Sheila introduced Graham Chalmers, a journalist working for JPI Media as Features Editor for the group of newspapers that includes the Ripon Gazette. She recalled that this was not the first time he had adjudicated for our Group.
Graham began by insisting that he was a journalist rather than a writer. He had come to the profession after reading politics and modern history at university. In his view one didn’t have to be a good writer to be a journalist. He then went on to talk about the process of writing, describing for example how he had developed his own style for music reviews after researching the styles already found in print.
Turning to the competition entries, Graham said that it had been hard to choose the top three – all ten entries were well-written and intelligent. He then proceeded to give his comments on the individual entries. Having done so he announced the winners as follows:
• 3rd – Peter Hicks with 11 Dawson Street
• 2nd – Claire Cox with Home is where You Hang your Hat
• 1st – Malcolm Glasby with No 5 – a House and Home Remembered
Graham then presented the trophy to Malcolm.
Graham had to leave immediately after the break to meet a deadline for his weekly column, but not before Sheila expressed the Group’s thanks and presented him with the usual token of appreciation.
Sheila then read Malcolm’s prizewinning entry, which took the form of a memoir of his childhood home and brought the story on to the present day. Claire then read her second place entry, an account of various houses in England and abroad where she had made her home. In the absence of Peter H, the final reader of the day was Phil with his competition entry What Makes a House a Home? – a reflection on that subject using examples from various stately homes he and his wife had visited.
Sheila introduced Carole Bromley from York, adjudicator of the 2018 Poetry Competition. Carole is a published poet who has won several competitions and been placed in more. An English teacher by background she has also been a Creative Writing tutor at York University’s centre for Lifelong Learning.
Carole began her adjudication by confirming and updating the information that Sheila had given about her in introducing her. She said that she had begun writing poetry while taking students to the Arvon Centre at Lumb Bank. Turning to the adjudication itself she said that her judgement was inevitably subjective and influenced by her personal taste. Although all the entries were of a good standard she had recognised the winner on sight. Whilst being flexible rather than judging by a hard set of rules she was looking for:
• Confidence of tone
• Skilful handling of form
• An awareness of contemporary poetry
• Appropriate use of language and spoken rhythms
• Effective imagery
• Interesting subject matter
• A good title
• A cracking ending
• A clear message economically put
• An absence of clichés, archaisms and word order twisted to suit the rhyming scheme.
She pointed out that modern poets tended not to follow the old convention of beginning each line with a capital letter.
After the general introduction Carole gave her individual comments on each of the entries before announcing the results. These were:
• Commended – ‘Through an Upstairs Window’ by Lindsay Trenholme and ‘The Shift of Time’ by Kate Swann
• Joint third place – ‘Not a Hope’ by Maggie Cobbett and ‘La Manche’ by Daphne Peters
• Second place – ‘The view from the Mat’ by Janet Barclay
• First Place – ‘Safe Keeping’ by Sheila Whitfield
There was time before the refreshment break for all the above six poems to be read, Sheila reading ‘The Shift of Time’ in Kate’s absence. As with most of the readings during the evening the authors present spoke briefly about the inspiration behind their poem.
After the break Carole presented the Poetry Competition trophy to Sheila and The President’s Cup for 2018 to Janet who had been absent when the result of the latter competition had been announced at the Christmas Event.
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.
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.
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’.
Susan received the trophy from Sheila last night. Scroll down for full details of the Poetry Competition adjudication.
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.
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