Eight win short story contest
New Straits Times - 05/21/1995

Eight winners of the NST-Shell Short Story Competition received their prizes at a ceremony at Shell House in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

No one qualified for the first and second prizes - the first time in four annual competitions that this has happened. Instead, two third prizes were given away while six others got consolation prizes.

In the four-year history of the competition since 1991, there has only been one first-prize winner in 1991.

The third-prize winners this time around are Anusha Anantha and Lisa Ho King Li, who won themselves RM4,000 and a plaque. Ho also won a consolation prize of a plaque and RM1,000.

Anusha has written poetry and contributed feature articles to the New Straits Times.

This former student of Andrew Salky at the Hempshiere College in Amherst, Massachusetts, has written many poems and articles, most of which were for her eyes only.

She decided to participate after being encouraged by friends, relatives and her husband who felt she had a strong chance of winning.

She hopes to participate in the contest again next year.

Ho said the idea for her story Tanjung _- about a woman's obsession with her dead husband - dawned on her while she was having her meal.

She subsequently wrote it down and it took her about eight months to finish.

In contrast, A Matter of Aesthetics, the story which won her the consolation, was written in a day.

Present at the event was the New Straits Times group general manager for Research and Corporate Communications, P.C. Shivadas.

In his speech, Shivadas hoped the participants would soar to greater literary heights in the next competition.

He also hoped that the absence of a first and second prize winner would be a strong motivational force for them.

Also present were the chairman and chief executive of Shell Companies in Malaysia, Datuk C.J. Knight, and NST literary editor Kee Thuan Chye.
No winners for first and second prizes
New Straits Times - 05/21/1995

For the third time running, there is no first prize winner for the NST-Shell Short Story Competition. The judges felt that "the standard this time was lower than in previous years" and that out of the 783 entries submitted "no story deserved the RM10,000 first prize".

So far, the only occasion a first prize has been awarded in the history of the four-time-old competition was in its first outing. Since then, the highest achievement has only been winning the second prize.

For this NST-Shell Short Story Competition IV, it looked like that would have been the highest achievement too. But shortly after the judges had decided on a second prize winner, it was discovered to have been plagiarised.

When confronted, the perpetrator confessed to having committed the shameful act.

To spare this person embarrassment, although he probably does not deserve such consideration, we have decided not to mention his name here. It is hoped that he has learnt his lesson and will not resort to doing this again.

Meanwhile, future contestants are reminded that they will eventually be discovered if they plagiarise and that, in fact, legal action can be taken against them by any original authors they steal from.

Another occasion when plagiarism occurred was in the inaugural competition. In that instance, the plagiarist was exceedingly foolish in submitting a story that had been locally published before and actually belonged to one of the judges!

On a positive note, the current NST-Shell Short Story Competition IV may be notable for the winning of two stories by a single writer, and for the line-up of its consolation prize winners.

The double-scorer is Lisa Ho King Li who wins third prize (RM4,000 and a trophy) for her story Tanjung and consolation prize (RM1,000 and a plaque) for A Matter of Aesthetics.

There are two third prizes awarded by the judges. The other winner is Anusha Anantha, author of At the Window. She also wins RM4,000 and a trophy.

Ho, 25, is a graduate of English of Universiti Malaya and a former consolation prize winner of the competition.

Anusha, 31, was a teacher before she became a housewife and mother. This is her first attempt at writing a short story.

(For descriptions of Tanjung and At the Window, please see Judges' Report.)

For the consolation prizes, there was provision for a maximum of 10 winners but the judges awarded only six - again reflecting the overall standard of entries.

What is remarkable about the list of consolation prize winners is that it comprises five former winners of the competition.

Apart from Ho, they are Mohamad Shakir Ismail, M.K. Hew, Prabhaharan Rajendra, and Mohamad Aziz Salim.

The sixth consolation prize awardee, Malachi Edwin, is a first-time winner.

Mohamad Shakir, 45, has won consolation prizes in the first and third competitions. His winning entry this time, Temucut or Love Grass, is a colonial-type story probing the inexplicable side of man's nature through the ups and downs of a relationship between two friends.

Hew, 48, has also been consistent in winning consolation prizes in two of the previous competitions. In addition, he won second prize in the NST- McDonald's Short Story Competition held in 1987. An aficionado of the mystery genre, he wins this time with Past Imperfect, yet another engaging tale that deals with the paranormal and ends with an intriguing twist.

Rajendra, 27, won the second prize in the first competition and consolation prize in the third. His offering this time, The Coffins of the Wise, is an allegory of sorts that pitches the aware and defiant individual against an establishment that employs fanatic means to justify its continued hold on power.

Mohamad Aziz, 28, was second prize winner in the third competition. Delving yet again into the realm of the metafictional, he gives us this time a clever piece constructed to show the illusory line between reality and fiction - People in the House.

Malachi Edwin, 34, is the first-time winner among the six but he is no newcomer to literature. A lecturer on the subject at Universiti Pertanian Malaysia, he is currently pursuing post-graduate studies at Nottingham University, England. His story, The Kiss, revolves around the memory of growing up and an uncle who drove around in a rickety jalopy and loved his daily tipple.

Ho's A Matter of Aesthetics is a bizarre tale about a wife's obsession with her husband's teeth which ends on a darkly comic note.

That most of the winners this time have been awarded prizes before may indicate that consistent writing and known quality had an edge. This may well be apt if one considers that the trick to acquiring skill and excellence in creative writing is none other than constant practice.

It must also be emphasised that the fact of their being past winners never entered into the judges' consideration. It could not have, in the first place, because the identities of all those who submitted entries were strictly withheld from the judges.

In keeping with the competitionfters tradition, the judges maintained a high standard of judging. They went to great lengths to ensure that fairness was observed and excellence given its due, relying on their experience and knowledge as teachers, writers and evaluators in the field of literature.

The judges were Dr Edward Dorall (chairman), a prize-winning playwright and lecturer in the English Department of Universiti Malaya until his retirement three years ago; Dr Zawiah Yahya, dean of the Language Centre of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia who has taught literature for 20 years and written two books on the subject of her specialisation; and Mr Robert Yeo, senior lecturer in the Division of Literature and Drama at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and author of three books of poetry, one novel, and numerous plays.

Third Prize:
Tanjung by Lisa Ho King Li
(Kuala Lumpur)

Third Prize:
At the Window by Anusha Anantha
(Kuala Lumpur)

Consolation Prizes (in alphabetical order)
The Coffins of the Wise by Prabhaharan Rajendra
(Petaling Jaya)

The Kiss by Malachi Edwin

A Matter of Aesthetics by Lisa Ho King Li
(Kuala Lumpur)

Past Imperfect by M.K. Hew
(Kuala Lumpur)

People in the House by Mohamad Aziz Salim
(Kuala Lumpur)

Temucut or Love Grass by Mohamad Shakir Ismail
(Shah Alam)

Winning stories brought to life at prize-giving
New Straits Times - 05/21/1995

KUALA LUMPUR, Sat. - The New Straits TimesShell Short Story Competition IV prize-giving ceremony took a dramatic turn when the top two prize-winning stories were "brought to life" at the ceremony.

Two local actresses read the stories, Tanjung and At the Window, which both won the third prize, to a hushed and captivated audience at Shell's headquarters here today.

For the third time running since the competition began in 1989, there was no first prize winner and neither was there a second prize winner. The judges decided to award two third prizes instead.

Although there were provisions for 10 consolation prizes, the judges only awarded six.

The third prize winner received RM4,000 and a trophy while the consolation prize winners received RM1,000 and a plaque.

One of the third prize winners, Lisa Ho King Li, 25, said she had been very interested in Malay Literature, especially Malay folk tales. Her story, Tanjung, depicted the obsession of a widow with her dead husband. She also won a consolation prize for another story she sent in, A Matter of Aesthetics.

Ho, a Universiti Malaya graduate in English, currently works in a local college.

"Tanjung took me a month to complete and I rewrote it eight times. The other piece, A Matter of Aesthetics, only took me a day to complete. I had six different ideas at that time but I only managed to send in two pieces," she said.

She also cited the late literary figure Syed Adam Aljafri as her inspiration as "he encouraged me many times when I had wanted to give up."

The other winner, Anusha Anantha, 31, said writing had been a passion since she was young. Anusha, who was previously a lecturer but is now a housewife, has a degree in poetry from the United States.

Anusha said her story pictured the perception of women in the Malaysian society. She is currently working on a novel and a few short stories.

Earlier, NST Press (M) Berhad Research and Corporate Communications group general manager P.C. Shivadas said he hoped the absence of the top two prizes would spur writers to greater literary heights next time.

Acquisition of skill in writing boils down to constant practice and hard work, he added.

Shell Group of Companies chairman and chief executive Datuk Chris J Knight said Shell's sponsorship of the competition was part of the company's many initiatives to complement the Government's efforts to raise the standard of English in Malaysia.

Knight later presented the prizes to all the winners.