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2021 Prose Results

2021 'Short Takes'  Prose Competition

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

The sheer volume of entries in this year’s competition - over 140 - made the judges’ task a challenging one, but satisfying as always. We had previously conferred and set a standard of requirements for contenders so the first read-through decided which made the yes/maybe/no lists. A second read-through clarified these lists and the hunt was on for finalists.
The eventual prize-winning entries in both sections had several things in common: flawless use of language, with no mistakes in spelling, punctuation, grammar or typos. 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 tales being told. The voice in each was true to the character portrayed and hinted more than told, inviting the reader into the story to draw their own conclusions instead of telling them what to think.
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 work 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.
The Highly Commended and Commended winners were also of a high quality but sadly falling just short in the areas which precluded a cash prize. These included punctuation mistakes, misused or missing words, typos: all issues that a second set of eyes could have found and eliminated. When the standard required is so high, it doesn’t pay to be precious about your work.
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 checks 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 it 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. Most stories, no matter how good, will always benefit from a rewrite.

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Category A - Fictional Short Story

The two winners in this section were so very different from each other, it surprised us. Both, however, had that elusive but definite x-factor that set them apart from the rest. They both ticked all the boxes – voice, pace, plot, an interesting title which drew the reader in, an arresting opening sentence and an ending which didn’t tie it all up in a neat bow, leaving the reader something to ponder, ensuring the story stayed in our minds.

First Prize
 - Signs   by Tania Park
(Can be viewed here)
From the opening sentence to the closing one, this story draws the reader along, through the back story that leads to the moment at the end. It also neatly uncovers the underlying meaning of the title. Nothing is explained, it doesn’t need to be. Even the gender of the narrator is unclear in this most excellent story. Plenty of dreaming room for the reader to ponder. Well done.   

Second Prize For the Love of a Motorbike  by Graham McDonald
(Can be viewed here)
And now for something completely different. From the opening sentence, we know that this is a type of fable, carrying a moral about the vagaries of life. The closing sentence comes with such a twist, the reader can’t help but laugh. This is one of those unusual stories where not a single word could be removed, added or changed to improve it. Bravo.

Highly CommendedFairy Headlights  by Agi Dobson
An intriguing tale, a type of modern ghost story, but with a most unusual twist. Nothing is explained, so the reader is drawn to tug at the events, as is the narrator, to try to comprehend what she has seen. Very entertaining.

Highly CommendedHer Secret  by Deborah Mackie  
At first this seems like just another story about grief but as we read on, we realise it’s so much more. The subject is so adept at hiding it that only the narrator is aware of its depths. It is only near the end that the identity of her companion is revealed her photograph album - but so subtly it’s easy to miss. Excellent story-telling.

Highly Commended – Light in the 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.

Commended A is for Apple  by Gail leighton-Daly
A seemingly simple tale of the breaking of the drought which mimics the change in the relationship between a mother and daughter, a letting go and a return to the pleasure of simple things. Well done.

Commended Rembering Meg   by Christine Gary Smith
A most unusual take on the old subject of dementia, this time told by Meg herself. It carries the tragic undertones of reality but pulls the reader as she tries valiantly to wend her way through the day. Cleverly done.

CommendedSaltwater 2067   by Zachary Pryor
A futuristic tale set decades in a future ravaged by climate change. There is no moralising, just a simple story of two young people trying to live ‘normal’ lives in a decaying world. A cautionary tale indeed.  Very well done.

Category B - Memoir

The stories chosen for prizes in this section were clear stand-outs from the first reading and this was only confirmed with each new reading. Vastly different from each other in tone and subject, they yet shared all the elements of good writing – an intriguing title, an unusual approach, flawless in execution so the narrative flowed like honey. Both were subtle in execution, the depth of the subject becoming more apparent with each reading. A rare privilege to judge.   

First PrizeIn My Mind's Eye - reflections of a synesthete   by Elissa Moss
(Can be viewed here)
This story is so beautifully crafted in a series of short takes from episodes in the author’s life that even if the reader is unaware of the condition of synesthesia, they know about it by the end. A charming tale, delightfully told, with not a single change to improve it in any way. Bravo.
(synesthesia – a neurological condition that causes the brain to process data in the form of several senses at once – e,g. colour and numerals, or sound and shapes)

Second PrizeWishing   by Christine Hill
(Can be viewed here)
A delicately subtle story whose true impact isn’t fully revealed until the final sentences, and only then by inference. From the opening sentence to the closing one, the reader is taken firmly by the hand and drawn along only released in those last sentences with much to ponder about our own beliefs. Superb.

Highly CommendedColours at the End of a Hallway   by Jean Mills
A delightful depiction of a childhood memory of a safe and happy place. Beautifully described, it leaves the reader with a clear picture of this room where a little girl spent her best times. Well done.

Highly CommendedA New Ice Age  by Mei-Ling Venning
A fun story about taking a granddaughter skating which travels from an Australian beach to urban London, necessitating the relearning of old skills, long forgotten. Highly entertaining.

Highly CommendedMemories of a Chieftain   by Diana Souter
An entertaining recounting of the author’s experiences of a Sunderland flying boat, once the only way of air travel between Australia and her offshore islands. Well done

CommendedJames' Bottles   by Damian Nelson
A beautifully told, moving tale of a small boy born with serious heart defects and the joy he brought to his family in the few short years he was with them. Bravo.

CommendedInitiation  by Suzanne Gunningham
A wryly amusing account of the introduction into womanhood by the owning of a first bra, Made the judges smile. Good one.

CommendedThe Attic House  by Sally Lewry
A very different story of a childhood safe and happy place, this time with no soft edges but a young person tossed about by the vagaries of life. Well done.

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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