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2018 Prose Results

2018 'Short Takes'  Prose Competition

Judges Report & Results
(Full List of Award Winners can be accessed here.)

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Short Story
   The two prize-winning entries both had several things in common: flawless use of language, with no mistakes in spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. Their beginnings and endings were riveting, the titles clever and apt, their pace steady and their writing tight. Characters were clearly drawn through their actions and dialogue and we were caught up in the stories and memoirs being told. The voice in each was true to the character portrayed and hinted more than told, giving the reader room to draw their own conclusions. This is called ‘dreaming room’ and is always a winner.
   The over-riding characteristic of each of the winners is that their stories had impact and stayed in the judges’ minds long after reading. This requires a level of narration that can only be developed by practice and by submitting your story for critiquing by other sets of eyes – preferably a writing group, where various opinions offer twists and tips the writer may not have previously considered. If there are no subtexts to the tale, simply an obvious approach, the story quickly fades from the judges’ minds.
   The Highly Commended and Commended winners also had excellent stories which met most of these standards, falling just short in some areas which precluded a cash prize. These included punctuation mistakes, typos, too much unbroken prose to wade through, or simply not quite making the impact of the remarkably high standard of the winning entries. When the bar is set so high, these small things matter.

   For those who were unsuccessful, some points to consider:
   Read the competition conditions carefully and abide by them. If you don’t, your entry, no matter how good, won’t even make it to the judges and your entry fee wasted. This applies especially to word count and line-spacing.
   p.s. – the convenor has a scanner and will check the word count of any entry he suspects is over the limit. The discipline of keeping to the allotted word count is indicative of tight writing.
   Pay careful attention to your use of language, particularly punctuation and spelling. If you claim to be a wordsmith, learn to use the tools of your trade properly. If in any doubt, have someone check it over for you before sending it off. As the author, your brain will read what you think you wrote, not necessarily what made it to the page. It often takes another set of eyes to spot any anomalies.
   Choose a worthy title – let if grow out of the story, don’t settle for something generic like The Letter or My Grandma. It’s a part of your story, the first thing your readers (namely the judges) see.
   Avoid the Ben Hur complex of a cast of thousands – a good rule of thumb is two main characters, plus one extra for every 1000 words. Never name a character unless they have a vital role to play in your story.
   Never submit your first draft – always do an edit yourself, then have someone else whose writing you trust do another.
   Don’t give up -  remember this is only one set of judges’ opinions. Read the judges’ report, do a rewrite and submit elsewhere. Every story, no matter how good, will always benefit from a rewrite.

First Prize – The Cleaner by Karen Lieversz.
(Can be viewed here)
A quirky tale where both characters are clearly drawn by dialogue and unspoken asides. The tale is told through the words and actions of the two characters, with such a wealth of show/not tell that the reader is left with the understanding there’s another raft of understory here. The author invites the reader to step into the tale with them and come along for the ride. Well done.

Second Prize – Daydreamin' by Graham McDonald.
(Can be viewed here)
This tale, like the first, is told mostly through the thoughts and dialogue of the two characters, with so much inferred rather than spelled out. The reader is invited along as the woman contemplates murdering her husband, until we are brought crashing back to earth by the unexpected ending. Well done.   

Highly Commended - Glorious Afternoon by Maureene Fries
A powerful story of a lovely afternoon ripped apart by a terrorist bomb. The ending is excellent, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions as to what happened next. The beginning sadly falls short with too much description before something actually happens. Otherwise really well written.

Highly Commended - Keeping in Line by Pauline Cleary
A deceptively simple tale of a social issue very much applying today – that of whether or not to intervene to help someone in trouble. The only thing keeping this from a prize was a simple typo involving repetition of a line. Otherwise, truly exceptional writing on all counts.

Highly Commended - Redfern, My Redfern by Philip Derone
A beautifully told tale, with exceptional use of imagery taking the reader on a walk through the complex society that is Redfern at night, in the company of a man who is not what he seems. The only thing keeping this tale from a prize is the length of unbroken prose passages, which makes for impeded flow. Well done, on all other fronts.

Commended - Holding a Stranger’s Hand by Myra Koch
A poignant tale of a driver coming upon an accident scene and being jolted out of their own misery by another’s suffering and loss. Brilliant ending, well written except for too much changing of tenses between then and now, impeding the flow. Extremely well done otherwise.   

Commended - To Catch a Thief by Elizabeth Wilde
A beautiful gentle story relating the clever solving of a mystery of things being stolen from inhabitants of a small town during the Depression. The reader travels along with the main character, until his actions become clear in the surprise ending. Well done.

Commended - The Samaritans by Christopher Ringrose
Another gentle, well told story of an unlikely pair of sleuths – a young girl and an older stranger – setting right a pick pocketing incident, with a surprising twist at the end. Beautifully done.

   Since a memoir can be many things, for the purposes of our competition, we at Scribes define it specifically as an incident, or series of related incidents from the author’s own life. It must not be a mini biography of someone you know or have met, but an incident.
   Make your memoir a story, with all the qualities you’d employ for a good fiction story. A jumbled collection of snapshots, no matter how appealing, doesn’t make for a story. Choose an incident from your life, add in any related incidents that may expand it, and tell it as a tale to make us laugh, cry, or shake our heads in sympathy.
   The standard of entries was such this time that the judges were spoilt for choice. So many were of such a high standard we were hard-pressed to whittle them down to a short list. This meant that many really good entries missed out, many by such small things as punctuation errors, typos, spelling mistakes or missing words.
   The winning entries all had several things in common: they met the criteria we had set, the use of imagery impressive and the story construction flowed smoothly and well. There are no new subjects but these all displayed a freshness of approach that spoke well of the writers’ skills.

First Prize – The Beauty of Queensland by Joe Harrison.
(Can be viewed here)
On a road trip through the state, the author relates two contrasting events which give a quirky and many-layered image of the title of his story. The use of imagery and the superior dialogue carrying the story work together to take us along for the trip. The surprise ending is a bonus. Well done.

Second Prize – An Ice Cream at Bondi by Barry Riley.
(Can be viewed here)
On a completely different note, this humorous tale tells of the painful experience of a newly-arrived immigrant to our shores at one of our countries iconic places. The use of language to tell the tale is superb, with not a cliché in sight. The ending is subtly laconic. Very entertaining.

Highly Commended – Paris Sunday, 1987 by Nell Crawford
This highly amusing tale tells of two Aussie girls’ attempts to find a way to enjoy a swim in Paris on a Sunday afternoon and their less than satisfying experiences in the process. Excellent use of language carries the reader along with them, an exceptional example of good writing. However, a different title would make a better banner for this story, something more than just a time and date.

Highly Commended - Bonnie by Rae Barclay
The author spins a good yarn in true Aussie fashion, recounting the varied experiences of owning a horse which by no means lived up to its name. Great use of language, the images are clear and powerful, no unnecessary words to impede the smooth flow. Excellent beginning and satisfying conclusion. Only a small typo of a missing word holds it back. Well done.

Highly Commended – The Magic Bus by Joe Harrison
A poignant recounting of the author’s attempt to break free of constraints and find a way forward in life, despite stumbling blocks. This is told with exceptional use of clear imagery, tight writing and the occasional quirky dose of humour. Good linking opening to ending, neatly book-ending the account. Well done.

Commended – The Little Colonel by Shelley Hansen
A charming story of a teacher and his quirky ways, and his influence in the life of the author during one school year. Excellent use of language makes this come alive but perhaps a smoother flow linking the various incidents would make it a little less list-like. Good works on all other counts.

Commended – Talking Shop  by Caroline Tuohey
A gently humorous recounting of the author’s mother’s passion for clothes shopping. This is told with a mixture of affection and frustration, brought to us by an exceptional use of imagery and language skills. The only improvement would be a few less details and more made of the others. An excellent opening and a humorous twist to conclude make for a satisfying read. Well done.

Commended – Am Impression the War Left on Me by Barry Riley
A hilarious account of the author’s recalling of a street party to celebrate the end of the War. The said impression was of a splinter in the bottom needing to be removed publicly in front of the whole street, to the author’s horrified embarrassment. Tight writing with the child’s voice very clear make for a highly entertaining journey into the past. Well done.

Congratulations to all winners from the judges. Thank you for sharing your work with us.  
To all our entrants, thank you for trusting us with your work, and good luck with future entries.

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