What a joy it was to judge the 12-14 year old and the 15-18 year old age groups in Whangarei Library's Short Story competition this year. The prize giving this evening was extremely well attended.
This year 12-14 year old section was hotly contested. The skill of the writers was extraordinary and it was exceedingly difficult to mark.
In the end the story that took first place had heart; the story that came second was extraordinarily creative; and the story that came in third, although not written in one of my current favourite genres, possessed such a strong writer's voice, I believe this writer's work is going to change the world in the future.
There are a number of writers who narrowly missed out in this section and I would like to acknowledge their work: Anais Hall, Eve Finlayson, Natalya Newman, Aimee Clemow, Aroha Snowsill, and Inioluwa Falope.
The winners in the 12-14 year old section are as follows:
Sixth place: Goes to Aimee Pratt for enchanting story entitled My Special Friend. This is an impressive story about a young lady's special imaginary friend who provides her with support when she's not feeling great about herself. It's beautifully descriptive and I really enjoyed reading it.
Fifth place equal: Two stories took fifth place. The first one goes to Anna Rose Peake for her story entitled Love and Were Loved. What I loved about this moving real life story is that it was set locally at the ANZAC Day Dawn Parade. The second goes to Sophie Franklin for her story, submitted without a title, but which I've given a working title of Lost.
Fourth place equal: Two stories took fourth place. There were descriptive passages in both that made my heart sing and here's one of them: "The path, if you could call it that, was like a bad-tempered horse. It was riddled with holes and bucked up sharply with a descent to match." These two fourth place stories battled it out between each other but in the end there was no way I could mark either one down. What's more, they were both barking at the heels of third place so loudly, it was all I could do to keep them in check. Fourth place equal goes to Ronan Payinda for The Dog; and Emily Taylor for The Lost Queen.
Third place: Goes to a horrific story. Now I have to say that whilst horror is not currently my favourite genre, I have read a lot in the distant past. What stands out about this story is the writer's voice. It's strong, it's authoritive, this no doubt that this writer knows what they are doing. "As the moon peered down and trees began to quiver in the presence of the unnatural force at play, Max's voice rode the air." This is just one sentence of hundreds, placed together in perfect order to create Ryan Murray's short story, The Rats of Darkness.
Second place: The story that takes second place was the most imaginative story I've read in the 12-14 year old section. Possibly one of the most imaginative stories I have ever read by someone so young. Not only it is highly creative, what is even more impressive is how the reader is gently guided to a place of understanding by the writer, never feeling too confused as everything is laid out in exactly the right order. And I love how it at the end it comes full circle, making the reader feel totally satisfied but perhaps leaving them (if they're anything like I am), with a slightly rumbly tummy. The winner of second place, is Julia Wallace for her story entitled The Cupcake Adventure.
First place: This is a hauntingly beautiful story with real heart. It brings a tear to your eye and its memory lingers with you long after you've put it down. It is written simply yet vividly, the characters are extremely well drawn, and the settings are evocative. I really liked how the element of rain was used to frame the story to perfection. First place goes to Evana Piskulic for her incredibly moving story entitled Dreams.
Congratulations to all the winners in the 12-14 age group, all of your stories were outstanding.
A multitude of strong writers competed in the 15-18 year old section and I enjoyed all the stories I read. The winners in the 15-18 year old section are as follows:
Sixth place: Goes to a story set in a different era about a woman who wants to be a reporter in a man's world. The author has an excellent command of her characters and uses dialogue not only to successfully move the story forward, but also to evoke a sense of their personalities through their words. This takes practice and as Kate Barrett is the youngest entrant in this section, I was blown away by her skills. Kate's story was called A Rose's Thorns.
Fifth place: Goes to a story whose setting is nicely portrayed and easy to imagine. I loved the description that was used in this story. It's not overdone and is perfectly balanced. Every word is beautifully placed and well thought out. Well done to Esmee Clemow for The Pigeon Shepherd.
Fourth place: Goes to an incredibly sad story that cleverly uses a range of sentence lengths and fragmented sentences throughout to create an emotional response from the reader. This story grabbed my heart and the winner of fourth place is Angel Mansell.
Third place: The winner of third place swept me away right from the first paragraph. So much so that I tuned out to checking for grammar, spelling and punctuation until I came to the end of the first page. Which is a highly unusual state of being for me, as I'm one of those annoying people who spots everything. In any case what I'm trying to say is that this story was snappy, fast paced, with an engagingly rhythmic beat. It was hard to put down and so it takes third place. This story is called So Much Soul, But None of it's Mine and it was written by Ella Short.
Second place: The story taking second place was a delight to read. It was framed by the stars, at the beginning, the ending and throughout. I especially enjoyed this sentence: "Galaxy eyes glistened from behind her glasses, reading the bookcases like a map". I also loved reading the descriptive settings in this story, for example: "...in a dusty bookshop, with spiderweb decor and floorboards that creaked underfoot." The winner of second place, is Phoebe Lockett with her story entitled Julie.
First place: The winner of this year's short story in the 15-18 year old section actually wrote two stories, and either one could have taken this title. Both stories exhibit the writer's unsurpassed talent for scene building and evoking an emotional response from the reader; both stories feature faultless grammar, spelling and punctuation. One story has humour smattered through what would otherwise be a slightly daunting read. A humour that was able to span the generational gap, highlighting the writer's extraordinary ability to entertain. This story deserves every cent of the $200 it has won. This story is simply entitled Fries and it was written by the highly talented Karmelle Easton.
Congratulations to all the winners in the 15-18 age group!
A big thank you to the Whangarei Library and the Friends of the Library for everything they do to put this competition together for our local children and youth. Year after year they generously donate hundreds of dollars to encourage our kids to write.
Thanks also to everyone who entered, I thoroughly enjoyed reading every story, and I hope you will enter again next year!