We just loved reading all your wonderful stories for the New Year Competition. We were really impressed with the quality of your work and we gave our judge, YA author Lucy Keating, a very difficult task in choosing the winners from the shortlist. Thanks again to everyone who entered! Look out for our next competition opening this coming Monday, 2nd March.
Congratulations to Ash for her winning entry, The Trouble With This Year.
Read Lucy's feedback on Ash's work below:
For me it all comes down to voice, and right off the bat Ash’s character Trouble drew me in, especially with this line: “There was something about this year. What was it? Oh yeah, the universe wanted to kill me.” It’s the first line of the story and we already know we are in for a wild ride! Trouble continues to pepper her narrative with cynical and funny phrases that not only make the story more enjoyable to read, and make it feel more active, but they give us a real sense of who her character is: someone who isn’t up for taking any crap!
While all the entries showed a wide range of strengths (some people truly excel at description, others with dialogue), I felt that Ash’s used the most imagination, stretching beyond the boundaries of our reality, and creating an alternate world that certainly felt different, but never forced.
I also enjoyed the way we find out about Trouble’s one weakness: Lucas. She doesn’t tell us herself, but Ash reveals the information in an argument with Trouble’s superior. Trouble is not invincible. She let someone in. But I want to know more!
What I’d like to see Ash explore: Speaking of wanting to know more, my one piece of advice to Ash would be to slow down a little bit. While I enjoyed the quick pace, it means that occasionally things aren’t totally explained. It’s great to occasionally leave the reader wondering, and we also need to give them credit for being able to figure things out. But if something is too confusing it will trip us up in the flow. What’s a federal alchemist? What are the needles full of poison? And mostly when we do learn of Lucas, I’d like to see a brief internal thought from Trouble where she tells us, the reader, a little bit more about what happened.
Well done, Ash!
Lucy selected Mikayla Elliot's piece, 'Under the Spotlight' as our runner up.
You really get lost in Mikayla’s piece about her first big performance. The way she describes the tension before she goes onstage, the “tiny particles of dust floating in and out of the spotlight,” the way she begins to relax and open up as she plays, and the prose itself becomes more lyrical. The way she breaks down the verses of the music into what she is giving the audience “When I finally reach the final chorus, I tell the tales of my dreams and aspirations.” Just beautiful!
Also, of all the entries I read, Mikayla was the one to use the phrase “There was something different about this year” in the most sincere way, as she describes the night her character became one with music, the transition from being afraid and unsure to being confident in herself.
What I’d like to see Mikayla explore: I love how as she becomes one with the music, we see the words of the story begin to flow, namely in the paragraph that begins "All of my fears and worries dissipate.." I’d like to see Mikayla work on bringing that lyricism up earlier in her piece, since it’s about music after all! The start of the piece is beautifully descriptive, but is more telling than showing. By working on her tenses (I think she may have been unsure of whether to use past or present and forgotten to fix them all in the end) and trimming down some of the language will keep us moving along smoothly. Moments that took me out of the piece a little bit are when she is telling us about the stage presence she was told to create. It’s all great material but could be streamlined a bit.
Carol’s Review of Xena’s Piece “First Born, never first in line.” was selected as the most helpful peer review.
I chose Carol’s review because she does an excellent job of sharing what she likes about the piece, but she also has a good balance of notes and constructive criticism. Sometimes it can be hard for a reviewer to take themselves out of the equation, how they would have written it themselves. Carol is respectful of Xena as a writer and only wants to make her work better. What I appreciated most about her notes was that they function mostly as suggestions. She doesn’t simply say “I don’t like it” or “I don’t get it.” When she is confused she explains why in detail, and often gives a suggestion on how to clarify.
Thanks again Carol for taking the time to review Xena's work.
And thanks to all our writers for your fantastic work!