Here's what the judge, Peter Wells, had to say:
“Overall, I looked at more than 230 stories so a good story really had to stand out. The nine finalists caught my attention. Sometimes a story grabs you with its content, but usually it is the combination of content and style. There were many stories which seemed thinly disguised memoir. I didn’t feel this with the nine finalists: they seemed self sufficient stories in their own right. Each writer had gone that extra mile to make the story stand out. Even the title is important - it’s like looking at a menu and from what’s written you have to imagine the taste. I think the nine finalists could improve their work by reading short stories by acclaimed writers - people as various as Tolstoy, Elizabeth Bowen, Alice Munro as well as contemporary short story writers who appear each week in the New Yorker magazine, for example. It’s not an easy artform at all. And we all learn and become more enthusiastic about the short story by reading the great writers. But each of the finalists should feel heartened by the fact, in a such a big public competition, their work stood out. What separated their work from the winning entry? I would say the winning entry had more observation of the foibles of the way we interact as humans. It was quietly, even sardonically humorous. It was well tailored overall. Sometimes, strangely enough, if you relax with the medium, ie not necessarily try to tell 'big stories', you come up with a better result. But be encouraged. And dream up further stories.”Since my last post, the three winning stories have been posted on the BNZ's site. I've read them. Novitz's story probably does observe more foibles than mine... And his title is probably a better menu entry... Though I'm not sure, if given a contents page of twenty stories I'd turn to a story called 'Three Couples' first (or fifth).
More on reading habits and contents pages tomorrow.