Call Myself a Writer?

September 26, 2009

Successes: Part One

Filed under: Competitions,Poetry,Writing — trishtash @ 5:22 pm
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Every so often I enter competitions. I don’t usually attempt those with high entry fees, though I did enter one of the short story competitions linked to the Winchester Writers’ Conference, and that had a highish entry fee, of £7, which is a lot when you have to watch the pennies like I do.

I do, however, like to enter the ones run by Writing Magazine and Writers’ News, to which I subscribe. The entry fees for these are only £2 – £3, or occasionally even lower for flash fiction or short poetry with non-cash prizes.

In the spring, Writing Magazine ran a Sonnet Competition. The brief was to write a Shakespearean Sonnet, with the ababcdcdefefgg rhyme scheme, in iambic pentameter, but with a modern theme, and using modern syntax and language.

I played around with a few subjects, including Reality TV and a recipe for my favourite chicken curry (which I may get around to posting some time – if anyone can cope with an iambic pentametric recipe).

I eventually went for the subject of Social Networking. So, I wrote it, fiddled with it until I thought it was just right, and sent it off, not expecting much. And then I forgot all about it…until an email arrived at the end of July, from Richard Bell at Writing Magazine, telling me that my sonnet, Internet Addict, had won first prize. I squealed. Then I read the email again and squealed again, because I hadn’t misread it. Then I did a little dance around the room, and then I showed my children, and my husband, during which time I must have reread the email again a few more times.

The cheque for £100 arrived at the beginning of the month, followed by my copy of the magazine the following day. I didn’t pay the cheque into my account for several days; just kept taking it out and looking at it. And I’d reread the email again about another ten times by the time I got the cheque, just to try and recapture the feeling of excitement I’d had when I first read it. Okay, so call me sad.

Anyway, here’s my winning sonnet, and the adjudication by the Writing Magazine poetry judge, Alison Chisholm.

Internet Addict

My cyber-social life is looking sweet;
My inbox pings with new e-mails all day.
I’m Facebooked up and MySpaced out, I Tweet
on Twitter. I have lots of things to say
to friends on every networking website;
I have so many, I just can’t keep track
of them. I poked a new one just last night
who messaged me, then super-poked me back.
My best mate, Sharon, chats to me from work;
we end each silent sentence LOL,
(though much we say’s not worthy of a smirk).
Oh dear, her boss is lurking. Just as well –
I need to log out too, and walk the dog.
You’ll read about it shortly, in my blog.


“The first prize goes to a current and colloquial poem, Internet Addict, by Tricia Heighway. The narrator is the addict of the title, and relishes her cyber-social life in a a way that would make any reality-party animal shudder.

We are presented with a list of the heroine’s contact devices, and just as we are about to scream ‘Why not switch it off and talk to someone?’ the sonnet reaches its twelfth line, in readiness for the turn. Here is the saving grace. It’s a relief to know the narrator is at last about to interact with another creature as she has to log out and walk the dog. So the punchline at the end is doubly frustrating and doubly poignant: ‘You’ll read about it shortly, in my blog.’

The subject matter is unforced and never rushed, yet we reach the natural conclusion just as we hit the fourteenth line. The content and balance of the poem are, then, just right, and the control of the final couplet is masterly.

This is only half of the achievement.The other half lies in the quality of crafting to bring the form to life. Here, too, Internet Addict stands out as a winner, for it demonstrates perfectly applied rhyme and metre, and beautifully selected vocabulary.

In any good rhymed poem, the rhyming seems incidental. The more carefully it has been applied, the more spontaneous it seems. Sometimes you even have to look back at the line ends, and check each pair of rhymes individually to make sure that the sounds were correct. Such was the case here. Similarly, the language of the poem falls naturally into the iambic pentameter pattern, with the tiniest hint of syncopation to provide a whisper of variety, but never losing hold of the true form.

The character of the narrator shows through in some lovely little glimpses. Her use of ‘Facebooked up’ and ‘MySpaced out’ implies a touch of humour. The expression, ‘my best mate’ and the appropriate choice of the mate’s name telegraph information about the two. Cyber-vocabulary is included with such ease and fluency that even the biggest webphobe will get the message. Most importantly there is a sense of vulnerability about the character which is shown to the reader through her character.”
Alison Chisholm, Writing Magazine


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