Winner Announcement: The Row Out Of Jail Free Award

A NiTH veteran took on a newcomer in this week’s combo award.

Judges in action

It’s always interesting to see how judges approach the award. Each brings their own unique style to both feedback and scoring, which is part of what makes Needle In The Hay so unique.

Without giving too much away, a judge that’s been pretty active recently has shown me a list of criteria they use to pick the winner.

While this doesn’t paint the whole picture (criteria are weighted based on certain factors) it does give a bit of insight into what goes into making a great story.

How often do we, as writers, hit all these marks? It’s no easy task, especially when you’ve got only a handful of words to tell your story.

Still, you persevere, and when the short lists are as good as they have been recently, both readers and writers are well rewarded.

Shortlist recap

This week we combined the two best stories from two separate contests. We did this because:

  • We take writing seriously
  • We only want to publish the best stories
  • We want our Patreon shortlists to be awesome

The matchup saw Lydia Trethewey go head-to-head with newcomer Cheryl Fairclough.

Fashion Wars by Fairclough was described by one judge as:

…set in that tricky between-war period, where it must be hard to resist foreshadowing global political tensions, and Cheryl instead cleverly explores the (seemingly-timeless) rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. It was particularly good to have the opposing viewpoints appearing in newsprint, on the same day, with near-identical closing statements.

It’s both satirical and insightful, and a great introduction to NiTH from a new author.

Lydia’s Unspeakable took on much more contemporary subject matter. One judge described the story like this:

A heavy and touchy subject matter made this story relevant and a massive task to take on. I felt as a reader that there wasn’t a character I was meant to agree with, and whether than was intentional or not it provided the reader the ability to choose. This can often be seen as undecided and ‘safe’ writing since the author doesn’t take a stance, but I think it allows control and the readers perspectives to alter the tale – which is great.

It seems like everyone has a different take on what to think about Unspeakable, but if one thing is unanimous z it’s that it was a worthy addition to the shortlist.

Winner Announcement

Because the stories were taken from two different awards, judges had the choice to either:

  • Judge both stories regardless of the criteria, on their own merits alone, or
  • Judge each against their own criteria

Overall, it made things pretty fair. With the scores all in and totalled, less than 3 points separated our two writers. Please congratulate Lydia Trethewey for another strong win with her story, Unspeakable.

Both authors receive feedback from the judges and a share in our Patreon sponsorship, so thank you as always to our sponsors for making that happen.

And while we’re talking of sponsors, don’t forget to check out our latest publication. Exclusive paperbacks of WOLVES are available right now. Check it out and help support grassroots authors with a great paperback edition.