42 The Meaning of Life…Flash Fiction Writing Competition!

Just 42 words, can you do it?

Just 42 words, can you do it?

To celebrate the e-book launch of Housewife with a Half-Life on May 8th (paperback to follow) and my love of flash fiction I’m running a flash fiction writing competition. Since my space comedy book is a sort of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in Suburbia and because by amazing coincidence(!) my current age is the answer to Douglas Adams’ meaning of life, the universe and everything, the challenge will be as follows:

42 Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything Flash Fiction Competition

Write a flash (short) fiction loosely based around the theme The Meaning of Life (Or the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything)
Write the flash in EXACTLY 42 words.
Enter your entries in the comments below
Deadline: Entries will be accepted until midnight GMT on Sunday 6th May.


First prize: A signed paperback of Housewife with a Half-Life, the fab new Jawbreakers collection of flash fictions for National Flash Fiction day, (I have a story in!) plus a £10 sterling Amazon voucher
Second prize: A signed paperback of Housewife with a Half-Life plus a signed paperback of Rebecca Emin’s New Beginnings
Third Prize: (Yes!) A signed paperback of Housewife with a Half-Life

Edited on Tues: May 1st: If you add a title to your piece the title will not be included in the wordcount. Anyone who has already entered and wants to add a title please retype your entry with the title. Thanks! For those who aren’t very familiar with flash fiction, here are some links to articles I’ve written or been quoted in on the subject of flash fiction.

Intense, Urgent and a Little Bit Explosive‘.

Why flash fiction will last

The wonders of flash fiction

I’m really looking forward to seeing what you come up with! I love flash fiction and know that 42 words will be a (fun) challenge! Please let your friends know about the competition and Good Luck! The winner and runners up will be announced here on the blog at 8.00pm on May 8th at the end of my launch party for Housewife with a Half-Life!


  1. Hello Allison,

    Congratulations on the book. I stumbled here from my wordpress reader and figured I’d give it a shot. Here goes: (42 words exactly)

    The meaning of life eluded Coyote. He searched dog-eared books, bare cupboards, bursting churches, tranquil ponds and rousing taverns. He roared at the sky and mumbled to himself and he learned nothing.
    Staring into her deep brown eyes, Coyote smiled and understood.

    later gator.

  2. Being happy, somebody said. But here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure Stalin was happy. Doing the right thing, somebody else insisted. But didn’t Hitler think he was doing the right thing?

    So—fish dinners. Strawberry ice cream. Foot rubs. Cheese. Hot water bottles.

  3. I ran across the lands and I swam the oceans to see where the sun came up. Days, weeks and months went by. I came upon an old wise woman. I told her that I wanted to catch the sunrise. She kissed me.

  4. My mother’s diagnosis was a life sentence for both of us. After I told him, I watched him walk down the driveway and I knew he’d never look back. Fifteen years of caring has left me husbandless, childless and now motherless. Empty.

    1. Thank you to the entries so far, you were quick off the mark and I’ve enjoyed reading what you’ve come up with! Best wishes and I look forward to choosing a winner!

  5. Medusa: A Cuntslerroman

    I am a jellyfish. I am. I am not. Like a universe. Becoming. Unbecoming. Am. Not.
    Rise. Plankton shimmer. Reflections ripple. Reach for surface—shock.
    Sink. Dark deepens. Bodies glow. Constellations form, drift, dissolve.
    Tide pulls. Tentacles billow. Dive up begins again.

  6. Carol hooted with laughter, blasting everyone with biscotti crumbs. The women cackled with her, spilling tea, wiping tears, and rousing the sunbathing cat. Her husband sighed, rolled his eyes, and smiled despite himself. The tedium of life dissolves in silly summer afternoons.

  7. Faulty Too

    Martha and Stu. The faulty two? Why rush to lay the blame? The soul has it reasons, life has its seasons, all honest share the shame. The heart and the head, the temptations of bed. The regrets that weigh down the dead.

  8. In my biblical childhood, I thought a prophet lived on the mountain. Later, needing guidance, I climbed in search of him, but found the peak had been destroyed by mining operations. So I prophesied the end of humanity, new hope for Earth.

  9. She longed to be a teenager, wearing make-up. She longed to be adult, marrying Prince Charming. She longed for the kids to be older, to free her. She longed for retirement, time to relax.

    Suddenly, looking backwards, she longed for her life.

  10. Lightning flashes as the girl pushes out into the world.
    Her shrill cry is the most beautiful symphony.
    Mother sobs; beautiful, pure and radiant.
    Father has never felt this much love.
    He finally gets it.
    This is what life is all about.

  11. One day in a bar, Life and the Universe were having an argument about which of them was the more important. “I am everywhere!” cried the Universe. “But I give meaning to you!” shouted Life. In a corner, Everything, overhearing them, smiled.

  12. The tears and sweat of unknown legends ,buried by the tide,
    as on we look to stalwart henchmen, coming to our side .

    So nations’ armies rose to dust, from might to ruination,
    crumbled dreamlands can’t survive, mans sickness,
    We never learn.

  13. Patience

    I traced a raindrop as it rolled down the window pane. Placing my finger on the trail, I reached halfway down before becoming lost. There were so many paths to choose from. I waited. When the weather brightened, the way became clear.

  14. Title: Demeaning of Life.

    She looked at him
    Through folds of skin
    Her deep set eyes
    Showed no surprise
    And of course,
    No remorse.
    The gun was loaded,
    Twice Exploded
    And then
    He was
    No more.
    A fitting end to a fiend.
    Justice intervened.
    Life, rebooted.

  15. Ritual

    Warm breath, searching fingers. Eyes forced open, light rushes in. Curl up, flee the voices. Trapped, I scream, ‘no more, please no more.’ They laugh, jump, tickle, ‘come on Mummy, wake up, we want breakfast.’ A hug, a smile. Another day begins.

  16. “Don’t Shoot The Messenger”

    Respectfully, life has no meaning. We are information bundles. Perishable vessels expressly charged with blind transmission of genetic code across generations. Labouring under a misconception that our consciousness is significant. Yet consciousness can’t even interpolate itself into such reflexive thought. Your hemlock?

  17. Tea Wars

    What you going to do about it said the teapot. The cup and sauce tried to stare him out but he was too strong. They liked their tea weak. Would the milk jug come to their rescue? Doubtful, she was weak too.

  18. Sun languidly stretched out tendrils of love, ribbons of warmth and light, softly skimming Moon’s impassive body.
    Teasing tickles, sending shivers, raising ripples.
    Far below Earth watched stars being born, kaleidoscopic droplets exploding into space.
    First laughter heard echoing throughout the universe.

  19. In the beginning was the word and the word was “bang”. We laughed at Christians for their irrational beliefs and false hope. Now, as I grip dirt in my fingers and scatter it onto you coffin, I wonder, where is my hope?

  20. Ponderings

    Adam looked at Eve, all hairy as any primate should be. He asked himself, will I understand the meaning of life if I eat the apple or will I lead to confusion over the creation of the universe? Afterall dinosaurs eat them.

  21. “Ha!” The butcher grinned.
    “I cull animals to feed neighbours, separate calves from mothers, cut them up and sell them for profit, and you ask me about the meaning of life?”
    He contemplates:”I destroy to build, just like the universe, innit?”

  22. Congrats Alison on your book!! Best of luck with it. My entry is:


    They think I can’t hear them.
    -doesn’t mix well with his peers- something-istic.
    I liked that word ‘peers’, salty, promising, like chips.
    -Will he cope?- whispers, white noise.
    I will put one foot in front of the other.
    Works for everyone else.

  23. Bubbles

    In the ocean liner, on the hearth rug, you slither in my arm’s nook. Baptisms of cupped water rinse suds from your hair. Your tiny fists plunge through whispering foam. Creating clouds of rainbow spheres. Each a microscopic universe, you wonder at.

  24. The meaning of life? Not words, but almost-unnoticed moments, times of unheralded service, unmentioned kindnesses. Meaning is found in what we receive — not things, but joy in the eyes of a lonely man, the peace of a child who is loved.

  25. Life!
    “I wonder sometimes…”
    “About what?”
    “Well, you know.”
    “I don’t, what?”
    “You know, life and…”
    “Not again!”
    “It’s just that I wonder.”
    “It’s no use, you know.”
    “Suppose you’re right.”
    “I am, it’s no use.”
    “Right, let’s go to bed.”

  26. I stooped to scrape the congealed chocolate from my newish carpet, sighing. Everything seemed like an effort. A struggle. A waste. And then my toddler daughter came up behind me and flung her arms around my neck in a tight hug. Unconditional.

  27. “Life. Don’t talk to me about life.”

    “Why not?”

    “Just don’t. ‘Cos I don’t want to talk about it. It’s too confusing, too complicated, too hard, too big, just basically too much. You know what I mean?”

    “Yeah, I know. I know.”

  28. The Meaning of Life in 42 Words (A Writer)
    Bacon for breakfast
    after dreams of her
    Goals added to the life list
    after crossing off number six
    Books in print and one in planning
    Trips abroad with pen in hand
    A life of words that last forever
    A kitten with string.


    We watched the sunset. It bathed ants in milky light as they clumsily navigated patio cracks.
    ‘Look at those stupid things’, scoffed Ben, my son.
    I gestated momentarily –
    ‘What do you think the sun sees when he looks at us?’ I replied.

  30. Tattooed Across His Skin

    She runs her fingers along the ink, tracing the swirls on his skin. She wonders what they would taste of as his breath quickens. The lines tell a story, but where would she fit in? Is she his life, universe and everything?

  31. Anticipation

    Laughter and Lambrusco fizzing together. The iridescent sun exposes the overgrown daisies. Time to be, to think, to love. Italy in Spring, with him. Surgeons, pain and pity abandoned. The mountains shadow our thoughts. Hope, irrepressible and overwhelming. Tomorrow is nearly here.

    (42 words)

  32. Congrats on the book! Here is my entry for your contest, called And Everything. ~jon

    And Everything

    I’ve quit asking these questions—the meaning of life? I had it all figured out in my thirties: great job, marriage, two kids, picket fence, a cat, and a dog. I scratch Max behind the ears. At least I still have the dog.

  33. Connections

    I ducked into the empty donut shop.

    “Two double chocolates,” I said, slipping off my wet coat. “And two coffees. Black.”

    From behind the counter, she smiled.

    “Two?” she asked. “Who’s the second one for?”

    I slid onto my favorite stool.



    Think you know it?
    You don’t.
    Think you have it figured out?.
    It is time to start over.
    You are not even close.
    Think it comes from a book or a pulpit?
    You are ice cold.
    Stop looking.
    it may find you.

  35. Be Happy – Whereever you’re placed !

    It was wet and cold when Jason and friend arrived. This new home was bigger and scarier. Once in his new quarters he vanished, but appeared a few days later with a new girlfriend. They looked happy in the Olympic size pond.

  36. “The universe,” the young man said to the old woman, “is random experiments in physics separated by cold, empty space.”
    “What was the experiment that led to love?”
    “Love confers certain survival advantages.”
    “Then why does it make no sense at all?”

  37. Thrills.
    This is the life, Nina thought as she revved her Suzuki Boulevard M50, going from zero to sixty in five point eight seconds. We were born to defy death, she thought, comparing this experience to the sky-dives and bungee-jumps she had done.

  38. Thrills.

    “This is the life,” Nina thought, as she revved her Suzuki Boulevard M50, going from zero to sixty in five point eight seconds. “We were born to defy death,” she thought, comparing this experience to the sky-dives and bungee-jumps she had done.

  39. She wishes she’d spoken to the cute boy on the bus that day. She wishes she’d moved to China when she got that job offer. She wishes she’d never given up netball. She wishes she didn’t wish her life away. Too bad.

  40. “Wipe Out”
    Tiny filaments, waving, respiring. A patch of mould spreading across a warm, damp corner of God’s universe. Multiplying, growing, feeding on itself. He sends floods, freezes, but it keeps coming back. Final solution: mildew spray. He squints, squirts, wipes His Earth clean.

  41. Hi Alison

    I LOVE this idea. Here’s my best shot (42 words exactly, not included title):

    She sat beneath angered clouds, bleached by the tropical storm’s pulsing heartbeat.
    Bubbling saltwater, thickening with sand, drenched her burnt skin; white light finally overpowering midnight.
    “If it rises again,” she affirmed, her heart whole, “I’m ready to be swallowed.”
    “I’ve lived.”

  42. He cradled his newborn baby with pride. They had made a life! He smiled at his wife who looked tired but happy, then back at the tiny super-intelligent shade of the colour blue held balanced in his refractions. “Let’s call him Inidigo.”

  43. Hiya Alison, and a huge congrats to you on the book. 🙂

    Here it is my 42 words.

    In my prison, life has no meaning.

    Forty two goddam centuries they gave me.

    You’ve heard the story of the man who sold the world?

    An amateur.

    I stole the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

    Trouble is, I got caught.

  44. Hi Alison, Congrats my friend. Well done. i bet you are pumped..hehe..:)

    42 words

    Like many, she mused over the meaning of life. What did it all mean? His smile, his laugh, his eyes. Maybe the hunt should not be the meaning of life but to embrace the miracle of it. She kissed his tiny brow.

  45. True Story.

    After weeping and wailing a string of expletives, she gave me the magic potion: Diamorphine. Labour continued. I just smiled. I was higher than the highest kite; decoding the universe, spilling the secrets. And then she came to me. Little Lily Rose.

  46. Congrats Alison and best of luck with the book. I’ve never done this before, never even heard of Flash Fiction til now! I’m not a proper writer like you guys but this sounds like fun! Here goes… Just for the challenge of it.

    The Meaning of Life…

    The homely wife looks up as  her elderly  husband comes into the kitchen. ‘Did ye meet anyone better lookin’ than yourself down the street’? Seeing his shocked face she asks: ‘was there a happening’? ‘There was’….. ‘Let’s have a cup of tea’…

  47. HI alison – third time lucky!

    The paper from the wizard burned a hole in her pocket. For 15 years. On her 18th birthday, she scrunched her fist tight, opened her palm. Looked. The words were faint but she just made them out. ‘The meaning of life is

  48. Huzzah for Housewife with a Half-Life!

    Star Dust

    Star-sailors push out towards infinity in small incremental steps while behind them, Earth spins through the millennia, always changing, always staying the same.
    In a small churchyard a priest ritualises the passing of a man; ashes to ashes, dust to stardust.

  49. Hope this only appears once as I’ve tried 3 times to login in! Anyway, have a great launch day.


    He lifted the rock and peered underneath.
    “There’s no life here,” he said between gasps of piped oxygen.
    He let it fall. The screams caused the ground to quiver, but he didn’t hear. Or feel.
    He continued his search with clouded perception.

  50. He never liked to be left alone.

    That first night he howled from his box. For hours. Like his heart was breaking. In the end my resolve broke. I picked him up and brought him into my warm bed.

    I’m his meaning.

  51. Thanks so much for your entries folks! The shortlist will be posted during the book launch day of May 8th and the winner at the end of day, around 8. Good luck. I look forward to reading them all. Competition is now closed to entries!

  52. Going Home
    She re-read the text message: ‘Mother’s dead. Come home now. Dad.” She began to pack for her first trip home in nine years. She knew she was missing something. What exactly do you need for a funeral? Then she remembered her smile.

  53. The hermit had wandered for many years, seeking wisdom, when, one day he came to a deep, dark cave that was supposed to be sacred and, calling into the darkness, he asked, “What is the meaning of life?”.

    “Life”, replied an echo.

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