At Sheila’s invitation, Susan introduced Delphine Ruston, a former English teaching colleague of hers. Delphine’s background includes an interest in photography, a therapeutic counselling qualification and the experience of taking groups to the Arvon Centre at Lumb Bank. Susan felt she was suitable for the adjudicator role because she is interested in words, people and ‘how things seem’.
Delphine began her adjudication by saying that the invitation had come within a few days of her recent retirement. It had proved to be an enjoyable task. Her own writing is focused at present on writing a memoir of her grandmother which she wants to publish as a handmade book. (This has now aroused her interest in bookbinding.) After that she wants to write creatively. In the course of her comments she referred to and read from Philip Pullman’s book ‘Daemon Voices’.
Turning to the competition entries Delphine said that they were very different but all enjoyable. She said that in judging them she had been looking for
• The quality of the idea – was it imaginative? Did it pique interest?
• A short story that lingered – did it have a poetic quality?
• Coherence and craft skills such as leanness and economy in the use of words?
• A voice that was credible and sustained
• A first sentence that plunged straight in the action
• The impact of the ending – was it perhaps satisfying or unnerving?
She went on to suggest some challenges in short story writing, including the following points
• Don’t make the meaning explicit – the story should relate events not interpret them
• ‘Less is more’
• In choosing the subject matter, don’t be frightened of the inconsequential. The subject matter does not have to be weighty.
Delphine then turned to her comments on the individual stories and her reaction to them. Having completed those comments she was invited to announce the result as follows:
• Second – Maggie with ‘Daddy Haircare’
• Joint First – Peter P with ‘“Venus Must Have Heard My Plea”’ and Sheila with ‘Beginnings and Endings’
Peter and Sheila shared the trophy.
After the break the three winning stories were read.
‘“Venus Must Have Heard My Plea”’ is a tale of the semi-retired Roman Gods and Goddesses taking over the Big House in a twenty-first century Yorkshire village as a retirement home and getting involved in the lives of the locals. The title is a quotation from a Sandy Shaw hit song.
‘Beginnings and Endings’ is the story of a woman out walking her dog who discovers a corpse on a railway cutting side. It is written in an experimental format with four segments which can be read in any order.
‘Daddy Haircare’ is a daughter’s tale of bonding with her widower father as he deals with her hair.
When these three stories had been read Sheila and Susan thanked Delphine for her adjudication and presented her with the usual token of the Group’s appreciation.