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2020 Prose Results

2020 'Short Takes'  Prose Competition

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

The exceptionally high standard of writing in this section made the judges’ task a real challenge. Often in judging, after an initial read-through of all the entries, there emerges a reasonable ‘long’ short list, which is then whittled down over several more read-throughs, to a short list from which the winning stories are chosen and certificates allotted. However, this time the long list was some 26 stories so the hunt was on.
The two eventual prize-winning stories 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 inner voice and we were caught up in the stories 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.
Though vastly different in voice and pace, the over-riding characteristic of each 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 readers’ 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, that elusive x-factor. 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.
ps – the convenor has a scanner and will check the word count of every entry. The discipline of keeping to the allotted word count is indicative of tight writing and meticulous self-editing.

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 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. It’s a part of your story, its banner, and the first thing your readers see.

Never submit your first draft – always do an edit yourself, then have someone else whose writing you trust do another.

Swallow your writer’s pride - have someone else read your story back to you, so you can hear your story’s impact on a listener. It may surprise you and elicit some changes.

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.

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Short Story

The stories entered in this section were of such a high standard that the judges decided to award an extra Highly Commended and an extra Commended. The topics are spread across a wide spectrum but all sharing in the quality of their execution. Top grade story-telling, with freshness of approach, arresting openings, satisfying endings and holding the reader’s interest throughout. The use of language in each entry made the judges’ task a great pleasure. Well done, all.

First Prize  - The Station Master  by Patricia Rawlinson
(Can be viewed here)
A deceptively mild, tidy opening lets us into the mind of the narrator and sets the pace for a journey that steadily builds a nervousness in the reader of approaching horror, of which the narrator is seemingly unaware. The closing sentence bursts on the page like a time bomb.    

Second PrizeThe Stranger   by Janeen Samuel
(Can be viewed here)
This tale, like the first, is told mostly through the thoughts and actions of the narrator, a widow on the first anniversary of her husband’s death. As she revisits the site of his fatal accident, she relives that day in her mind and the tension begins to build that all is not as it seems. The final sentence, as with the winning story, bursts onto the page, a stunning ending.  

Highly CommendedOlga  by Karen Lieversz  
A highly entertaining story narrated in the modern vernacular, the voice of the main character clearly drawn. The pace fast and every sentence contains new information, perhaps the only drawback to this cracking tale of a hit man, a dog, a dead body and two women. It deserves a much longer word length to do it full justice. Made the judges chuckle.   

Highly CommendedChill  by Nellie Crawford   
A well-chosen title echoes throughout this story of someone watching boys jumping off a pier on a cold day. The suspense builds from the first sentence, the reader learning more of the watcher’s state of mind as it progresses. Not until the final sentences do we learn why the chill in the watcher’s mind, as the real horror explodes in the ending.

Highly CommendedLast Night   by Tania Park  
A softly told tale, tinged with sadness, as we hear the narrator reminisce of a loving relationship. But there is a subtle building of awareness in the reader of loss approaching, the twist in the ending a shock we don’t see coming.

Highly CommendedA Failure in the House   by Jim Brigginshaw
A familiar tale of a misunderstanding and crossed wires, everyone knows someone like Fred. Highly entertaining with clearly drawn characters through the dialogue between them.

CommendedAltered  by Abigayle Carmody  
A mulita-layered story of a man levered out of the self-pity of unemployment by the plight of another. Beautifully told with none of the sins of preachiness to spoil it. The ending is neat apt, the only way to end this tale.

Watching the Sunset   by Christine Johnson
A fresh and unexpected take on the post-bushfire clean-up. A man wades in to help his mum only to find she doesn’t need it. When his efforts are diverted into helping the general community, he discovers a whole new perspective.

CommendedA Job Well Done  by Karen Lieversz
An extremely unusual take on the issue of climate change, with the elements of Fire, Drought and Rain being given human qualities and Earth herself being the battleground. The debate between them exemplifies the eternal battle of the seasons on our planet. Well done

CommendedThe Red Poppy  by Ken Morrell
A gently sad tale told from aged care during Covid lockdown, as a man ‘confined to barracks’ by a sniffle, recalls his army service days. Beautifully done.


The stories chosen for awards in this section were a delightful and entertaining mix of the amusing and the harrowing. From a pair of octogenarian runaways to a Pommy immigrant arriving from the UK winter in the full blast of a Brisbane summer. They shared between them all the elements of good writing, making the judges’ task a tough one, but very rewarding. All showed a fresh approach to the topic, vivid imagery with plenty of show/not tell, and a clear voice, staying on topic and not wandering around.  

First PrizeNever Too Old  by Tania Park
(Can be viewed here)
Clever writing so clearly draws the characters of a busload of people that the reader can see and hear them. We are taken along on the ride with a pair of 80 year old runaways who have eloped to foil the disapproval of their families. The ending is befitting this heart-warming tale, the stand-out being the tattooed young man who becomes the unofficial emcee of proceedings. Made the judges laugh.

Second PrizeLizard Island  by Joe Harrison
(Can be viewed here)
A delightful story of the eventful holiday of two brothers, with the relationship between them clearly drawn. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things when the situation requires it. Well done.

Highly CommendedGo North Young Man   by Victoria Mizen
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 CommendedBonfire Night   by Jenny Canty
A story we could all relate to, but with a twist to jolt it out of the ordinary. Dad is portrayed a battling his PTSD demons, a fear of bangs and fireworks from his wartime experiences but not allowing it to spoil his children’s enjoyment of the occasion.

Highly CommendedDragon Snorting Fire   by Don Horne
Cleverly told tale of a series of events related to an old sporting injury resulting in an unexpected windfall. Highly entertaining.

CommendedGrowing Up  by Coral Waight
A story many women of the era of stay-at-home mums could relate to – trying to meet the standards expected by an exacting husband and the community at large. Well told.

CommendedA Car Trip to Melbourne   by Jan Forrester
A delightful tale of a memory from childhood of a special annual treat, a car trip to go shopping in Melbourne. Clearly described with a child’s perspective, it would resconate with many.

Commended Hindsight   by Rosemary Stride
Related with the wry amusement only hindsight can supply, this delightful tale tells of a young mother arriving from the UK’s winter to the full blast of a tropical Brisbane summer. Highly entertaining take on the problems of dealing with culture shock while trying to manage small children.

Congratulations to all those whose stories were successful. If your entry wasn’t one of them, take heart. The competition was stiff, so read the tips and tricks on this website, do a rewrite and enter your story elsewhere for a better result. Please remember this is only the opinion of the judges of this competition.
Thank you for trusting us with your work.   

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