Short Story 2013 Results

Thanks to all those who entered! We had hundreds of entries from all around the world, including Germany, Australia and even the Netherlands, and many were considered for the shortlist. However only a select few made it to the final cut, so congratulations to the skilled few.

Below, please find the judges comments and any highlighted story titles are available to read if you click on them.

SOUTHPORT WRITERS’ CIRCLE – SHORT STORY COMPETITION

CRITIQUE by Dennis Conlon

 

Thank you for asking me to judge your competition. It was an enjoyable task and good to see there are so many good writers around. The standard was very good. Naturally, even with a strict marking scheme, the result is always going to be subjective. Nevertheless, I am very satisfied with the choice of winner. Apologies to all those who didn’t win especially to those who thought they should have. There were many good pieces that didn’t make it for a variety of reasons. As with any competition of this nature, there was a great degree of differing styles and abilities. Some appealed, some didn’t. Some pieces were very well written but then, as may be expected, spoiled by the usual mistakes, POV being the most regular. It’s difficult to empathise with a protagonist if the writer suddenly jumps into another character’s head. There was a quantity of stories where the writer was unable to RUE, ‘resist the urge to explain’ and the usual smattering of over exposition. Having said all that, there was also a good deal of promise.

 

WINNING ENTRY – “DEAD SPACE” by David McVey

What I enjoyed most about this piece was the structure: very original. The writer uses an excellent device to separate the gaol location from the rest of the island and then brilliantly uses this device to execute the twist in the ending. At no point before the reveal is it predictable. The descriptive passages are very well done, giving a good flavour of place and time. Again, by use of the structure, the opening subtly draws the reader in without them knowing where they are being taken. The characters are confidently drawn and the action and pace evolves perfectly. Dialogue not only assists with characterisation it also enhances the plot without a hint of over exposition. Original and professional.

 

SECOND PLACE –  “AT REFRIED BEANS” by Betty Weiner

Well-written story, perfectly formatted, always a good pointer to any publisher’s reader. Clever use of character to set up the plot, totally believable. The writing is of good quality, creating the page-turner this piece is. Subtle introduction of third character that later becomes important. The pace is very well controlled and the dialogue and language really suits the piece. There is a danger that the denouement is flagged too early, which could have spoiled the piece but the writer gets over this with a nice but simple twist at the end.

 

THIRD PLACE –  “THE CAPE DOCTOR” by Carol Duncan

Beautiful piece, simply written or simple piece, beautifully written, either suits. Good title. Sets off at a gentle pace, true to life characters. Although not properly formatted, this didn’t make it difficult to follow or detract from the story. Would need to be addressed if submitting for publication; however, the clarity of the dialogue makes it fluent and easy to read. The plot demands attention and is strongly moving. The pace is effortless.

 

HIGHLY COMMENDED – “DYING TO SPEAK” by Andrew Campbell Kearsey

Effectively written piece, laid out professionally and well set up with good language and dialogue. However, I felt the wheelchair was revealed unnecessarily early. Given that it was the main point of the plot, it didn’t need to be mentioned until the punch-line. Nevertheless, the characters were confidently drawn, the style was good and the piece was engaging.

 

HIGHLY COMMENDED – “THE SHILLELAGH” by Sheila Clift

I couldn’t decide which piece should be highly commended so I chose two. I really liked this story and feel it could have been placed had the writer taken more care of the protagonist narrator; which was a shame because the other characters were true to life, credible and instantly involved the reader. However, I didn’t discover the character was female until three quarters of the way through, a vital point given the relationship with the other two male characters: in particular, the antagonist. Nonetheless, it was professional, the plot was handled assuredly and the language was excellent, showing the writer’s sensitivity with words.

2013 Poetry Competition Results

Southport Writers’ Circle International Poetry Competition 2013

“I like to use simple words, but in a complicated way”. Carole Ann Duffy.

As Final Adjudicator I received over 130 poems, from a total entry of almost 400, safe in the knowledge that the initial readings had been carried out by a team of experienced and accomplished poets. So, firstly, I would like to thank Denise Randall, Karen Paling, Phil McNulty and Dave Williams for their hard work, for presenting me with a body of high quality poems and for making my task a very difficult one!
I believe that the best poetry provokes, confronts and challenges the reader in a way that other forms of literature does not and many of the poems submitted to this competition did just that. I also agree with Roger McGough in that poetry should be accessible and understandable, I see no future for poetry that is wilfully obscure or written to please a few people in high academia.
As to the adjudication process, I read each poem many times over a three week period reducing the number of contenders to a short list of 20. The poems I rejected all had merit and I’m sure many will go on to success in poetry magazines or anthologies but somehow they lacked the vital spark that all competition poems should have. From the short list of 20 the winners, highly commended and commended gradually emerged, each poem again having been read and re-read, often in different locations and at different times of the day, until I was satisfied that I had chosen the best work. Finally I would like to thank everyone who entered the competition and wish you all success in your future writing careers and remember keep sending work out because poets need to be heard!

1st Prize, Chimney-bird by Noel Williams

A poem which at first appears deceptively simple but on subsequent readings reveals deep layers; the poet makes excellent use of metaphor and rich imagery to convey a sense of confusion, denial and loss. The poem consistently shows without telling and we are drawn into a world where a difficult truth has to be confronted.

2nd Prize, Widower by Claudia Jessop

This poem explores the cathartic properties of grief told from a human and animal point of view. The scenario of a widower and his dogs could easily have slipped into over-blown sentimentality but by careful use of language the poet avoids this and gives us a powerful piece of writing.

3rd Prize, Words and mud by Anna Mills

A sparsely written piece that reveals to the reader a complicated personal relationship; the poet makes subtle use of ambiguity and leads us through the highs and lows of the subject matter before revealing an unexpected truth.

Highly Commended, Night-scented stock by Noel Williams

Commended, Bukes by Peter Branson
Letters From my Mother by Gwyneth Box

Local Prize, Mining by Lynn Sutton

A beautifully crafted exploration of dreams which, by the poets careful choice of words, leads the reader in an ominous direction until the last two lines end on an uplifting note.

Commended, Warning: Flashing Images by Glenna Thompson-Joannou
Old Photographs by Matthew Thompson

Humour Prize, My Dog Nearly Ate My Homework by James Woolf

A delightful poem which starts with a clichéd premise and then, by clever use of spiralling absurdity, gives the reader a convoluted explanation as to why a child has failed to hand in homework. I particularly liked the mixture of full and slant rhyme.

Highly Commended, Mushrooms by Kate Wise

Commended, Mamils by Mark Hodgson

Stephen Beattie, June 2013

SWC 2012 Short Story Competition Results

Val Williamson’s Adjudication

Pleasantly surprising to discover that a good number of stories had made it through to the ‘final cut’, and that so many of them are very competent pieces of writing. Two or three entries had attempted to turn anecdotes or memoirs into short stories, but there is a fundamental difference between the two forms. Anecdotes are structured around plot rather than character development; the best short stories often turn on a shift in the character’s perception, rather than the effect of a major event. This then provides an emotional impact.
Shortlisted entries included a number of murder mysteries, often twist-in-the-tail stories, at least one ghost story, and one or two Victorian-style tales, perhaps not surprising in Dickens’s bicentennial year. Three or four were homilies aimed at education rather than entertainment, I felt, and a few indulged in graphic violence or sex in ways that detracted rather than enriched. But strong writing brought them all into the final reading.

The best stories are often told through an interior or personal ‘eye’ combined with the unfolding of exterior events. A good short story engages the reader, immerses them in the world the writer has constructed, and delivers on their investment with a satisfying ending. A great story has a richness of texture to it, a way of weaving in layers of meaning through evoking setting and engaging the reader’s senses, as well as taking them on an emotional journey.
Of the twenty four short listed stories, there was one that ‘leapt off the page’ as the winner. It combines an interesting and incident-filled plot and a delightful viewpoint character whose wry humour and stalwart endurance offer a richness that most stories do not. By the end, the reader has shared such an epic series of events with the character that it seems impossible that it could be told in less than 2000 words, yet it is.

FIRST PRIZE – CITIZEN KHAN
By Tony Matthews
This entry is a richly textured and rewarding read. It is about a struggle for identity, for something more than to be known by a number, and at the same time picks away at a more universal sense of identity. Citizen Khan is a warm and gentle soul yet commits acts of great bravery as a decent human being. Through a subtle critique of bureaucracy the writer also conveys a sense of what it means to be British. This story has a strong voice and would make a good radio story, I believe.

SECOND PRIZE – DECISIONS MADE OVER MADELEINE’S TOAST
By Joanna Campbell
A really strong yet downbeat story, using mundane events and setting as a counterpoint to the internal drama and quiet desperation of a young woman caught up in a painful situation. This writer has delivered detail combined with subtle character studies interwoven in a tapestry of events, place and feelings. Emotionally, there is sense of inevitability that renders the less than happy ending strangely satisfying. A good ‘slice of life’ story, but what a terrible title!

THIRD PRIZE – THE WHITE WITCH OF WAGGA WAGGA
By Lynne Voyce
Emotional impact in this story depends on a slow build-up, it operates through a sense of colour and time; a poignant account of the joys and tragedies of one woman’s life, paralleled with the lives of her dogs and untameable Nature surrounding them. White and black with a shimmer of grey and a glimpse of pale blue, an effective device of world-creation and mood-setting on which the reader floats through this human condition story, with a very gentle twist at the end.

HIGHLY COMMENDED – THE SCENT OF THE OCEAN
By Mike Watson
A most poignant story, beautifully observed, and rich with sensory detail; I could smell the seaweed and hear the sea; I could hear the pebbles smack across the surface and feel the textures of the sandy shore. Its theme is the independence that both the viewpoint character and the character he observes on the shore every day strive for.

HIGHLY COMMENDED – MARKING TIME
By Margaret Greenwood
One evening in time, yet somehow a lifetime of reflection on the main character’s life, as we watch him slowly disintegrating within his own desperation; the mystery is, why? This writer shows great restraint in gradually allowing the reader information, first a subtle hint, then a clue, and almost at the end, the final piece of evidence we needed.

HIGHLY COMMENDED – THE BIG SISTER
By David Lake
A crime story with revenge as its theme, yet it manages to be entertaining and intriguing. Stylistically, the writer cleverly conveys the classic ‘mean streets’ tone in this story, and a classic PI. Something of a noir parody, with characters that seem fresh rather than stereotyped and the reader kept guessing to the end.

COMMENDED – JUST ONE
By Rosemary Mairs
What goes on in the mind of an emotionally unstable child? Here the writer attempts to explore one such mind, as the child flirts with danger and wrestles with jealousy, knowing she has the weapons of destruction in her hands. The suspense builds and builds as two foster children forge a friendship – maybe.

COMMENDED – MAKING SURE OF JULIE
By Josephine Howard
A story of sisters, their sibling antipathy that shockingly becomes rivalry, and a vengeful ghost. The writer gradually spins out the characters and events in this tale, skilfully building their emotions to a crucial crescendo – just before a jolting twist.

COMMENDED – THE NOVELIST AND HIS CENTRAL CHARACTER
By Gerry Boland
A convoluted account of a writer struggling with depression, interweaving his life with the life – and death – of his main character. Is he possessed by some kind of visitation, or expressing his feelings through the weird relationship that is forged? Either way, the result is deadly.

Poetry 2012 Competition Results

Chief Judges Report – Alison  Chisholm

Opening the file of entries in a poetry competition is like unlocking a treasure chest filled with a variety of gems – each unique, ready to be handled, played with and explored, and longing to yield the essence at its heart.  These poems shone with memories, philosophy, imagination, truth and exuberance.  Although it’s always sad to reject poems which are uninspiring, poorly written or revised, or technically flawed, the compensation for doing so lies in the mass of good writing that remains.

Poems can speak to you, make you laugh or cry, slide under your skin and change the way you see the world.  Every one of the winners and short listed pieces asserted its presence and left a message zinging in the air.

FIRST:

UNDER PRESSURE  by Pat Borthwick. Family dynamics, personality and nostalgia bring this powerful free verse poem to life, and the apparently simple story is full of evocative layers.

SECOND:

BLIND FROM BIRTH by Brian Young.  The reader is taken on a precarious and terrifying route through the unfamiliar, and shown the world from a new angle through a rich network of imagery.

THIRD:

ON THE STEP by Edyth Ward.  A quirky and imaginative poem, this piece starts with a surreal premise and then explores the possibilities in logical and absurd directions, before concluding with a telling punchline.

 

HIGHLY COMMENDED

GHOSTS by Frank McDonald

HIDDEN LOVE by Tracy Davidson

HOTSPUR   for P by Sheila Wild

 

COMMENDED

CODE OF THE FIREFLY by Mandy Pannet

DEEP CRYSTAL by Charles Evans

FEBRUARY HOARFROST by Dorothy Waite

LOOKING FOR SIBELIUS by Dorothy Waite

THE BALLAD OF DOT AND WILLIE by Alison Ringrose

 

HUMOUR PRIZE:

THE OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCE OF A POTATO  by Cath Mason. An original idea with a delightful personification of the potato, culminating in the triumphant shout from a vigorous rap, this poem is feel-good and irresistible.

 

HIGHLY COMMENDED – HUMOUR

BULL by Keith Shaw

 

LOCAL PRIZE:  THE FRUIT MACHINE FROM SPACE by Derek Anderton.  A witty and clever narrative poem in rhyming couplets, this combines wickedly humorous content with masterly handling of form.

 

HIGHLY COMMENDED – LOCAL

MINUTES: EXTRAORDINARY MEETING OF PROSODY TOWN COUNCIL by H Burgoyne.