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I was pleased to be chosen as the prose winner for the July One Word Challenge with Gildane’s Day. All very nice to get the compliments, but there is a catch. Together with the winner of the poetry section, we had to choose a new word for the next month’s challenge … and then judge the entries. Which means putting your money where your mouth is.

Having to judge the efforts of others is more challenging than submitting an entry. In that exalted position you are expected to comment, not only on the story, its content, enjoyment and characters, but also the grammar, syntax, spelling and anything else that is relevant.

It would be easy to say nice things about everyone’s entry, and, to give them their due, they were all good. But to be fair, there were bits that were not correctly written, or jarred the senses when read aloud, or have wonky punctuation, that needed to be pointed out. It is making those comments in a fair and honest way, yet highlighting the good bits, that is most difficult. The whole concept of feedback is for the writer to use it to develop and improve. In training feedback terms, it is sometimes known as a crap sandwich. Say something positive before you hit them with a critical remark – follow it with a positive ending. That’s assuming that there is something positive, and it’s not all bad, in which case you have a problem.

I judged the August entries, and commented on them, giving my personal opinion, which I hope they understood and accepted. I chose a winner and a runner-up. For me, as much as winning the challenge, the favourable comments made about my judging remarks were as good as another win.

Now, for the September challenge, I can revert to being just an ordinary entrant, hoping to get nice things said about my writing by the judges – you never know, I might be good enough to win … all i have to do is write 200 words using blank as the prompt.