners HERE and learn about our current challenges below: