Storytelling Competition Winners

Cassandra Lau | Editor

Apologies for the suspense as The Founder, The Orbital and our judges have had to make some tough decisions. All pieces submitted were a pleasure to read, and watch. We have had submissions ranging from the Physics Department to the Psychology Department which is incredible! It just goes to show that creativity exists and stretches across every corner of Royal Holloway, and I hope that this competition can continue in the following year with greater structure, and efficiency.

A huge thank you to Dr. Prue Bussey-Chamberlain, and Dr. Doug Cowie from the English Department, and Professor Dan Rebellato from the Drama, Theatre & Dance Department for their time, expertise and feedback.

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Short Story

The District Line, Anon. | Third Year English Literature

Judges’ Comments:

This is an effective mystery-thriller that builds from the banality of the morning commute and snapshots of apparently random commuters to an intricate murder story, the story told through the cascade and juxtaposition of personal subjective experiences.

 


 

Poems

Delay No More, Anon. | Third Year English & American Literature

Description

‘Delay no more’ is a phonetic translation of a commonly used Cantonese profanity — De (fuck) lay (your) no more (mother) — yet in English, it is a call for action. In vernacular, ‘no more’ (mother) is referred to China, Hong Kong’s motherland, and ‘no do’ (father) as the Chinese government. Both terms are only used amongst Hong Kong locals, and seen as disrespectful ways of addressing parents. The phrase is evidence of post-colonial growth as the local expression of frustration metamorphoses into a paradoxical symbol of Hong Kong’s wit and anger. As obscene as the phrase translates to, it is something that truly belongs to the Hong Kong people. The city knows no literature of its own, but through facetious remarks, there is something unique documented: the city’s post-colonial transformation, the people’s frustration and plead for change and action.

I came up with this poem on a taxi ride. In Hong Kong taxi drivers are infamous for three things: their terrible driving, obscene language, and tendency to complain about everything. Obviously, ‘delay no more’ was slipped into his monologue a couple of times. He complained about living at a bad time, sandwiched between his Chinese born parents, and British born children, the many “ungrateful” students that commit suicide “not knowing that some have to drive taxis” like himself, the protests that don’t amount to anything but increased traffic, and laughed at the thought of driving someone across the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge being the norm some day.

Judges’ Comments:

This poem is inventive, precise, playful, and angry, all of which does real justice to the political subject matter. The ostinato of ‘Delay no more’ works well, and the footnotes interact nicely with the main body of the text.

Fairies Never Die, Anon. | First Year Drama & Theatre Studies

“There’s a good moment of self-consciousness when the poem breaks the tone of the rhyme with ‘who doesn’t love a knife?’ and the line breaks aroundthe appearance of the fairy, especially with light, work nicely. The fairy’s name emerges through nice use of allegory.”

 

i think stars taste like tinfoil, Hannah Bean | Second Year English & Creative Writing

Description

‘i think stars taste like tinfoil‘ could be a poem about infertility, or it could be a poem about body dysmorphia, or it could be a poem about really wanting to eat stars.

The flowing descriptions (‘wine-/dark, tempered, / stomach-stirred, / ripe like my mother’s / berries, our saved / summers’) build a natural flow and establish the recurring themes of consumption and blood; the speaker switches from intimately describing how hearts and stars are vibrant tastes to ‘i wish i could spit myself out’–a comparison made with a mouthful of ‘clay’ and ‘dry’ ‘honeycomb’.
Using ‘werewolf’ as a verb in itself, rather than a more conventional ‘metamorphose’ or ‘transform’, suggests a more visceral, unwanted, and potentially fairly painful/dangerous experience. On the other hand, it suggests that this is still temporary, if an unfortunately chronic condition. Emotionally, the poem itself stands as a ‘reluctant transformation’; the speaker is unsatisfied with themselves, but their ‘better’ self sits false on themselves, a hollow husk.  There is always a renewal; the chronic cycle of attempts to better yourself continues, but it is never enough, and the ‘rebuilding’ process is ‘exhaust[ing]’.
The poem ends on a plea for facade. The speaker wants the static charge, the warmth, the sweetness to invigorate themselves, but the ‘first bite of a star’ is a bloody experience, and the blood, like their self-transformation, will inevitably ‘stop tasting sweet and / [start] tasting like metal / again’.
Judges’ Comments:
This is a strong lyric poem that takes us from an intense, speculative description of stars’ taste into something more personal and regretful through its original use of imagery and good use of line breaks. The judges particularly liked the use of “werewolf” as a verb.

Service Station, Leila Dickinson | Second Year English & Creative Writing

Judges’ Comments:

“This is an intriguing and excellent piece. The conditional tense jars interestingly and then we realise this is about an ordinary relationship that is over and the final image suggests some brutal loss. It works through understatement and sharp, specific imagery.”

 


Short Films

Doctor’s Note, Graciela Mae Chico | Second Year Film, Television, and Production

Description:

Doctor‘s Note is about a 9 to 5 office worker who faces another excruciating day in the office head on. Due to restrictions in dialogue and camera shot-types (As this was created for a film course practice module that involved producing a short montage in 2 hours; only using 5 shot types and 1 actor), I wanted to evoke the feeling of excruciating pain transitioning into a more joyful feeling in the most visual and obscure way possible. I think it has resulted in quite a ‘dark comedy’ piece which tries to grapple between fantasy and reality. A key reason as to why I wanted to blur the line between reality and fantasy is because I wanted to place emphasis on the “I’m so done” feeling; where anything and everything can somehow be turned into an ‘escape’. Aside from the clearly exaggerated narrative and deadpan acting, I also relied on the colour grading and set design to feature colours which are quite contrary to real life. The obscure ‘office music’ was also deliberately chosen to place emphasis on the character’s transition from one emotional state to the other — the use of silence being the more ‘jarring’ one that accompanies the more extreme side of the character. The 4:3 aspect ratio was also deliberate as I wanted to box the protagonist, quite literally, in her suffocating milieu. Overall, I hope this experimental short manages to tell the well-worn office worker story in a new and interesting way.

Judges’ Comments:

The mundanity of the opening of the film contrasts well with the surprising violence that comes later. There’s a good evenness of tone that does not overdo the drama and the piece is bleakly funny.

 

Chromatic Crisis, Sophie Hinteregger | Second Year Film, Television, and Production

 

Judges’ Comments:

“This film creates a strong sense of subjective experience, with some genuinely unsettling images, bold use of colour and good use of sound to contribute to the atomosphere. There is a strong sense of storytelling and the ‘stay up all night’ radio challenge is a good driver for the nightmare. All the shots seemed well composed and there are also some subtle things happening with focus.”

 

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