The intention was to read all entries within as short a timeframe as possible to make it easier to compare them. I should also point out that entries were stripped of their cover sheets when transferring to eReaders to try and keep the judging process as gender blind and age blind as possible.
Any entries of sufficient quality were immediately placed on a long list to be discussed further, any that entirely failed to meet the brief or weren't of a high enough overall standard were not progressed into the next round of judging. A two man team then went through the long list and discussed both the things we liked and the thinks we disliked about each story, with particular emphasis on how closely they matched the theme of 'New Beginnings' or if they had a unique way of approaching that theme. More stories were discarded at this stage which left us with our official long list of ten, as published on the site mid-April.
The ten long listed stories were then read again, one after the other, in search of our strongest favourites. This left us with four entries that we felt stood out markedly from the rest of the long list. This formed the basis of the shortlist that was published on this site on 1st May. At this point the rest of the judging panel was notified, another author and a keen book-lover. The members of the panel were asked initially to rank the stories from first to last, as the initial two man team had done in secret. Any large discrepancies in rank between the judges were discussed, before we settled on a winner and runner up we agreed on.
It is worth pointing our that all four stories that made the shortlist had their own distinct merits and were loved by differing members of the judging panel. In fact all four stories occupied all four positions on various judge's scorecards! The overall winner did, however, place highest on average across all scorecards. In the end we settled on just one winner and just one runner up, which I hope the other two shortlisted authors can forgive.
So, onto the runner up...
The judging panel were hugely impressed with this short story's use of the theme and the overall message it contained. Some passages were extremely immersive and really captured the imagination of the reader. The premise of the story was clearly defined, the 'New Beginning' was both literal and metaphorical and as a result this story probably best encapsulated the theme. Whilst it was clear from the overall quality of writing we were reading the work of our youngest entrant, never did that stop us from wholeheartedly enjoying a beautifully written story.
Congratulations to nine year old Evie Mundy for her short story Half past nine, again?. The full story can and indeed should be read by clicking here.
Now we move onto the winning entry...
This entry was one that every member of the judging panel enjoyed and it was immediately obvious to each judge that it was an extremely accomplished piece of short story writing. The author chose a thoroughly modern interpretation of the theme of 'New Beginnings', treating the subject with the necessary poise and grace that allowed for an enlightened and thought-provoking tale. A real sense of time and place, as well as character, made this story an enjoyable read for all the judges. The prose carefully foreshadowed the eventual reveal without overstating or spoiling it, treading that delicate line with aplomb.
Congratulations to our winning author Rachel Heatherly for her short story Venetian Class, which can be read in full by clicking here.
Both Evie and Rachel will be contacted by email regarding their respective prizes. Commiserations to the other two shortlisted authors Cara and Lynne, who came extremely close to winning and on another day would likely have tasted success.
Please feel free to comment on this post, as well as the two individual short stories, but please be aware that comments will be moderated to ensure healthy debate without unnecessary unkindness.
Once again thanks to everyone who entered and please stay tuned as I may run another competition early next year and will hopefully be able to attract a sponsor with a view to offering more lucrative prizes.