A few weeks back, we were thrilled to make the trip down to Mt Maunganui to present two Stylefit Writing Competition place getters with their well-earned prizes. For a school of 120 students, St Thomas More Catholic School did incredibly well, with two students winning first and third prize in the Year 5-6 category! This was against almost 1000 Year 5-6 entries overall! St Thomas More has used Stylefit for two years.

Judge Chris Else had no idea that two of the stories he’d picked were by students from the same school. He explained what he was looking for when he judged the entries and why he chose Saraiah Rose Surgenor and Charles Finn’s entries for first and third place respectively:

“Apart from the standard features of good writing — grammar, spelling and punctuation, I was looking for:

  • Originality — I wanted to see something in the story that was new, entertaining or surprising.
  • Point of View — I wanted to feel that the writer had imagined themselves into the action of the story so that they could recreate the experience of the characters.
  • Vividness — I was looking for writing that was precise enough to evoke the world of the story and draw me into it.
  • Liveliness — I also gave points to writing that had energy.
  • Balance —I was looking for a well-shaped story that balanced beginning and end around a strong middle.

All these features I found in the winning story ‘Stuck in a Pickle Jar’, in which the main character finds the tables turned on her when she tries to eat a pickle and finishes up inside the jar instead. The sudden twist from real world kitchen to the fantastic world of the jar made me laugh out loud. Life in the jar is evoked deftly and clearly and the return to the real world is nicely managed.

‘The Sao Paulo Forest Fire’ took third place with its dramatic description of a forest fire out of control and the efforts of the firefighters trying to conquer it.”

Congratulations to Saraiah and Charles! You can enjoy their wonderful stories over here: Saraiah’s story, Stuck in a Pickle Jar, and Charles’s story, The São Paulo Forest Fire.

Saraiah celebrating with her father

Charles celebrating with his family