Hilarie Lindsay 2017 Competition: Judge’s Comments

FAW NSW Hilarie Lindsay Short Story competition for Australian School Children.

Section 1: Years 10, 11 & 12

Winner: ‘Send me Home, my Friends’ (07)

Second: ‘Throw Gold and Silver Down to me’ (08)

Six stories in this section were beautifully written, with language and imagery appropriate to the plot and theme. They were correctly paragraphed, well punctuated, used good dialogue and had sound structure.

The structure of the short story demands an appropriate ending and I had to exclude one beautiful story, ‘The Apothecary’s Daughter’, because it just stopped. There was no ending.

I commend the writing skills of the following entries: ‘Origami Cranes’, ‘On a Street Pole in Texas’ and ‘Pray with me’. These were all strong contenders for first place, as was second place holder, ‘Throw Gold and Silver Down to me’, because of the complexity of their stories, the emotion and the messages they held.

I selected ‘Send me Home, my Friends’ as winner because it shared all of the above qualities, as well as being an outstanding story in blending memories past with the present, while using language, emotion and evocative imagery that lifted it above the others—imagery such as The feathers cascade slowly through the air, light and fluffy as tiny clouds … and …memories like ghosts, rising from the bottom of the well in which I’ve tried to sink them..

Section 2: Years 7, 8 & 9

Winner: ‘Sydney Cove’ (19)

Equal Second: ‘Lullaby’ (05) and ‘Princess Grace and the Wishing Stone’ (31)

The stories in this section ranged from extraordinary to poor. Many writers had problems with tenses and sentence structure. Quite a few students tried too hard, over-writing by using ill-fitting and extravagant imagery and inappropriate choice of poorly understood vocabulary. It is better to write well at your own level and keep it simple. Write imaginatively about what you know.

Therein lies the success of ‘Princess Grace and the Wishing Stone’. This is an original fairy story told in the simple language of fairy stories. As well, the story was correctly punctuated and paragraphed, ending with a simple moral.

Of equal merit was a very different story called ‘Lullaby’ in which a girl and a boy meet in a dramatic clash of class and fortune. The turn of events was expressed in a thought provoking manner, using a spare style and a tight structure.

The winning entry showed a maturity of ideas, expression and structure which appeared beyond this age group. I awarded ‘Sydney Cove’ first place in the junior high school section. I was so impressed with this piece of writing that I showed it to an editor friend of mine. She said, “That entrant has a bright future in writing.”

Section 3: Years 5 & 6

Winner: ‘Innocence’ (02)

Second: ‘Rolling Stones’ (19)

Six stories in this section were original, interesting, well told and well structured, with varied vocabulary, good imagery, grammar and spelling. It was difficult to choose the best two. ‘Firelight’ was atmospheric, ‘The Bike’ dealt well with action, ‘The Black Hat’ had a clever approach and ‘Dome’, although well written, was more like the start of a novel.

The winner, ‘Innocence’, and the runner up, ‘Rolling Stones’, both dealt maturely with complex ideas and emotions, which were well expressed. The structure of their stories were tight, especially the winning entry, with strong endings.

Section 4: Year 4 and under

Winner: ‘Dont and Me’ (13)

Equal Second: ‘Finn’s Adventure’ (06) and ‘The Ghosts’ (15)

All the stories in this section were well told. Most were well punctuated and used appropriate dialogue. Many writers used advanced vocabulary and imagery, giving colour to their stories.

One story, ‘The Death Warriors’, was very well told, except that the present and past tenses were mixed up without reason. Unless you are confident, it is easier to write in the simple past tense.

I found it difficult to select one story as winner from the best six stories in this junior age group. Eventually, I chose the entry, ‘Don’t and Me’, because it wasn’t just well told, it was also very quirky and funny. I was encouraged by the writing to want that donkey to win. I felt as though I was watching the race. The story held warmth and feeling. There was some very good vocabulary used, and description and imagery were excellent. The image, My grin was turned into an upside down watermelon lifted this story over the line.

In second equal place, ‘Finn’s Adventure’ held overtones of Harry Potter, but the story line was still original and imaginative.

‘The Ghosts’ I commended for its originality of subject matter and theme of understanding. The writer demonstrated an excellent grasp of paragraphing, although there were minor grammatical errors.

The ‘Tooth Fairy Disaster’, ‘Crimey and Blimey’ and ‘A key to the Past’ were also well written, original stories, using good vocabulary, sentence structure, punctuation and grammar. To distinguish these entries, I looked at tightness of story structure, strength of endings, imagery, and how well characters were depicted.

Overall, the entries were of a very high standard. Well done.

Jan Mitchell, on behalf of the Fellowship of Australian Writers NSW Inc.


Posted in Competition Results