2023 Flash Nonfiction Contest Runners-Up

The three runners-up in the 2023 Creatives Flash Nonfiction Contest, kindly supported by Fort William Mountain Festival and the Highland Bookshop.


The Mountain Woodlands of Loch A’an Returning
by Ellie Dimambro-Denson*

Spine to spine with granite, I look out to the horizon line.

Fingers of one hand entwining the soft stem of a downy willow seedling. In the other, a tape as I measure and record growth of another year.

These small saplings reaching out through the liminal space between rock and sky. Planted amidst the lonely, dwindling fragments of a habitat almost completely vanished. Reconnecting, stepping stones. Pollen, catkin, seed. Dispersed on the wind, bringing in transformation.

A ring ouzel barrels past my head as I glance up to look out, the Loch below, the expanse of air around, the willows around my ankles. A breeze picking up as the sun begins to fall towards night, casting a golden glow.

In time, these lines will shift. A mountain woodland re-establishing, sharp edges blurred by life. 

A horizon of action. A horizon of transition. A horizon of hope.


Margins of Rock
by Elizabeth Stephenson

Horizon: ‘that which bounds one’s mental vision or perception’ (OED)

Shifting, imperceptibly – a gradual change that creeps up on me like the tide. Until suddenly I’m high up on the face of Creag Dubh. The rope snaking away under my feet, gear a couple metres below, teetering on a thin flake of schist, as I tease the edges of the day. Where shallow breath meets abated fear, and adrenaline brushes with fatigue in a beguiling sunset dance. 

Breathe, steady now – as self-imposed limits stretch around the dark curves of the rock, melding into the landscape. Sometimes they catch me, as the rope comes tight. My terror bubbles up as I fall – only to stop, suddenly, as I feel it slip away in harsh jittery air. 

I gather myself up and let my mind settle – whilst behind me the sun bleeds to a new horizon.


Arran from Ben Venue 
by Bruce Shaw
Oak Gall Ink
20 cm x 15 cm

Lead image

* Based on the restoration work being completed by the Cairngorms Connect project and Ellie’s reflections from carrying out the monitoring during summer 2023.