Umoja writing competition 2016
Our 2016 winner Disha Raval received her trophy this week and this is what she had to say about it:
When I cut the packet open, I was absolutely stunned! I took a long look at it and the first thing that I said was, “WOW!” I felt, for a second, that I was dreaming! I felt (and I still am) extremely elated and quite thrilled to finally have my trophy!
I would like to thank ‘ Sunrise Rotary Club Bundaberg for sponsoring this amazing Project and Ms. Cathy Booth of Umoja Orphanage for doing such a wonderful thing for a wonderful cause.
I would also like to thank my Mum and Dad for supporting me through anything and everything that I do and lastly, I would like to thank all my teachers and everyone else that has supported me through anything I do.
I hope to continue writing as a passion and one day inspire someone else.
Thanks a Million.
Disha with her trophy for winning Umoja Writing Competition 2016.
If you would like more information about the Umoja Orphanage Project Kenya please click on this link.
Second Place Umoja Writing Competition 2016 – Stirring by Kirsten Leggett of Tasmania.
This is the first year we’ve included poetry and the first time a poem has been shortlisted. Of course you’ve heard of Kirsten before because she is last year’s winner. Congratulations to Kirsten for another wonderful entry. It looks like she will have a bright future in writing of all genres. Here is what the judges thought:
“Fabulous use of visual imagery, nouns, groups and figurative language. A fantastic poem, well written. Poems of this quality are difficult to write.”
“Poems, like all art, are subjective. I enjoyed the flow and wording and found it quite beautiful.”
The mountain looked beautiful this morning as the first rays of the sun bounced off its snowy face, its blushing cheeks turned skyward in the presence of peace.
I thought of you nestled in the gentle folds of its rocky slopes, on the leeward side tucked up in the warmth of blankets, dreams forming into memory.
Did you stir as the Currawong opened its eyes to a new day?
Perched in the forest that nudges your door.
Its feathers ruffled by frost bitten breath.
Did you sense the stealth of the winter air rolling over the mountain?
Overwhelming tree tops to seep under doors and slide between the crack that wedges dawn.
Did you pull the blanket a little closer to grasp another minute,
two or three, and linger in the gentle rhythm of the rising sun and the falling moon?
On this perfect day.
Did you feel as though you were held, just there, in that moment in time against the heaving heart of Mother Earth? If only for a second, with nothing but bricks and mortar between you.
We are proud to announce third place in the Umoja Writing Competition 2016.
Comments from our judges:
“This narrative really captured my attention and pulled at the hear strings. This is the job of a narrative. Well-structured and flowed well.”
“This was probably my top pick. I like the descriptive language and, yes, I did shed a tear or two. I felt like I was in the room with them. I also think the theme ‘peace’ was used perfectly.”
Now it’s your turn to read our third placed entry. Please let us know what you think in the comments below. You could also congratulate Kirsten on her writing.
Left Behind by Kirsten Leggett from Tasmania
I sat beside her bed with her hand in mine; hers wrinkled with age and with lines of wisdom etched into the folds. Her skin was thin these days, speckled with the countless hours in the sun, the time spent tending gardens, pegging washing on the line, holding the hands of her children, her grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I was here to say goodbye, to my grandmother but I could not seem to find the words. We had never had this problem in the past. Talking was never hard, like the heaviness of this moment, as though my heart was being dragged along the bottom of the ocean floor dredging up memories. Now, I felt the weight of this moment above me, bearing down on the inevitable.
She motioned with her free hand towards the drawer beside her bed, her eyes barely open and fixed on mine.
“Everyone must leave something behind,” she whispered. “My journal is yours darling; my last gift to you. You will know what to do with it when the time is right.”
I reached into the drawer and my fingers found the familiar feel of the black leather, smooth and worn from the years of my grandmother’s touch. I had run my hand over its surface so many times over the years, as I sat with her in her living area where she would write in the morning sun that streamed through her window. The past few years she had been documenting so much of her life, and the pages were brimming with memories, the ones too precious to abandon. I brought it out of its resting place and under the low light opened the cover. The scent of my grandmother rose from the pages, a blend of talcum powder and French lavender clinging to the animal hide that formed the bookends to her past. Each page was meticulously marked with a date, a memory, a reminder of a life lived. She no longer battled against the ailing this and failing that. That war was over. She had arrived at this place of surrender, and willingly so it seemed from the outside. She was done.
I can still hear the phantom words of the nursing staff; a gentle touch on my shoulder. “She will be at peace soon.”
Peace? A word so often associated with conflict and resolution I thought.
My grandmother’s words echoed in my conscience, “Life is not meant to be a battle. It is a joy, hardships and all. Embrace them as you would a new born child. We are the product of our life experience”.
I turned the page to see a photograph of my grandmother in her twenties, perched on the hood of a car, smiling into the sun as though she had just discovered the meaning of life, shards of light dancing around her, captured through the lens. It was the same photo that sat on top of her piano, nestled deep inside the confines of a mahogany frame, the one that lights up with the morning rays, and then fades back to a lingering memory as the sun passes over rooftops to settle in the west.
I wondered what I would leave behind, when it was time for me to leave this earth. How long would I linger in the memories of those I love? I know for a fact that I will always live on in the hearts of my children, and their children should I be lucky enough to see them born into this world. I wonder if I too will marvel at how advanced children are these days and how much has changed with the passing of time. With emerging wisdom will I see how precious each moment is, and treasure each milestone as they first smile, grow their first tooth and stumble and totter as they find their feet in this world? Their children may not remember me for I will be just a name, another story of a loved mother and grandmother like an ancient legend read from the pages of a story book. I would be no more than words left on pages, the source of genetic markers and colloquial sayings, my sentiments passed like a baton through generations.
Yet somehow, amongst this wondering I know my essence will remain, in the walls of the house I loved, the saplings that grew tall under my nurturing, and on the mountain trails I walked. Here I will linger, where the flowers burst forth under the mounting pressure of spring, where others too will pass, stop and stoop low to rest a paper thin petal on the tip of their finger and say, “My, look how beautiful you are.” I wonder, on the day that my spirit returns home, will the forest dance and sway in the mountain mist and whisper on the wind “Yes, she found it, all that she had been longing for.”
As I turn another page, a flattened sprig of lavender falls to my lap and my grandmother closes her eyes. I kiss her gently on the forehead. “I see you found it too,” and we sat in the presence of peace, together, just one more time.
Congratulations to Kirsten for again entering a well-written and engaging story. It was a pleasure to read it.
Lots of people think writers live in a dream world, constantly thinking up stories.
It’s not really like that because there’s a lot of thinking that never turns into a story. Ideas twist and turn around a writer’s brain a bit like clay in a sculptures hand, until those ideas turn into actual writing.
Sometimes getting a story down takes years, like a researched novel or life story. Sometimes a story takes moments of scribbled ideas.
It doesn’t matter where your thinking goes as long as you don’t procrastinate. If you procrastinate you can kid yourself that you will write that story one day (and never actually do it).
So even if your thinking hasn’t got you to a full-formed story, just start writing. If you don’t put pen to paper or start tapping on the keyboard your ideas will forever remain in your brain and you can never share them that way.
It’s just like this competition. If you have been thinking you had plenty of time to start and you’re still thinking about it – start your writing now.
And on that note – get your entry in before it’s too late.
Remember this competition is about encouraging writing but it’s also a fundraiser for Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Please help them by entering.
Time is slipping away. Tick, tock ticking away.
Have you started your entry yet? How long do you take to draft a story, edit and polish it? Weeks? Days? What about months?
There’s just two months left before our 26th August closing date. Stop reading this and get writing.
To give you some inspiration here’s another writing quote:
I hope this has encouraged you to enter but if you’re not convinced, think about the children of the Umoja Orphanage Kenya where all funds raised from this competition go to. Cathy and her team have done a wonderful job so far and will open the doors to the children very soon. Though of course, more money is needed for their ongoing care and to create their sustainable orphanage.
Are you wondering how to win this competition?
We’ve decided to repeat the advice we gave entrants when this competition began in 2014. best advice to help you win in 21 tips. Try some of these tips to help give you a better chance:
- Adhere to traditional standards of writing such as punctuation, spelling, grammar and syntax. Particularly, if the competition is run by a school or university and more so, a publisher. Wouldn’t you like to be noticed by someone who could publish your writing? Get it right.
- Use the rules of the contest but keep creative within the given theme. If you don’t write using the theme your entry will go straight to the bottom, or the shredder. This theme ‘Peace’.
- Literature contests may be looking for originality, refinement, depth, a subtext, and intellectual use of language; an emphasis on interesting characters, and setting rather than plot. Think description over dialogue, usually. A writing competition, (rather than literature contest) will sway towards popular fiction, but many ask for essays, articles and other forms of writing so read the rules and requirements thoroughly.
- This particular competition is on the theme ‘Peace’ and since so many of us are hoping for peace in a volatile time for our planet, the theme encompasses many things, so find a unique angle. Freshness and individuality will stand out.
- A great starting paragraph and an absorbing plot that follows your main character on some sort of journey or conflict. Finish with no lose ends.
- Use the correct tense throughout the story. Don’t change from ‘has to be’ to ‘had to be’ later. It’s annoying and incorrect.
- Do not use a passive voice. Active voice will win over the judges.
- Dialogue must be believable, readable and colloquial.
- Choose an exceptional title. First impressions count but it must be relevant to the story.
- Be original. I know you’re thinking the theme takes that away, but it doesn’t. Again, be creative.
- Edit your work thoroughly with at least three drafts. I always read out loud when I think I’ve finished my last draft. This often picks up things you can no longer see because you’ve been looking at it for too long.
- Don’t confuse the judges or potential readers with too many characters in a short story.
- In short stories you have little enough word count so make each word count.
- Clichés are just that; cliché. Avoid them.
- Use strong verbs rather than adverbs.
- Fit your entry to the competition you have entered. If it’s for a women’s romance writers’ group it needs to be romance. If it’s for a mystery writers’ group it would be impossible to win without a whodunit or twisting plot.
- Don’t put your name on the manuscript. Your name goes on your entry form but not your manuscript for good reason. The judges need to read each entry on it’s merit alone. The judge wants to see writing that shines not writers.
- Format using 12 point Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica unless the competition rules specify something else. Usually double spaced and indented at the left column. Pages numbered and a word count shown.
- Competitions often give a choice between hard copy or email. Read carefully which they prefer, choose hard copy if you want to pay postage. Emailing submissions my change your formatting but as most people are computer literate now, send this way if you feel comfortable with it. Emails are a quicker way to enter if you are pushing the deadline. We prefer emailed entries where possible so we do not have to re-type if your entry wins (we are all volunteers).
- Do not bribe the judges or think that fancying up your application will help. No cute little post-it messages asking them to choose you as a winner. No hidden chocolates. Definitely no sprays of perfume that may set off my hay fever.
- Do not add pictures to your manuscript (unless of course it’s a travel feature that requires a photograph), just send a plain double spaced entry and let your writing win for you.
And finally, proofread for a final third or fourth time thoroughly. As I said before, I find reading out loud helps pick up on most errors. Make sure there are no typos. For example; use of your ears is not ‘here’ it’s ‘hear’. Check your words, check your spelling and triple check your punctuation. Judges will critic these mercilessly and one error may see you lose. One correction could see you win. I hope you win.
Have fun and good luck with your entry.
To enter go to: Rules & Entry Form
Where does your Umoja Writing Competition Entry Fee go?
If you haven’t read more about it yet you can read the latest Rotary Newletter and even subscribe to it if you like.
The biggest highlights from the latest on the Umoja Orphanage Kenya are:
- 2016 will be the year we open the doors to the first children’s home (need $10,00 more to achieve this).
- Education of our social worker, Kevin (sponsored through university and the first person in his village to attain a university degree). How cool is that!
- Training our first house mamma (who will look after our orphans beautifully).
- Completion of our chicken shed (will house 300 chickens but we need to fill it).
- 40ft container of donated goods arrived on site (full of bedding and clothing ready for the orphans).
- Three-level water tower to hold 50,000 litres of water (thanks to a grant from Australian Aid).
- Kitchen with traditional Lamu ceilings.
- Cathy did some guest speaking at Rotary Clubs in NSW.
- Thank you to all the kind helpers, especially 90 year old Rene who is in a nursing home in Bundaberg and knits for the children.
So you can see that just $10 will go a long way (but if you can give more when you enter that would be gratefully appreciated too). Let’s all make this the best fundraiser for Umoja Orphanage yet. Tell all your writing friends. Tell all your non-writing friends. We welcome essayists, poets, travel writers and creative writers, so even novices can give it a go. Have fun and remember that writing can be a gateway to anywhere.