Second weekly winner!

Hurro!

The second weekly winning is “Wings” by Laurie Meekis. Prize of $50 AUD. Go buy a pony. A very small pony. Perhaps to carry your keys on a collar around its neck.

Why I love “Wings”

The first sentence is so very formal and serious. This is an important ceremony! Then the second sentence reminds us that every ceremony we take part in was created by us – and maybe aren’t as formal as we pretend they are. I like it because it reminds us that even those of high-status in our society are people as well. I also like it because of the joking reference to sex in the midst of a very formal ceremony. Sex is entwined intimately with our experiences and an integral part.

Finally – I like it because I can imagine it so very clearly, the breaking wave of laughter, the stories that come from it. Based on a real life story it also has lived probably a thousand times in telling and retelling.  Much fun.

Again it was hard

Another week and even more entries that I thought were simply fantastic (and which have moved up to the top of the ratings). Yes it was hard to choose a winner but please, don’t make it easy for me. Keep going!

Two weeks left

One more week and another whopping $50 AUD prize awarded!  Then a week later I’ll be awarding the first ($150), second ($100) and third ($50) prizes.

Thank you all again for entering – I’ve been very much enjoying it and also enjoying following links back to sites to read your other writing.

cheers,

Mat

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Rating: 5.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Third weekly winner!

Hurro!

The third weekly winner is “Free” by Jean Blasiar. Prize of $50 AUD. Enough to buy a micro-advertisement printed on the wing of a butterfly.

Why I love “Free”

The unknown presumed crime intrigues me.  What could possibly happen so one person is free from responsibility yet the other is not? Then what could possibly happen to fill an entire book?  I think I imagined some Russian scandal, a 1984-ish world where two party members disagreed and that disagreement lead to betrayal.

I particularly like it for the implied connection between the two people in the story. Perhaps they were friends, co-creators, a team working together to make something great. Then, as some teams do … it all broke down in a flurry of lawsuits and accusations.

Congratulations!

Comma Comma, killer of winners

There are a few stories I love but won’t win because of misplaced commas. I know what they’re trying to say but what they are saying is something else.

I suggest trying out your story (and all writing in general) sans commas to see if it still is correct. Peppering needless commas in the place of mental pauses is incorrect.

If you are using commas parenthetically, like this, then you need to ensure if the phrase enclosed within commas was removed the sentence is still correct.

–          You might notice a “that” could be added to the above sentence. But would this improve the comprehension of the sentence? This is the purpose of grammar – to improve and enhance comprehension.

“Commas,” said Mathew, “go inside quotation marks when writing dialogue.”

“Certainly,” said the three-toed sloth, not looking up from the chessboard.

Enough grammar.  Wikipedia’s comma article is a good read.

I’ve struggled with awarding prizes to fantastic stories that have a grammatical problem. My writer half says chill out and award it with a corrected version below. My editor half is strict and wants to karate-chop anyone committing a grammatical error (myself included).  Should I privately write back to the author and show them how to improve their work? Or should I do so publicly so everyone can learn from it?  Argh, I don’t know.  Suggestions welcome.

BIG prizes next week!

Next Sunday I’ll be awarding a $150 first prize, a $100 second prize and a $50 third prize!

All stories entered up to 6pm Sunday 1st March (Australian East coast time) are eligible for prizes. Write write write! Swamp the site!

Clarification: (because clarity is what good writing is all about) — ALL entries for the entire competition time and all new entries are eligible for the grand prizes.  That means an entry from weeks ago can win and one submitted at three minutes to six on March 1st can win!

Cheers,

Mat

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Rating: 5.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Two Sentence story grand final winners

Hurro!

After a long time of reading and thinking and balancing and consulting with local neighbourhood cats, I’ve finally decided the grand final winners!

First prize $150

[Your Title Here]

You’re an open book.

And I’m an illiterate.

Why I love [Your Title Here]

It’s the “an” in the second sentence that clinched it for me. It could be removed, making the sentence “And I’m illiterate” but with the “an” in place the sentence takes on a subtler meaning. To me, “I’m illiterate” suggests a temporary condition, one curable by schooling. “I’m an illiterate” seems to be a more permanent state of being and makes reference to the group of illiterates to which the narrator belongs.

I like the play on words, reading and understanding and the connection to relationships. This story also made me think about how people utterly fail to understand other people – almost as though they were written in an indecipherable language.

And finally, the story made me think about how learning to read opens up the wealth of human knowledge which has been stored over time. Reading is the key to these riches. Yet there are few guides or formal classes on learning how to read people, emotions and motivations. Without them, we’re stumbling around having to learn it anew each time.

Second prize $100

yoshiyahu

The grasshopper
was large,
and still,
and as I got closer
clearly brave
or stoned
because it didn’t move,
even when I was a footfall away.

Then I realized; it had happened to die standing on all six legs.

Why I love yoshiyahu

I actually thought of the Praying Mantis when I read this story because they are sometimes not afraid of humans and will stand there watching as you approach. The “clearly brave or stoned” is funny – the suggestion that a cricket not moving has a human motivation rather than an insect one. The grasshopper is built up to be brave, large, standing still and possibly stone and then shown to be dead, standing on all six legs.  I loved this conclusion for two reasons.

The first: it made me think of the marvellous poem by D.H. Lawrence titled “Self Pity”:

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

The grasshopper is dead, standing on its feet, its quiet death like billions upon billions of insects and animals, dead without pity, without note and without the emotion surrounding human death.

The second reason: it made me think of Robert Louis Stephenson’s comment regarding aging, dying and the slow sink of becoming an invalid: “I wish to die in my boots; no more Land of Counterpane for me. To be drowned, to be shot, to be thrown from a horse – ay, to be hanged, rather than pass again through that slow dissolution.”

This grasshopper died standing up, on it’s feet. It died in its boots.

This to me was of particular interest: animals and insects continue about their lives until they die whereas humans can slip into misery, quiet and a deliberate fading away.

Third prize $50

The Beautiful Magnet Girl

I ate my way through two painful tonnes of solid iron. She still wasn’t attracted to me.

Why I love The Beautiful Magnet Girl

It’s simple and it’s funny. I got a clear image of a man sitting down, eating two painful tonnes of solid iron, all in the quest for a girl. Ah, the stupid things men do to attract girls! That ridiculous risk-taking that, of course, pays off and so generates more risk-taking of a even more extreme nature. I like the idea of Magnet Girl as well. Who is she? A superhero? Or simply a girl who is attracted to iron?

Making the choices

I compiled a list of stories I loved (and were reasonbly high rated) and then read them over and over to finally pick three.  This was quite hard and I think if I made a list in a few days then I might pick a different three. I never realised how hard it was to judge a competition when there was more than a few good entries. It’s one of those good problems to have.  I’ve struggled with rewarding some writers and not rewarding others though and felt terrible about choosing because it implies some stories from the list aren’t as good as others.

Anyways, I’ll be putting up the list I consider the “best of” in a few days.

Thank you so much for entering everyone!  Now the competition is over please feel free to put up two sentence stories in the future. I’ll be running a competition again and anyone who has ever entered will be eligible to win.

thanks again,

Mat

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Rating: 9.8/10 (4 votes cast)

First weekly winner!

Hurro!

The first weekly winner is “Supposing” by Sharon Cohen. Prize of $50 AUD (which depending on where you are in the world can buy you a decent meal, a small sandwich or a modest house).

Why I love “Supposing”

I was completely lulled by the melodramatic tone. My initial thought was that it was another heart-breaking sad story. Then came that toilet flush!

Suddenly I was thinking – how long was this person in the bathroom? How long does it take to soak a pillow with tears? What happens when they come back to bed? Do they discover the narrator with swollen eyes and salty skin?

The comedic twist is perfectly matched to counter the over-the-top melodrama preceding it.

Congratulations Sharon!

Thanks for making it a hard decision

Or not! Argh! You people with your crazy writing skills making this so frustratingly difficult to choose a weekly winner. So many good entries. So many great entries. So many excellent-oh-my-god-that-is-amazing entries. If I had multiple weekly prizes I could have easily awarded them.

I’m not going to comment on the stories right now because I don’t want to skew the competition. Let’s just say that there are many amazing entries, possible future winners and a lot of damn talented writers out there. When the competition is over I’ll write a post about the various entries I love.

I’ve been following links in posts back to websites and again I have to say you are a talented bunch. I admit I had a little professional jealousy when I read various blog posts. Thank you all for entering the competition and putting your work up on my site.

On the stats and voting

For those interested in statistics …

Some stories have a very small spread of scores – say mostly sevens and eights. Others have a greater spread – some tens, some fives, some ones. Others have widely varied scores – a bunch of tens, a bunch of ones and a few in the middle.

The problem is that each of these stories can show up with the same overall score of eight-ish.

The stories with widely varying scores do generally fit into the love it or hate it category. This I put down to how particular readers react to certain stories – demographic differences.

Excluding outliers (the single one on a story that has mostly eights, nines and tens for example) gives a more accurate rating for some stories. As the number of people scoring the story increase, it becomes less necessary to worry about this. I will say this – there are some fiveishsevenish stories that really do look like they fit into the love/hate category. Lots of tens and lots of ones.

Also, you may have noticed that new stories can leap to the top of the sidebar list and then drop down again. I deliberately left the scoring so only a very few votes could push a story up to the top. As I hoped, this means that more people read them and score them – quickly pushing them to a more accurate rating.

Ok, enough stats.

The competition continues …

Thank you all so much again for taking part in the competition and spreading the word via twitter, websites and other places around the interwebs. I love two sentence stories and I’m very chuffed that so many people out there like them as well.

One week until next prize, another week to another prize and then a week later comes the big $150 first prize, $100 second prize and $50 third prize!

I’ve had a lot of fun with this. Thanks for keeping me entertained.

Cheers,

Mat

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Rating: 7.5/10 (4 votes cast)