Farpais Bhliadhnail 2022
Annual Competition 2022
Annual Competeetion 2022
Hoping to return our annual competition to it's usual spot, around the Vernal Equinox, this year entries on 1st July and the judges read the pieces through the summer. Winners were notified on 23rd September, and announced across our social media, later that day.
A Playground in Beijing
Open: Short Story
Open: Flash Fiction
Room 12, The Dissection of Anna J, Aged 101
Walking with Shadows
Stephen Eric Smyth
Dreich, Dour an Drouthy
The Alcomie o Curlin
Buannaiche / Winner
Marcas Mac an Tuairneir
Gaoir na Gaoithe
Ri Shàr-mholadh / Highly Commended
Ri Mholadh / Commended
Farpais Bhliadhnail 2023
Annual Competition 2023
Annual Competeetion 2023
The judges thoroughly enjoyed reading your work.
We will be updating the website with their reports, through the week.
Judged by Morag Anderson, Federation Makar
There were so many superb poems which made selecting only three a real challenge. However, the final three kept creeping into my mind at odd hours of the day or night and left me with more questions than answers.
Winner - A Playground in Beijing
This poem feels immediately intimate, as though I am already in conversation with the writer on the issue of tattoos; and the opening sentence is contentious – it grips me. My children are now becoming young adults and the question of jurisdiction of the body has been topical. This clever poem asks me to question control - seen / unseen, known / unknown - which is pertinent given the restrictions we all experienced in 2020 and 2021. It also asks me what it takes to rebel, quietly but defiantly. Impious is a perfect word choice. Imp – a young shoot; devilish. Impious - lacking respect or reverence. This poem is succinct and sparse but leaves me with far-reaching questions about authority and ownership of the self.
Highly Commended - Blue Garden
The first line of this poem, 'We are so pleased with it', drew me straight in. 'Pleased with what?' I wanted to know. By the end of the poem, I was still unsure what 'blue' was being yearned for in this fabulist poem, mixing the fantastical with the everyday. After the tranquility of the penultimate stanza of sedated peace, with no purpose other than to be lulled, the final stanza is so unexpected. The 'moth children' with their tiny pointed teeth.
This poem has an open heart, quietly welcoming the uninvited.
Commended - Temporal Shift, after Philip Larkin
This beautiful poem is eight short lines of wonderment and craft. It lingers long after reading and continues to return at unexpected moments. The poet’s use of language is very clever - 'the future behind me'. Like the train, the movement in this poem jolts, it makes me question my understanding of certainty. The final stanza is excellent: 'the folks facing forwards - they think they see what’s coming'. Perhaps, when assessed by others, the things about which I am certain are not that certain after all.
Open: Short Story
Judged by Carol McKay, Federation Scriever
The short story competition was for stories of between 500 and 2,000 words. Fifty-three stories were entered. Two were submitted by post but the majority were sent via email. All were anonymised before being sent to me for judging.
The standard was incredibly high. If you didn’t make it through to the shortlist this time, keep at it! Each of those fifty-three stories had something to recommend it. I read each one for the pleasure, making sure to read only a handful per day, as it was important to approach each submission fresh.
By assigning each one a grade, I drew up a longlist. Ten stories deserved a very close re-read. Again, I assigned each one a score out of ten. By adding the scores over the two rounds, I reached my longlist of six. The sifting process was getting harder!
Once I had my longlist, I set them all aside for several days. By now, I knew which stories had had the biggest impact on first reading, and which had had lasting impact. Originality, freshness, vitality – these are essential. So, too, is legacy – the sense that your story will linger in the reader’s mind.
Of note is that the stories which reached furthest in the competition had made maximum use of the available word count, coming in at just under 2,000 words. This gave them room to develop character, plot, sense of place, and language.
Also of interest is that more stories featured main characters who were men. Of the fifty-three stories, thirty-one had male leads, seventeen had female leads, and five were indeterminate. Of the shortlisted stories, only one of the six featured a woman as main character. In one, the sex of the main lead wasn’t stated, and the other four focused on incidents in the lives of men.
I wondered about this and contacted the FW(S) committee member who had processed and anonymised the stories. She got back to me to tell me that twenty submissions seemed to be from men while thirty seemed to be from women. This could open up so many questions about unconscious bias, couldn’t it? Not just in this judge, but in society in general. At this point, I have no way of knowing who the writers of the shortlisted stories (or any of the others) are, but it’s going to be interesting to find out.
By mentioning the tendency towards male leads, I’m not recommending this as a strategy to follow. Just highlighting it as something we should all be asking questions about. Back to the judging!
• Angie Babe
• The Bank Holiday Crowd
• Heritage Society
• My Birds
• The Summer of Pickles
My sincere congratulations to all longlisted authors. It was honestly a very close-run thing. I give honorary mentions to the three who didn’t make it to be prize-winners. Don’t be disheartened! You were almost there! Now, on to the winners.
Winner – Angie Babe
Set in Leith, this is an energetic, fast-paced and emotionally raw story of love and addiction. There’s nothing spare or superfluous in this comprehensive portrayal of characters who seem to occupy a separate world within our stable and ordered society. Compelling from the start, it builds to a crisis point that leaves the reader aching for a good outcome for the main character beyond the final full stop. Beautifully conceived and written, and deeply affecting. Congratulations! A worthy winner.
Highly Commended – Heritage Society
A recently widowed man has been trying to fill the void in his life by joining a club that records details of old ruined villages in the wild landscape. Perceptive, tender and astute observations on older age are key to this story, along with a sense of personal isolation when life seems to go on as normal for others. Some arresting phrasing and a touch of humour in the reflections, too.
Commended – My Birds
This is a breath-takingly beautiful story about the bonds of love, and about freedom, and care-giving. The main character is buried almost completely when their house collapses on top of them during an earthquake. It’s like being in a cage – like the person’s much loved pet birds. A story about physical and emotional inter-reliance, with an uplifting ending.
Open: Flash Fiction
Judged by Liane McKay, Soor Plooms Press
Through forty-five, entries I crossed paths with super-smart poodles, sly climbing instructors, deadly cleaners, and the devil himself, all while travelling through the Swiss mountains, into shopping centres and tattoo studios, and across a post-apocalyptic Central Belt of Scotland. At one point, I even found myself inside the mind of a crocodile. The stories submitted gave the highs – and lows – of family life, ghostly apparitions, scenes of first loves, and a description of chippie chips that made my mouth water!
I am grateful to the anonymous writers who shared their work, and to the Federation of Writers (Scotland) for giving me the opportunity to read and enjoy it.
My judging process started with a basic read-through of all the entries, making notes in a spreadsheet to capture some details and initial reactions. I set this aside for a week, before rereading all entries a second time. From here, I formulated a longlist, then with a third read-through of those selected pieces came a shortlist. The six stories jostled around in my head for a while (albeit with a clear Top 2) until I was able to pin down the winning trio.
It was difficult to pick a winner from so many great entries, but it is my pleasure to give the authors of the following three stories hearty congratulations:
Winner - Room 12, The Dissection of Anna J, Aged 101
A great flash fiction, for me, probably has a stand-out title. And this one does! Alongside that, this lyrical piece offered an interesting perspective and read like poetry – there was real beauty in the descriptions. It took me through a range of emotions, but made sure to lift me up at the end. Lovely work.
Highly commended - Tangled Up
What a poignant piece of writing! The darkly dreamy, watery feeling carried me through the story and the tension build-up had me hooked. I read this piece with goosebumps creeping over my skin. I enjoyed the clever and deeply emotional reveal, and the ending gave my heart a real twist.
Commended - Walking with Shadows
This piece stood out to me first for its cracking opening line, and then for the humour in its tone. I loved the characterisation of the clairvoyant and enjoyed the quiet hints at the supernatural family gift, which gave the story depth. Tight writing with clever descriptions and fast-flowing dialogue meant I was completely absorbed in this story.
Judged by Jo Gilbert
Winner - Homework 2040
I loved everything about this poem - it went straight into my 'aye' pile on the first reading. I love the layout and the
pace of it, it has that rapidness of a curious young mind enthusiastically asking all the questions. I love how the narrative makes a series of hard hitting points too. A brilliant balance of everything with a gut punch at the end, along with what the poem doesn't say - which can be just as powerful.
Highly commended - Dreich, Dour an Drouthy
I love Scots words about the weather, and an ode to the nuances of dreich is ace. I loved the variety in words and descriptions in this poem and how it's packed with great lines like the dreich that 'cleuks out yer dingin hairt lik an Aztec priest' - such a striking line, as was 'bit Scots dreich bleezes in a makar's saul' - I felt that.
Commended - The Alcomie o Curlin
This was a lovely poem to read, and I liked it from the start. I could really picture myself watching the scene unfold and isn't that part of what poems are supposed to do - paint a picture with words? Job done.
It was not an easy task to whittle the entries down to just three, so well done to everyone who submitted entries. It can be scary and daunting to submit your work to these things, so muckle thanks for sharing your words. I had a rare time reading all your poems.
Gàidhlig / Scottish Gaelic
Air a breithneachadh le Mairead Rabatski, Seann-Bharrabhàrd a' Chaidreachais
Buannaiche - Gaoir na Gaoithe
Chòrd cuspair àmail, tiamhaidh na bàrdachd seo rium. Tha a’ bhàrdachd a-mach air buaidh sgriosail mhuilnean-gaoithe air doigh-beatha thraidiseanta bhuachaillean rèin-fhiadh nan Sami an Nirribhidh a tuath. Tha ioranas an sin fhèin oir ‘s cinnteach gur e glè bheag a tha iadsan air a chur ri atharrachadh na gnàth-shìde.
Chuireadh a’ bhàrdachd ri chèile gu teann, sìmplidh ach bha buille bhuadhmhor sna briathran m.e. na coimeasan a chleachd am bard a thaisbeanadh nan atharraichean a rinn na muilnean-gaoithe – mì-nàdarra an coimeas ri nàdarra, ‘biast gun anail’ an coimeas ri rein-fhiadh beò, ‘gaoir’ gluasad nam muilnean-gaoithe an coimeas ri sàmhchair.
Shaoil leam gun robh neart is spionnadh sònraichte sa chiad rann is san rann mu dheireadh le na h-ìomhaighean de ‘sgapadh’ is ‘briseadh’.
Rì Shàr-mholadh - Brot
Bàrdachd mu bhrot – cò ris nach còrdadh e! Tha meas is eòlas a’ bhàird air brot gu math soilleir. Gu dearbh, sin aon rud a bha tarraingeach dhòmhsa mun bhàrdachd.
Chòrd e rium mar a chleachd am bard brot mar shamhla air làithean na h-òige, an dachaigh, cofhurtachd is tèarainteachd ach cuideachd mar ‘struileag-thillidh’, rud a bheirte seachad don ath ghinealach is a chuirte ris, a’ cruthachadh cheanglaichean is leasachadh.
Ri mholadh - Cùl-sleamhneachadh
Bha na cuspairean a thog am bàrd, tìm, atharrachadh is aithreachas, nan tarraing dhomh. Tha am bard a’ dèanamh ceangal èifeachdach eadar an t-atharrachadh a rinneadh le linntean de chaochladh àrainneil air cruth tìre air a bheil e/i eòlach agus buaidh tìme is shuidheachaidhean air beatha phearsanta a’ bhàird. Tha cuimhneachain air neach-gràidh, a’ chiad phòg san dùn-ghainmhich, sàl air na bilean mar bhlas iasmain, a’ dùsgadh chiadfathan is fhaireachaidhean.
Judged by Maggie Rabatski, Former-Federation Makar
Winner: Gaoir na Gaoithe
I liked this poem for its topical and poignant subject - the devastating effects of climate action wind farms on the traditional ways of Sami reindeer herders in northern Norway. A cruel irony since their lifestyle has surely contributed little to climate change.
I liked that the poem was compact, direct and unshowy but with plenty punch; the use of comparisons to show the changes wind farms have brought - unnatural v rural, the ‘biast gun anail’ (beast without breath) v the living reindeer, the ‘screaming wind’ of turbines v silence.
The first and last verses I thought were particularly strong & moving with their images of ‘scattering’ and ‘rupture’.
Highly Commended - Brot
A poem about soup, what’s not to like! And it was clear the narrator in this poem likes their soup and knows their soup. Indeed that enthusiasm was one of the attractive qualities of the poem for me. I liked how soup was used as a symbol of childhood, home, familiarity and safety, but also as a ‘struileag-thillidh’, something that was passed on and added to, creating connections and enrichment. Towards the end of the poem regret that these connections and sharings are becoming a thing of the past is implied in the imagery of less heat under the pot and soup’s blander taste.
Commended - Cùl-sleamhneachadh
I liked the themes of time, change and regret explored in this poem. The narrator makes convincing connections between how a landscape familiar to him/her has been altered by centuries of environmental change with the effects time and circumstances have had on his/her own personal experiences. Memories of a loved one, a first kiss in the sand dunes, brine on the lips tasting like jasmine, appealed to the senses and emotions.
The Brian Whittingham Memorial Prize
Judged by Morag Anderson, Jo Gilbert and Maggie Rabatski
Last year we were honoured to receive a sizeable donation from the Whittingham family, which represented a portion of that raised in memory of of Brian Whittingham, one of our former Makars. We are grateful to Cathie and the family for allowing us to remember and celebrate Brian in this special way, which means, for the second of seven years, mean we are again able to bestow an additional honour on a poet of remarkable talent, as part of our annual competition.
The Brian Whittingham Memorial Prize is awarded to a poet who has been successful in their respective category within the competition. A shortlist of three poems is chosen between the judges of each category (Open: Poetry, Scots and Gaelic) and the judges put forward one poem each.
This year the shortlist, the shortlist was as follows:
Open: Poetry - James Bradley, A Playground in Beijing
Scots - Stephen Eric Smyth, Homework 2040
Gaelic - Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, Gaoir na Gaoithe
The judges then deliberated separately, selecting a potential winner. To do so, each judge awarded three, two and one point to the shortlisted poems in order of preference. This allowed them to discern a winner, from a very competitive field. The judges then met again to discuss select a winner, based on these results.
To this end, it is our privilege to award the second Brian Whittingham Memorial Prize to James Bradley, with his poem A Playground in Beijing