Adjudication of the 2018 Short Story competition

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.

A Blast from the Past 2018

Our adjudicator on this occasion was Chris Lloyd, Chief Feature Writer for ‘The Northern Echo’ and the ‘Darlington and Stockton Times’. Well used to reading and ‘marking’ other people’s writing, he stressed the importance of grammar, spelling, structure and style.

After giving a very detailed critique of each of the entries in turn, Chris announced the results as follows:

• 3rd – Malcolm Glasby with ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ – a family memoir, the title coming from the tune which played a part in the story
• 2nd – Peter Page with ‘History as Teacher’ – a look at how and why we should learn from history
• 1st – Janet Barclay with ‘The Rise and Fall of the West Gallery’ – an account of the galleries provided in churches for musicians accompanying services.

As Janet was not present, the second and third placed entries were read out before Chris was thanked by Susan (Competition Secretary) and given a token of our appreciation.

The photo above shows Janet being presented with the Mary Rawnsley trophy at the first possible opportunity after the adjudication.

Artistic Licence competition 2018

Our adjudicator this time was Canon Lisle Ryder, to whom we were very grateful for taking on the task at relatively short notice. He admitted to having failed O level English Literature but had been inspired to write poetry after a Poetry Retreat at Rydal Hall. Lisle’s other interests include enjoyment of art and paintings.

After sketching in his background and its relevance to the adjudication Lisle moved on to the ten stories entered in the competition. He said that he had enjoyed reading them several times each, looking to be entertained, intrigued, moved and drawn to sympathise. Stressing the need to avoid the inclusion of unnecessary information in a very short story, he added that he found descriptive passages helpful to his imagination. In reading the stories for a second or third time Lisle was looking at:
• choice of title
• impact of the opening passage
• structure of the story and its development
• paragraphing and sentence structure
• spatial and time settings
• what stimulated his imagination – metaphors – symbolism
• the overall integrity of the piece
• the existence of a message or meaning for the reader
• whether or not the ending resolves or leaves issue for the reader to ponder

Lisle then gave his individual comments on the stories before announcing his choice of winners which was:
Third – Cathy Grimmer with ‘The Head’.
This was a story about an artist so inspired by her mother’s letter that she unwittingly sculpts her father’s face as she would have wished him to be.

First equal – Phil Cook with ‘Three Sides to Every Story’ and Anna Greenwood with ‘Loss of Privacy’

In Anna’s absence Lisle was photographed presenting the trophy to Phil, whose story was a tale of revenge told from three points of view. A woman slighted by a fellow member of an Am Dram group writes a scathing review for the local paper of its next production.

After the break Sheila invited Lisle to read from his published collection ‘Momentoes’:

President David McAndrew gave a vote of thanks for the adjudication and presented Lisle with a ‘Thank You’ envelope plus a copy of our group anthology ‘Pieces of Cake’.

Poetry trophy presented at last!

Susan received the trophy from Sheila last night. Scroll down for full details of the Poetry Competition adjudication.

Presentation of the President’s Cup

The President’s Cup is awarded annually to the member who has accrued the most points in our internal competitions.

The recipient this year was Maggie Cobbett. In the absence of the President, Chairman Sheila Whitfield made the presentation.

Poetry Competition Adjudication

Sheila introduced Dr Nasser Hussain and invited him to give his adjudication of the 2017 Poetry Competition. Nasser began by talking about his own work, producing copies of his first published poetry collection and reading samples therefrom. His second collection is to be published in 2018. These later poems have moved on from his first collection as he has become more interested in the process of writing rather than the finished product. In his latest pieces of work he is testing what can be done by twisting language to do things it doesn’t normally do. He is asking himself, ‘Can I communicate in a new way?’

After talking about his work Nasser turned to the competition entries. His intention as an adjudicator, he said, was to help rather than to appear harsh; his critique is the beginning of a discussion rather than the last word. He had looked at the poems with five criteria in mind:
 use of language
 impact
 focus
 form
 strength of concept

As he talked about specific poems he made the following general points.
• Avoid sentences of a single word
• The subject matter has to work literally as well as figuratively.
• Allow your reader’s imagination some freedom by being slightly ambiguous
• Plain/direct/clear speech is preferable to ‘fancy’
• Beware of using clichés or easy images
• Use contemporary language and forms for contemporary subjects (‘the writer must speak to their moment)
• Might the writer need to pay more attention to form?
• Is that form appropriate to the poem?
• It is good to create a disjunct between reality and imagination/fantasy
• Does the page need to be filled? Shortness, simplicity and truth can be just as effective. Don’t be afraid to cut.
• It is important to be aware of the audience when writing pieces ‘to’ people
• Is the concept suitable for poetry?

Having commented on the individual poems Nasser announced the winners as follows:
• 3rd place – Ian Gouge with ‘The Light of our Lives’, a poem about a fragment from outer space that had once glowed to light up the lives of the couple who had found it but had now lost its glow
• 2nd Place – Elizabeth Spearman with ‘Summer Visitor’, a poem about a summer visitor arriving in her garden
• 1st Place – Susan Perkins with ‘Gerunds’, a poetic reflection on communication.

Due to an oversight the trophy was not available for presentation, but Nasser was photographed congratulating Susan on her win. The winning entries were then read. Susan prefaced her reading with an explanation of how the poem came to be written. In Elizabeth’s absence, Nasser read on her behalf.

Susan thanked Nasser for his adjudication.

Better late than never!

Unable to be present at the adjudication of the 2017 Mini-Saga adjudication (see below), Maggie was delighted to receive the trophy from Phil this evening.

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Our friendly group meets once a fortnight in the Old Deanery on Minstergate, opposite Ripon Cathedral and is always open to new members from the Ripon area and beyond. Whether your interest is in poetry or prose, novels, short stories, plays, wacky humour, a more analytical style of writing, or just listening for the time being, you're very welcome.

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