Home > Art, Site News, Stories > Tales From Under the Mistletoe – Results!

Tales From Under the Mistletoe – Results!

So, the judging for 2009’s Tales From Under the Mistletoe is complete, and the results are ready to be announced! Here’s how it’s going to go: I’ll go through each submitted story (ordered by author (nick)-name) with a short paragraph or two discussing my opinions on the submission, and possibly the opinions of some other people as well. At the end of the paragraph I’ll give each submission a simple overall rating out of 10.

I know that might seem a bit weird, seeing as assessments of this sort are usually done in a number of preset areas (like setting, impact, originality, and so on) and then aggregated into a final result. However, I (personally – I am, after all, only an amateur) find that when I try to do this kind of breakdown for literature, I become distracted by my own preconceptions of what’s important and what’s not, thus losing sight of the original vision and spirit of the piece, and hence producing biased results.

So, my amateur opinions on the judging of literature contests aside, I do have something else to add before I get to the actual results part of this post. This is most elegantly summed up by a short note I found on Michelle’s submission petpage:

Anyway, this isn’t a competition, just an activity. ENJOY!

The main point of the Tales From Under the Mistletoe activity is just that: to be an activity. It’s meant to give the writers in this guild a chance to showcase their skills (and to provide everybody else with free stories). Writers enjoy writing. Readers enjoy reading. The judging and ranking part is secondary, and present because writers usually like a little feedback.

With that in view, I’d like to say that all of the entries this year were amazing, awesome, fascinating, incredible, marvellous, prodigious… I’ll stop reading from the thesaurus now. πŸ˜› I’ve read every entry more times than I can count. I would have done so even if I wasn’t obligated to scavenge desperately for apparent bad points so I could make a futile attempt to sound like a professional reviewer. πŸ˜‰

Okay, while we’re on the subject of Michelle’s submission:

Gifted Wishes by Michelle

Here we have the sweet story of Erumake, an adorable little Apple Chia on his first ever Christmas in Faerieland. Hold on… did I say sweet? I definitely need to find a much stronger adjective to use there. Or maybe I could borrow something from one of the stunningly vivid descriptive passages Michelle crafted for her story. Wait… did I say stunningly vivid? I definitely need to- well, you get the picture.

Not only do Michelle’s descriptive writing skills put the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ to shame, but she also has a knack for placing them in a way that not only avoids interfering with the story, but serves to enhance its flow and bring it forward. Not to mention that the story itself is… well, let’s just say that if I could hug Erumake, I would! (Note to Michelle and Erumake: pleeease?)

To round things off, the story’s humour is original and well placed, and the overall plot with its resolution hits the Christmas Spirit spot on. As far as bad points go… hmm… well, I did feel that the storyline itself and some of its characters lacked depth. I do realise this is a short story and all, but this contrasts a bit with the degree of descriptive detail in the story. When I start reading a narrative with such fantastic descriptions, I kind of expect the character development and plot to follow suit. That is, however, more of a personal perception, and it has barely any effect on the story’s general atmosphere.

Still, I’m going to be stingy and give Gifted Wishes a (well earned!) 8 out of 10.

Steven’s Submission

My word, it’s a poetry submission! And a rhyming one too! Of considerable length! That alone commands some serious respect. But there’s more: this tale carries a clear, coherent, heartwarming message that practically glows with the Christmas Spirit. In addition, the poem sets the scene wonderfully and is truly well paced throughout.

The only things left for me to nitpick at here are a few minor language mistakes. Mind you, the poem is almost entirely typo free (extra kudos to Steven for that!), and the ones that exist are mostly straightforward and easy to ignore. However, every here and there is a little blip (like an unusual change in tense or a word that seems out of place) which slightly disrupts the flow of the poem. It’s like a mini speed bump that makes you slow down and go ‘oh!’ before stumbling back into the rhythm again. However, the errors are really minor – it’s just that the poem is so well paced that even the slightest bump does stand out rather a bit.

Anyway, who am I to talk? I can barely even write coherent poetry. πŸ˜› I (conservatively) hand Steven a very respectable 8 out of 10.

No Snow? by Uyi

Uyi’s stories have a very unique touch to them: I’ve never seen anybody integrate the sights, sounds, peoples, and places of Neopia into their writing as well as he has. No Snow? is no exception to this, and true to form his determined pets’ quest to make it snow in Neopia Central spans a variety of smoothly rounded settings. References abound, both to Neopia’s existing features and his characters’ other adventures. Even alert readers will probably have entertaining surprises jump out at them on the second or third read. They’re often laced with a humorous spin too! I think by now many of you know that I just can’t resist humorous spins. πŸ˜‰

Uyi works his characters into the story’s well formed world especially well, making good use of the settings to bring out his pets’ personalities. While a single short story is usually far from sufficient to get to know the protagonists well, their dialogue and behaviour provide readers with tantalising glimpses: a spark of spunk here, a sprinkle of sarcasm there; they add up and serve to give the story a great feel of depth and strength. And if you already know the characters, then you won’t be disappointed – the descriptions in this story mesh well with the characteristic Neopets we’ve come to know and love.

The storyline itself is fast, flippant, and fun – something that’s quite hard to achieve if you’re writing with depth at the same time. Uyi pulled it off nevertheless, and this story is very much a start-to-finish, what-happens-next affair. I’d call it a page turner, but unfortunately I have yet to acquire an e-reader.

So, criticism! Well, imagine me staring blankly at my computer screen for a few minutes and you pretty much have it down. Okay, I’m being dishonest, I actually went to grab a cookie before starting work on this section. πŸ˜› Really, there’s not a whole lot to criticise here. Of course, the story’s not perfect: there are a few spots with grammar errors and punctuation that’s just standing there looking mighty uncomfortable in its pyjamas. Additionally, a few edit runs could greatly improve the flow in some sections of the narrative. But there’s nothing bad enough to jump out and slap you in the face as you read it.

So overall, No Snow? gets a 9 out of 10 from me.

The Final Tally

Here come the results!

Gifted Wishes by Michelle and Steven’s poem were both rated 8 out of 10, so they are therefore tied for second place! “That’s cheating!” I hear you cry – well look, it was all I could do not to just go and rate all three entries 10 out of 10 and have them tie for first place. πŸ˜› All the submissions this year were excellent, and ranking them was an exceedingly difficult task.

So, that leaves No Snow?, rated 9 out of 10, with the glamorous seat of the first place winner! Congratulations Uyi!

All right, it’s time to wrap up this exceedingly long results post with a standard disclaimer: I am not a professional reviewer or author, as should be evident from my distinctly unprofessional reviews. I’m just a guy who likes to write and reads way too much. πŸ˜‰ The remarks in this post are opinions only, and of course everybody is fully entitled to their own. When it comes down to it, I just hope you enjoyed these Tales From Under the Mistletoe!

  1. bluerang1
    January 4, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Woohoo! I could have critisized my Story more though >__>

    • AA
      January 4, 2010 at 5:32 pm

      Because you’re a better author than me? πŸ˜›

  2. meshelle
    January 4, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    A well-deserved win, Uyi. πŸ™‚

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