Judges Report

Judges’ Report: ‘Penned Thoughts’


We were pleased to find such an enthusiastic and voluminous response to the competition and felt that Ali himself would have been delighted that so many local writers are keen to follow his inspiring example and thus contribute to the development of Omani literature in English.

The topics and themes in some 96 entries were diverse, ranging from parental and family love and relationships all the way to the horrors of war, the curse of poverty, the Arabian Tiger’s tragedy, marine life, a call to ban plastic, the Arabian bay horse, the call of the desert, and lyrical accounts of human relationships. There were even two haikus among the poetry entries.

With such a range of material in both prose and verse, judgement was not easy.  Broadly, in the poetry, we were looking for writing that showed evidence of some craft in fashioning the language and also those elements of style (imagery of different kinds, metaphor, simile, point of view, rhythm) that make verse truly memorable.  Pieces that exhibited, or came close to exhibiting, these characteristics, and thus carried their content with quite compelling force, were those we chose for focus in our final selection. Agood example was “The Silent Village”

Among the prose entries (short stories and articles), we were looking for such qualities as an engaging narrative or plot, where appropriate, a fresh angle on a familiar subject, an effective structure, hints of a personal voice, and underpinning when necessary by precisely the literary devices sought in the verse submissions.

Though in the end only three items were selected in each section, there was much evidence in many submissions of a competence, or developing competence, to express an Omani view of experience in a compelling way.

We trust that this first round of the Penned Thoughts Competition will stimulate an even larger volume of entries in the coming year.

Summary of Results


First Place:                The Dead Village by Mahnoor Anees Khan

Second Place:           Live Your Life by Fahad Al-Issai

Third Place:              Sunset by Ibtihal Al-Saadi


First Place:                A Mother’s Voice by Ibtihal Al-Saadi

Second Place:          Are The Media Solely Responsible for Eating Behaviour Disorder in Adolescents? By Hajir Al Zadjali

Third Place:              My Very Own Song by Naailah Hassan



First Place:                Silent Scream by Laila Abdullah Al-Abri

Second Place:           A Woman’s Fate by Shaikha Yahya Khamis Al-Ismaili

Third Place:              I Fall Unconscious by Mariam Haji


Short stories highly recommended by the judging panel

1.            Alive by Nizamudin Sharaf
2.            Amina and Me by Omayma Khalaf Al-Mawali

There are many different kinds of short stories, and among those submitted we encountered humor, cruelty, twists of fate, and compassionate stories of love and understanding. Most dealt with universal problems through story and the use of the imagination, and the best did so within an Omani context in ways that would help readers identify and see life and problems in a different way.

There are certain essential elements that a good short story needs: character, setting, dialogue and plot. The situation needs to develop to some climax, and whether the story is written from a first person point of view, or a third person point of view, it needs to let the reader get into the chief character’s inner feelings and show some change in that character by the end of the story. The good stories submitted did this, and had endings with an element of surprise, not something predictable.

Of course, when work is submitted to a competition, presentation and proof reading are important; so is having a reader-friendly format and font. Most writers attended to important points like the title, the story structure, point of view, and such matters as layout, paragraphing and punctuation: in some of the very good stories, there were some difficulties with grammar, but because this was the first competition, and if the errors did not undermine the significance and emotional power of the story, we gave more importance to the elements above. All entries needed further editing and attention to detail, a skill we believe writers will get better at with reading and writing experience.

In summary, the reader of a short story wants to be engaged from the first paragraph and then to be enveloped in the story, to care about the character/s and to be left with an ending that need not ‘solve’ the problem, but seems fitting and lingers after the reader has finished reading.

All the prize winners and commended stories achieved this in their different ways. Other entries succeeded too, but perhaps were too undeveloped to engage the reader’s attention and emotion, or were confusing in some aspects. In all, the reading was a very interesting and enjoyable experience.


Janet Holst

Rahma Al-Mahrooqi

Adrian Roscoe