SAWC 2010 Judges Feedback

   
The Winner: Line of Sight                          
                                        SIX JUDGES’ RATINGS
  1 2 3 4 5 6
 
Readability: Does it hold your attention?
 
 
4/5
 
 
5 /5
 
 
4/5
 
 
3/5
 
 
  5/5
 
 
   4/5
 
Originality
 
4/5
 
5 /5
 
4/5
 
3/5
 
  5/5
 
   4/5
 
Flow (Does the story move smoothly from point to point?)
 
3.5/5
 
5 /5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
  4/5
 
   4/5
 
Characterization
 
3/5
 
4/5
 
2/5
 
3/5
 
  5/5
 
   3.5/5
 
Imagery and use of language
 
4/5
 
4/5
 
4/5
 
3/5
 
  4/5
 
   4/5
 
Overall gut response to story
 
3.5/5
 
5/5
 
4/5
 
2/5
 
  5/5
 
   4/5
TOTAL 22/30 28/30 21/30 17/30 28/30 23.5/30
 
FINAL TOTAL: 139.5/180
 
Comments: 
 
  1. Lovely, original perspective. Great start, putting the reader in the position of peering through a telescopic sight. Story has great potential, perhaps the unpacking of events could be more effective, more tantalising.
 
  1. Gripping narrative. My heart is still racing. Utterly riveting.
 
The writer keeps the narrative flowing from the disabled women's intention to kill the policeman to paranoia, to her banal rooibos tea and the observations of the blood tracks in the passage.
 
Credible and compelling all the way. Good details and observation. First class story. Bold and original voice. I look forward to watching this writer emerge.
 
  1. My attention was certainly held by this story, but I found it a little relentless and “similar” in atmosphere throughout. It would have helped to introduce more contrasts.
 
  1. Nicely written. But it reminds me of many stories I’ve read before.
 
  1. When someone has a victim in his cross hairs, (or hers, as we discover in the third paragraph) that’s pretty compelling. How many elderly women aim at shooting an annoying policeman? It just gets better. I veered between quiet hysteria at her conviction that it was a fake cop and admiration for this wheelchair killer who casually adds another body to the story when she tells us how she dealt with an intruder that morning.
 
 Completely original take on a householder defending herself.
 
The story flows well without a hitch. Although we go from the present, back to the events of that morning, at no point does the reader wonder what’s happening. The description of her first killing is slipped in so well it hardly seems like a back story.
 
Elaine’s character was wonderful. As she tells us her story of what she thinks is happening, she gives us a well drawn self-portrait of an old woman who is slightly demented but so sure she’s right, and so determined not be be tricked by a fake policeman. All the little things she comments on, like saving energy by not filling the kettle and the policeman who will leave a dirty smudge on her glass just add to picture of someone who is teetering on the edge. 
 
Good use of language and the sharp descriptions of what she sees make this piece zing. I absolutely loved it.
 
  1. Lovely building of suspense, and great touches of detail that develop the atmosphere. Great control of language. An original and chilling story. I found the beginning a little visually confusing, though.
 
 
 
 
Second Place: Board and Lodging                     
                                        SIX JUDGES’ RATINGS
  1 2 3 4 5 6
 
Readability: Does it hold your attention?
 
 
3.5/5
 
 
4/5
 
 
5/5
 
 
5 /5
 
 
  4/5
 
 
   3/5
 
Originality
 
3/5
 
4/5
 
5/5
 
3/5
 
  5/5
 
 3.5/5
 
Flow (Does the story move smoothly from point to point?)
 
2.5 /5
 
4/5
 
4/5
 
4 /5
 
  3/5
 
  2.5./5
 
Characterization
 
3.5/5
 
3/5
 
5/5
 
4/5
 
  3/5
 
   2.5/5
 
Imagery and use of language
 
3/5
 
4/5
 
4/5
 
3/5
 
  3/5
 
   3/5
 
Overall gut response to story
 
3.5/5
 
4/5
 
5/5
 
5/5
 
  3/5
 
  2.5/5
TOTAL 19/30 23/30 28/30 24/30 21/30 17/30
 
FINAL TOTAL 132/180
 
Comments: 
  1. A vivid style, with very visual almost filmic quality. It’s an interesting set up, actually, could even be the outline of a film. Sometimes tending to wordiness – sentences cluttered with unneeded adverbs. Although the story has potential the technique of breaking it up with asterisks makes the telling disjointed.
 
  1. This story very nearly doesn't get off the ground with its unlikeable, self-pitying narrator. Were I not obliged to read the entire story I'd have abandoned it too soon and it would have been my loss. Once the story gets going it turns out to be well worth the read.
 
Curious and effective premise for a story. It feels like this could be the outline for a novel.
 
The detached narrative leaves me with a feeling of having never quite got to know either character. Also, the imbalance in the presentation gives K a more full presence. Spare, effective prose. This story has tremendous potential.
 
  1. I LOVED this story. It was told simply, and had a real humanity to it. The mix of “fate”, interesting characters, and the series of twists make it a truly fabulous story.
 
  1. This story reminds me of a book I’ve read – can’t recall the title – but still, I really liked how the story played out. All the way through, I was interested in how it would end. I liked how the vagrant had a moral purpose behind his actions. And it didn’t seem to be one of those stories that were ‘all about me’. I liked this one best equal.
 
  1. The use of ‘K” instead of a name irritated me, it felt pretentious, but the story that unfolded was gripping.  Why was I reminded of Kafka?
 
Top marks for originality: first for the fact the man was on the point of being buried but then vanished, very much alive and then how everything swung around subtly and K became dependent on his appalling guest.
 
Abrupt style of writing but still flows well. A lot happened here over an extended period of time
 
We learn a few things about K – he’s a lonely, devious and dishonest man but in the end, a cardboard figure around which the story just happens.
 
There wasn’t much imagery, the story was plainly told and perhaps the writer felt that imaginative phrases would not have suited this piece.  
 
Just not my cup of cold tea! I can see this is clever and well written but it’s not my kind of story. The protagonist is too remote for me to empathise with him and I like to feel something towards the characters in anything I read. I can easily be persuaded to love a nasty character but not in this case. Even the vagrant was given a more human touch.  
 
  1. An original idea, told in sparse, energetic language, with lots of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged. Certain plot points, however, I felt strained credibility.
 
 
Third Place: The Colours of Choice                       
                                        SIX JUDGES’ RATINGS
  1 2 3 4 5 6
 
Readability: Does it hold your attention?
 
 
4/5
 
 
3/5
 
 
3/5
 
 
4/5
 
 
  5/5
 
 
   4.5/5
 
Originality
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
  4/5
 
   3.5/5
 
Flow (Does the story move smoothly from point to point?)
 
4/5
 
4/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
  4/5
 
  4/5
 
Characterization
 
4/5
 
3/5
 
4/5
 
3/5
 
  4/5
 
   4/5
 
Imagery and use of language
 
3.5/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
  4/5
 
  4/5
 
Overall gut response to story
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
  4/5
 
   4/5
TOTAL 21.5/30 19/30 19/30 19/30 25/30 24/30
 
FINAL TOTAL 127.5/180
 
Comments: 
 
  1. Hyper-real telling of the character Mrs Henderson’s experience and response to disease and hospitalisation. Graphic and very convincing, though the plot does not unfold in a compelling fashion. It has great potential.
 
  1. A smooth read. This story attends to the deterioration of a woman's breast cancer and the despair encountered as she faces her mortality. While this particular story has been done before, there's no reason for the writer not to put his or her particular experience down, but s/he must strive for a particularity that lifts it into the realm of the extraordinary.
 
Solid structure that creates an effective tale. The apex of the tale is not, in fact, her decision to end her life, but the choice of theft. I feel the writer could develop the internal crisis around this point to enrich the story. I wanted more insight into how she feels about this, rather than the mere relief of knowing there's an out.
 
Strongly encourage the writer to read the work aloud to hear where it becomes flattened out. I wanted more from this story. The writer has made a good start and would benefit from taking bolder steps to deepen the character. Perhaps examine where the story becomes repetitive for future reworking.
 
  1. For me this story was very personal and touching, but didn’t have enough “story” to it. It sounds terrible but I would have preferred it if the protagonist HAD actually taken the pills, instead of anticipating the taking of them.
 
  1. Solid and sad story about a terrible situation.
 
  1. A very insightful look at a cancer patient, her pain and anxieties and her final solution to everything when she decides she might need it.  The power over her own life, something doctors seem to take away from patients quite often.
 
The writer took ten minutes out of the life of a patient with terminal cancer and turned it into a beautiful piece of writing. Writing flows seamlessly along, with a lot of flashbacks as she thinks about her home and children but these don’t halt the story in any way and add a lot of texture to it.
 
Alison is well drawn and comes across as a polite, patient older woman who doesn’t like to make a fuss but has the determination to be in charge of her own life and death. Those pills were probably the first thing she had ever stolen in her life. And the brief reference to Tricia who couldn’t afford to come home - you could hear the longing in her mother’s voice.
 
Some great images, describing the masculine pain as harsh and uncompromising, lacking in empathy and the feminine pain which knew when she needed to rest. 
 
Loved it, it felt so real. This was a very well told slice of this woman’s life which drew me in.
 
  1. Beautifully told, great control of language, tragic and full of pathos without overstating the sentiment.
 
 
The Branding                                                           
                                        SIX JUDGES’ RATINGS
  1 2 3 4 5 6
 
Readability:
 
Does it hold your attention?
 
 
3.5/5
 
 
3/5
 
 
3/5
 
 
5/5
 
 
  4 /5
 
 
  3/5
 
Originality
 
3.5/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
  3 /5
 
   3/5
 
Flow (Does the reader move smoothly through the story from point to point?)
 
4/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
4/5
 
  4 /5
 
   3/5
 
Characterization
 
4/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
4/5
 
  4 /5
 
  2.5/5
 
Imagery and use of language
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
4/5
 
4/5
 
  5 /5
 
  3 /5
 
Overall gut response to story
3.5/5  
3/5
 
3/5
 
4/5
 
  4 /5
 
   2.5/5
TOTAL 21.5/30 18/30 19/30 24/30 24/30 17/30
 
FINAL TOTAL 123.5/180
Comments: 
 
  1. Clean prose and a story with much promise. More dramatic tension could be incorporated into the unpacking of the story events.
 
  1. Branding as bullying is a new one for me. Smooth and logical storytelling.
 
My key problem with this character is that the voice doesn't sound like a 10-year-old. Try to find more original and specific details to bring this story to a more intense level.
 
The tragedy of this story is the rigid Christianity that injures the already traumatised child with its uncompassionate and bad advice. What I'd like from this story is more of the child's response to the nonsense of faith. That would really bring this to life for me. Perhaps rethink the reductive ending so as to avoid allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. This writer has made a fine start and has done well to be short-listed.
 
  1. The story held potential, but too many of the crucial turning points happened “off the page”.
 
  1. Really liked this one and, on second reading, it gave my first choice a run for its money. In the end, I decided the two stories were about equal in merit.
 
Here’s a tip for the writer: never, ever mention bile in a story again. It’s the biggest cliché on earth. I can’t seem to read anything now without bile making its appearance!
 
  1. This was a compelling read and the strong Cape flavour added a lot.
 
The local scene enhanced the story, which was basically one boy’s problem with a bully and how he was eventually pushed into doing something about it. 
 
This story progressed beautifully and when Isaac pulled out the pepper spray and finally found some power to use it against Max, I was cheering. The ending where the two boys see each other some years later and Isaac realises  no one had power over him anymore was perfect.
 
All three main characters came through loud and clear. Max the bully, a nasty piece of work and a gang leader in the making, totally obsessed with hurting Isaac. Ma was the poor, hard-working mother figure, sustained by her faith and doing her best to inspire her son to do the right thing. And like a lot of mothers, so out of touch with his real life at school.
 
Isaac was well drawn as a nice boy, very sensitive to his mother’s hard life and trying his best not to add to her worries by admitting to being bullied.
 
Wonderful strong images peppered all over: his intuition beeping Red Alert; her eyes – so navy they were almost black – bit into his heart and tasted the truth that spurted out from there.
 
The writer caught the flavour of the Cape without going overboard by slipping in a bit of taal.
 
This was a good read and I liked the way Isaac learns that no matter how satisfying, revenge isn’t what it’s all about.
 
  1. Engaging and humorous. At times a little didactic, but the sly revenge of the appealing protagonist effectively subverts this.
 
 
A Winter Sun Rising                                            
                                        SIX JUDGES’ RATINGS
  1 2 3 4 5 6
 
Readability: Does it hold your attention?
 
 
3.5/5
 
 
3/5
 
 
3/5
 
 
2 /5
 
 
  4 /5
 
 
   4/5
 
Originality
 
3.5/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
2 /5
 
  3 /5
 
   3/5
 
Flow (Does the story move smoothly from point to point?)
 
4/5
 
4/5
 
3/5
 
3 /5
 
  4 /5
 
   3/5
 
Characterization
 
4/5
 
3/5
 
5/5
 
2/5
 
  4 /5
 
   4/5
 
Imagery and use of language
 
3.5/5
 
5/5
 
3/5
 
2 /5
 
  5 /5
 
  3/5
 
Overall gut response to story
3.5.5  
4/5
 
4/5
 
1/5
 
  4 /5
 
   3/5
TOTAL 22/30 22/30 21/30 12/30 24/30 20/30
 
FINAL TOTAL 121/180
 
Comments: 
 
  1. A gentle, quietly sad story put across with clarity and understated style. Some beautiful descriptions, but at times overwritten – perhaps needs a more stern edit, to seek out phrases veering on cliché, unneeded adverbs, grammatical queries. Great touch the therapist’s ‘Shalom’.
 
  1. Poetic writing with lovely images. At first it looked a bit predictable, but the story engages the reader and holds one's attention. The writer has attempted to tell the story of the divorcee learning to love herself with a new slant, by taking us into the therapy room. Good flow taking the reader through her recovery. I'd have liked to see more of the quirks and eccentricities of the main character.
 
Lovely, poetic language; not overdone. Strong storytelling. Wish the author had the confidence to take a little more risks.
 
  1. The characters are beautifully recognised, and the story has real heart, real feeling. At times the language is too dense, the imagery could be sparser.
 
  1. Yes, this is a sad situation in real life, but compelling writing has stronger demands than a faithful retelling.
 
  1. This kept me riveted from the first word. There is a beautifully described bleakness about it which is compelling and I just kept on reading.
 
The story of one woman’s betrayal, misery and slow self healing. I don’t think the theme is all that original; in fact it’s one which is explored endlessly in women’s magazines but not in such a subtle, literary way.
 
I wouldn’t call this a story which flows easily. Rather, it jumps nervously from one short scene to another but this exactly mirrors Claire’s state of mind so for me, it worked well. 
 
Claire comes across clearly as a lonely, unhappy, self-absorbed woman. But the writer has masterfully ensured that we are on her side all the way through and empathise with her, even when she’s listening to that cliché -ridden therapist of hers. 
 
The character of the therapist was sketched in pastels but she was just as annoying as if she’s been painted in primary colours! She said all the things therapists are supposed to say.
 
Rikki – I’m not sure about. She seemed a bit odd, an abused teenager wandering around Scarborough beach all on her own but as a foil to Claire she worked well and as the conduit to Claire snapping out of her misery, she was fine.
 
The imagery and pictures this story called up were fabulous. Of all the final 6, this one made the most use of evocative phrases and indelible word pictures. Terrific! 
 
I read it, thinking all the way through, this is a terrific story. For me, it used all the senses, pulled all the right stops. This story of an unhappy woman worked on every level but I found the ending trailed off and was a bit of a disappointment. Although I suppose all this unhappiness needed a ray of hope at the end.
 
  1. Powerful evocation of depression and broken-heartedness. I like the open-ended ending, which leaves us wondering where the two women’s stories went next. It feels a bit more like an extract from a longer work to me though – not quite structured enough for a tight short story.
 
 
     A Simple Divinity                                                 
                                        SIX JUDGES’ RATINGS
  1 2 3 4 5 6
 
Readability: Does it hold your attention?
 
 
4/5
 
 
4/5
 
 
2/5
 
 
3/5
 
 
4 /5
 
 
4/5
 
Originality
 
3.5/5
 
5/5
 
4/5
 
1/5
 
4 /5
 
4/5
 
Flow (Does the story move smoothly from point to point?)
 
3.5/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
4 /5
 
3.5/5
 
Characterization
 
3.5/5
 
4/5
 
4/5
 
2/5
 
4 /5
 
3/5
 
Imagery and use of language
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
3/5
 
4/5
 
3 /5
 
2.5/5
 
Overall gut response to story
3.5/5  
4/5
 
3/5
 
0/5
 
5 /5
 
3/5
TOTAL 21/30 23/30 19/30 13/30 24/30 20/30
 
FINAL TOTAL: 120/180
 
Comments: 
 
  1. The author has achieved a fine atmosphere of mystery and potential danger. It needs more tension to be truly thrilling and a stern edit to root out unneeded adverbs and repetitions (e.g. ‘Slowly’ appears twice in first 3 paragraphs).
 
  1. A very scary story that very nearly held my attention from start to finish. Absolutely did not see the ending coming.
 
Where I lost interest was in the longish section where the narrator starts deconstructing why he does what he does. It interrupted the flow and were I not a judge in a contest, I'd have abandoned the story at that stage. Glad I didn't!
 
Complex, compelling character that is all too believable. There is something profoundly disturbed and disturbing about the main character in this story. Even thought right at the end we learn that he has harmlessly cut only a lock of his victim's hair, one has to wonder, what next? A fantastic character that could go a long way in a novel – to integration and normality, or to the ultimate act of devastation. Bold writing.  Hope this writer will take more risks in future.
 
This story loses power where the writer slips into "telling" mode, e.g. the "revolting" summer, the "malevolent" visit. Trust the reader. Avoid the compulsion to explain. This is a writer with much potential. Keep at it.
 
  1. The twist in the story is clever, but perhaps a little TOO clever, and comes a little too late – the build up is too long and too much “the same”.
 
  1. Beautifully written, but the story doesn’t do justice to the talent. I found something extremely repugnant in the whole idea. It makes no difference to me that the good writing made the character sound ‘justified’. This is the kind of self-aggrandizement popular on television shows like Dexter – which I actually enjoy – but as far as I’m concerned, it can stay there.
 
  1. This story gripped my attention but it flagged a bit in the middle, from the long paragraph which starts, “It had to be perfect” and ends ”His preparation was flawless.” To my dismay I found my eyes glazing over slightly at this point. There was too much analysing of him thinking about what he was doing and why and how...this slowed everything down and broke the terrific tension the writer was building up so well. Then it got back on track and continued to make me almost forget to breathe.
 
Planning a murder isn’t an original idea but planning a haircut definitely is! The writer kept his reader misdirected the whole way through, with the references to killing that were always uppermost in his mind even as he raised the knife above her head. An excellent twist at the end.
 
This flows well except for that hiatus when he thinks about his planning for too long in the middle. It started with him actually leaving the scene of the crime and although he’s holding her hair we are convinced this is just a souvenir of a murder he’s just committed.
 
We get to know the man pretty well as he moves through the night - a perfectionist, methodical, focused on the task he has set himself, supremely in control of his actions. And a complete weirdo.
 
Not much in the way of imagery but wonderfully well-described scenes.
I found I was getting more and more tense while I read this. Terrific!  The way he used his power over her NOT to kill her was a real kicker. Great story.
 
  1. Compelling build-up of tension, and a great twist in the tail. I felt the story could have done with a couple more rigorous revisions though, cutting the language back to the bone.
 
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