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2019 Prose Results

2019 'Short Takes'  Prose Competition

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

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Short Story

The exceptionally high standard of the entries in this section made the judges’ task difficult but after many re-readings, the two prize-winning entries were selected.
These were polar opposites in approach and voice, pace and purpose, but both shared all the qualities the judges sought – flawless use of language, a clever and apt title, steady pace, no unnecessary detail or description, clearly drawn characters with the voice true to each one, intriguing beginnings and satisfying conclusions. Most important of all, they both had that difficult to define factor which made the story stay in the mind long after reading.
The Highly Commended and Commended award winners shared most of these qualities but were let down by small issues, but which proved vital given the height of the bar set by the winners. These included typos, missing words, errors in punctuation and grammar, a boring title and too much unnecessary detail using up a valuable word count.

   If your entry was unsuccessful, consider the following points and do a rewrite. Often the smallest changes can make a difference, then resubmit it elsewhere for a better chance at success.
    Read the competition conditions carefully and abide by them. If you don’t, your entry, no matter how good, won’t make it to the judges and your entry fee wasted. This applies especially to word count. Even one word over the limit will result in disqualification.
p.s. the convener 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 and good editing.
   Pay attention to your use of language, particularly spelling and punctuation. If you aspire to be a wordsmith, learn to use the tools of your trade properly as any true professional would. Always 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 it grow out of the story, clever and apt, with hints of hidden meanings. Don’t settle for the generic and boring like The Letter. It’s the banner for your story, the first words that the reader, and that includes the judges, sees.
   Avoid the Ben Hur complex of a cast of thousands. A good rule of thumb is two main characters and one extra for every 1000 words. Never name a character unless they play a vital role in your story.
   Never submit your first draft. Always do an edit yourself then ask someone whose writing you trust to do another.
  Above all, don’t give up. Remember this is only one set of judges’ opinions. Read the judges’ report, check the tips and tricks advice, do a rewrite and submit elsewhere for a hopefully better result. Every story, no matter how good, will always benefit from a rewrite.

First Prize  - Passing by Pauline Cleary
(Can be viewed here)
There are 3 characters in this story – Gerard, a girl and a bridge – and each is equally important. The subdued voices of the two people and the short sentences of the narrative give the reader an eerie sense of something unspoken hovering, which leaves you unprepared for the surprise twist in the ending. No neat bows are tied but we are left with a feeling of having observed something significant. An extremely powerful tale, which ticked all our boxes.

Second PrizeRock ‘n’ Roll at the Woolshed by David Campbell
(Can be viewed here)
And now for something completely different. From the opening sentence of this riotous tale, the reader is plunged in and spun along for the ride. Told exclusively in the Aussie vernacular which never falters, we are blasted with a hilarious tale of doings at a local teenage dance. With multiple cast members, a clueless narrator, and everyone ending up at the cop shop, how to end this? Perfectly, as it happens, with a few neat sentences and a twist. Well done.

Highly CommendedJabberwocky by Rosemary Stride
A clever blending of the well-known poem with the thought processes of a woman out jogging to get away from the dreaded in-laws who are staying over. Mangroves become borogroves, a grey heron becomes a Jubjub bird and her knees threaten to go snicker-snack. What could have been an ordinary story carries us back to childhood fantasy with some clever narration. Highly entertaining.

Highly CommendedTerror in the Park by Graham McDonald
This well-told tale of a camping misadventure begins to build with ominous overtones, leaving the reader unprepared for the surprise twist at the end. Neatly done.

Highly CommendedMore than Expected by David Vernon
An engaging tale of a young urbanite, intent on selling an inherited property in the bush, undergoing a change of heart. Nicely done.

CommendedAs the Crow Flies by Edith Speers
From its enigmatic opening sentence, the reader is drawn into the tale of a bush rescue of two children by a bushman, but not until the last sentence is the opener explained with a neat twist you don’t see coming, thus book-ending the story perfectly. Well done.

CommendedGrief Unspoken by Margot Ogilvie
A gentle story of a child, made mute by grief, slowly beginning to find her voice again. Nicely done.


   Since a memoir is a broad concept, we at Scribes Writers have defined our competition to include those memoirs which are an incident, or a series of related incidents from the author’s own life. The successful entries on our short list all adhered to these criteria and made the judges’ task of selection an entertaining one.
   The two prize-winners were very different in structure and tone but both shared the same characteristics. A fresh approach to the topic, vivid imagery and a clear voice.  One was a single incident, the other a series of related memories. Both had all the elements of a good short story and held our interest right to the end. The pace was steady, the title intriguing and the writing flawless, free of any mistakes.

   If you were unsuccessful, consider these points and try rewriting your memoir in light of them. For a better result next time:
   Avoid the temptation to write a mini biography. Choose an incident, or a series of related incidents, that have a point.
   Treat it as a short story, with a beginning, ending and a point, to avoid wandering.
   Bring a fresh approach to your story. Choose an interesting, outstanding, unusual angle to your memoir that makes it stand out from the crowd of similar memories we all share.
   Make your title count, it’s the banner for your story and the first thing the reader sees.

First PrizeEncounter by Suzanne Gunningham
(Can be viewed here)
A powerful telling of a chance meeting between two survivors of the Black Saturday fires, who both lost everything that fateful day. One is returning, the other not. The prose is stark and spare, the emotions not expressed but clear in the simple exchange between the two. An excellent example of show/don’t tell. Well done.

Second PrizeBest Buddies by Tania Park
(Can be viewed here)
A humorous tale of a traveler and her hiking boots, which she addresses throughout as another person, each separate incident includes these buddies as part of the adventure. A very different approach to the usual travelogue, the writer brings a freshness by making these boots the point of the tale. Highly entertaining.

Highly CommendedA Day in June by Richard Vincenti
A well-written account of a 10 year old boy caught up in a revolution, the consequences of which are long-reaching in his life. The title could have been better chosen to reflect the powerful impact of the tale, otherwise an interesting tale.

Highly CommendedMemories of Home – Mornings by Louise Falconi
A delightfully told tale of life on her grandparents’ farm, told through the eyes of a child. Entertaining and mistake-free, the story has a very ordinary title. A better title would have made a huge difference to this entry’s chance of success.

CommendedBush Birth – Almost by Shirley Fletcher
A nail-biting account of the incident the title warns us it contains, it is well-written and entertaining. The pace flags a little here and there in the middle, a bit heavy on unnecessary detail, but a bit of judicious editing would give this story a great chance of success. Very amusing, and mistake-free. Well done.

CommendedPost Office Blues by Karen Woodward
An amusing tale of the frustrations of dealing with bureaucracy and the minions who keep the machine running. This is something most of us have experienced at some time in our lives, so the welter of detail slowed the pace a bit. A great title and mistake-free writing made for good writing and elicited our sympathies.

The judges wish to thank you for trusting us with your memories and, if you were unsuccessful, advise a rewrite and resubmission elsewhere for a better result. This is, after all, only their opinion and a good writer never gives up.

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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