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SCORES: December 2020 "The Frostlands" (1 Viewer)


Staff member
Senior Mentor



comes in First Place with:
"Running Water"


comes in Second Place with:
"North, and Ever North!"

owns Third Place with:
"Tip of the Iceberg"


and a big THANK YOU for the judges and their reviews!
1JonThomWhere the River Meets the Mountains1313.518813.1
2MatchuFrostlands 650Judges Entry
3Undead_avAs Warm as Flowers1416.518814.1
4TerraTip of the Iceberg1613.5171816.1
5Foxee Running Water1617.5191516.8
6ArrowintheBowoftheLordNorth, and Ever North!1518201316.5
7SycamoreThe Lantern Light1514.5161414.8

“Where the River Meets the Mountains” by Jonthom

SP&G: 4/5 (Errors: You included a comma before a dependent clause beginning with “as if,” and you referred to “memory” in the singular without an article.)

T&V: 2/5

Evaluation: 1/5

Reaction: 1/5

Total: 8/20

You spent 250 words explaining the lore of this world, included one very short scene, and ended on a confusing and discordant note. I was completely lost. If this were an introduction to a longer piece, it might have worked. Unfortunately, however . . .


SP&G: 2.5/5 (Errors: “I am sat down (something goes here) the bottom of the staircase,” “he turns, and stands a silhouette . . .” (no comma necessary). “Roland bellows, and squashes six Mars bars . . .” (no comma necessary). “It ‘s three o’clock,” (extra space).

T&V: 3/5 (Most of the voice comes form Rolland’s dialogue, which, while unpleasant to my ear, is clearly present.)

Evaluation: 2/5

Reaction: 1/5

Total: 8.5/20

Random outbursts of anger and shouting with almost zero context, some kind of fiasco involving a cat and then . . .? (Also, what happened to the prompt?)

“Tip of the Iceberg” by Terra

SP&G: 5/5
T&V: 4/5
Evaluation: 4/5
Reaction: 5/5

Total: 18/20

I enjoyed this. I felt the voice was a little too direct and possibly condescending, and there seemed to be a little too much going on for such a short piece. Otherwise, it’s solid work.

As Warm as Flowers

SP&G: 4/5 (Errors: “gigko tree,” [spelling] and “like dead bush,”)
T&V: 2/5
Evaluation: 1/5
Reaction: 1/5

Total: 8/20

There are a few interesting images that may have worked. The entire piece reads like a very abstract, vague sermon. There are passages of decent writing and passages of almost unintelligible . . . preaching? ranting? I couldn't tell.

“Running Water,” by Foxee

SP&G: 4/5 (Errors: “. . . squinted eye,” referring to multiple eyes. “Salt water,” being two words not one. The weird capitalizations seem intentional, so I’ll leave them alone.)
T&V: 4/5
Eval: 3/5
Reaction: 4/5
Total: 15/20

Good stuff. The conclusion doesn’t feel like it flows well enough from the rest of the work, however.

“North, and Ever North!”

SP&G: 4/5 (Errors: a comma after “investigated.” A few cases of superfluous commas before a “because.”)
T&V: 4/5 (The voice is strong. Towards the end, the voice falters somewhat. The exclamation points weren’t pleasant.)
Eval: 2/5 (It felt a little too surreal and unbelievable in a way that didn’t necessary work.)
Reaction: 3/5

Total: 13/20

I felt what you were going for, but the primal fantastical surrealism didn’t quite connect.

“The Lantern Light”

SP&G: 4/5 (Errors: “it’s enormity,” “She had brown oil stains on her shirt, and . . .” [the comma])
T&V: 4/5 (The voice is excellent. However, your constant repetition of the moon’s color and the temperature prevented me from giving you a 5 out of 5.)
Eval: 3/5
Reaction: 3/5
Total: 14/20

This was a piece of ups and downs. Finn was creepy as hell and violently repulsive, and the story is sympathetic. Otherwise it’s well-written. Also, there are a few perspective issues.


Where the River meets the Mountains

T&V: 3
SPaG: 5
Eval: 3
React: 2.5
Total: 13.5

A neat enough adventure and the writing's decent enough. There's quite a lot of backstory here that could be cut to set scene - I thought they were in a boat at first. And Im not sure if we need all that history, as it doesn't feature later. The ending didn't completely wow me and it could have used a little more uniqueness in the voice. The relationship with the prompt seemed a little tenuous to me unless I'm missing something. But an acceptable and light-hearted tale.


T&V: 5
SPaG: 3
Eval: 3
React: 4.5
Total: 15.5

The thing that mostly jumps out at me - well, 2 things actually - is the voice and the efficiency, almost an intensity, of language. "Christmas sparkles from every window" (I am guessing the prompt seeded this and it went from there), "Urine rises from our carpet". There are a few moments of grammar abuse, which can sometimes stand if supported by the voice, though other times they look like oversights. As for the piece itself, it makes me think of a slightly chaotic relationship. There's something fascinating about the characters, something a little broken about them, that really appeals. I guess not much "happens" but I don't feel that all that much needs to in this curious vignette. Nice work:smile:

Tip of the Iceberg

T&V: 3
SPaG: 4
Eval: 4
React: 2.5
Total: 13.5

Writing is decent and perfectly readable. A little too much filler in places though, eg: "as she admitted to herself that". POV is a little vague. Not sure what the exact story is here, the exact events, the nature of the problem, and as such it didn't hugely grab me personally. Not sure the iceberg was that this is supposedly the tip of, nor could I find much in common with the prompt. But I didn't skim and the pace and feel of the writing was there, and the tone matched the content.

As Warm As Flowers

T&V: 4
SPaG: 5
Eval: 3.5
React: 4
Total: 16.5

Straight off the bat, I'm captivated by the voice. I can but into the stylistic choices (no starting caps). The world of this creation/nativity tale conjured is immediately vivid, but done efficiently, without excess description. I could probably have done without the excess of italics, and the text did veer a little too much towards the sort of vague yet purple writing in some Bible passages (which this seemed to largely parallel) but even there, with a slower reading, the writing is still a delight. There is a sense of exceitement and wonder in the coming birth.

Running Water

T&V: 5
SPaG: 5
Eval: 4
React: 3.5
Total: 17.5

Stylish and well-written from the beginning. Some great phrases too: "that might have been a log remembering its roots", "Even if we bad omens", "removing the hare's faint squeal from existence" - I could go on. My only issue is that not too much seems to happen storywise. I think the idea of the explorer with green shoots growing behind them, and the seeds the grandmother seems to be vision-questing to fruition would be a good thing to develop. But I did greatly enjoy reading this all the same.

The Lantern Light

T&V: 4
SPaG: 4
Eval: 3
React: 3.5
Total: 14.5

A nice sweet story that is reasonalby well-written, with a decent peppering of good phrasings: "watched as it ran away with the rest of the wind" is one, and the general feel of the worid reminds me of Kincaid paintings, all snow and glittering lamps. There could perhaps be a stronger, more atmospheric voice, but I didn't skim. It did feel like it wanted to be part of something longer. Only one SPaG wobble that stood out for me: "She gasped, either it was at his words" - could be plsiced over something better than a comma or perhaps just use two sentences.

North, and ever North!

T&V: 4.5
SPaG: 4.5
Eval: 5
React: 4
Total: 18

First, I am intrigued by this title. It suggests robust exploration. Then the icy setting is effectively conveyed in the opening para, and it's clear what the core of the story is (seeking the meteor). There is a compelling arc suggested in the barking of the dogs - something is about to happen. I do feel some of the verbs could do a little more heavy lifting; fewer "went" and "was" would be good. And a couple of moments of repetition get close to undermining what is otherwise a lovely exploration. But all that is forgotten when the fairy figures come. I don't know if your narrator dies or ventures into some Pullmanian otherworld but the glee of wild recklessness is very vivid. And I loveed the end, referencing that title perfectly, bookending a perfectly-structured piece. Great stuff!


Where the River meets the Mountains

spag 4/5
t&v 5/5
eval 5/5
react 4/5
overall 18/20

g20 5 complex/compound (3 determiner?)
f 6.12 (Grade 5) read 2:19
Prepositional Phrase Index 10%+ over norm
structural flow win!
draw, roll-maintain/taper
scene at slight taper of draw (momentum for body)

best of month: incremental build
best of month: distinct brand

label one instance lang
names (kosh gets lol), layer import, low nest

date/recent past: 2020-12-04
2018 coup


<snip>“Two Mars Bars, couple of heat packs, flask of coffee. And a note.”<snip>

<snip> fell for what felt like an eternity, finally landing on a large crash mat.

unoccupied v empty?
the flow of this is worthy of study by novelists diversifying into short fiction, imho.
pretty sure you are aware of your world-build potentials.
this reader sees this as more of a showcase opp for you.
look forward to reading more.
FROSTLAND 650 EXACT [bad language advisory]

spag 4/5
t&v 5/5
eval 4/5
react 4/5
overall 17/20

g26 5comma clause/6 compound complex
f 3.73 (Grade 2) 2:27

best of month: label
best of month: christmas coupling subculture



‘My dad would have smashed your face in.’

Who will give me love, who will give me sex?’

Three of us skip through the doorway like a miracle.

‘Come back <snip>he says.

actionable observation. if not dialect, several instances of hmm?
I am sat down the bottom of the staircase, past a doorway, and sat on a dead woman’s sofa.
i am down the staircase, past a doorway and sitting on a dead woman's sofa?
‘Roland,’ I say, outside receive a swinging arm.
'roland,' i say outside, receiving a swinging arm?

is there a market for this? probably.
would i recommend it anywhere not-already-sid-vicious christmas special? maybe. maybe not.
cable script?
Tip of the Iceberg - 649 words

spag 5/5
t&v 4/5
eval 4/5
react 4/5
overall 17/20

g11 3 compound complex
f 7.44 (Grade 6) 2:21

as a longer piece?
tension correlates, he cplx/she simple?, balance at resolution

best of month: deep those things unspoken



label-issue 26 years? min 1 in 5 trigger potential.

open/close as usual

dialogue strangers
frozen in place, tip/strategy/development opportunity

pretty complex for a 650 word cap, so i have chosen to think of this as one excerpt from a longer work.
as a reader, omitting all names and sticking to pronouns could amplify sub-theme of usual.
as an exercise in he/she alternating narrative (complicated romance genre), it was relatively successful.
as a framework with market potential, author intent will define readership share.
suec anon1
As Warm as Flowers (631 words) Anonymous

spag 5/5
t&v 5/5
eval 4/5
react 4/5
overall 18/20

best of month: of courses, yhurts and the chapters were nine
best of month: imports-layers-nests (Philo of Byblos's+logos-legos)

g51 10punc
5Punctuation in compound/complex sentences
1Comma misuse within clauses
4Misuse of semicolons, quotation marks, etc.
31style (+additional credit)
3Passive voice misuse
25Improper formatting
1Intricate text
2Wordy sentences
f10.56 (Grade 9) 2:14
12%comp comp
frag end el elyon begin

gdlow30M<-female market stilt

metaphorical veil such that most will not require label, imho.

open/close compliment w/internal humm

dialogue narration collective-quilting

min notes:
ginko (v tamarind)
el elyon/philos of byblo's

<snip>He was.<snip>

<snip> flower trampled beneath the feet of many; <snip> like dead brush.

<snip> we talk and laugh and speak of the village girls. when we tire of this we stand and watch the stars, <snip>

highest automated readability, which from this reader's perspective is a severe prerequisite understatement regarding "literacy expectation for reader comprehension".
ginko. (v tamarind)
capitalization solid throughout.

market(s) well established, plentiful and expansion focused, imho.
tax, tithe, tribute and residuals should all be possible.
actionable observation.
final scene (narrator), word-Word well crafted contrast.
heed? perhaps sit with, think upon or commit my words to memory.
unique (re)telling of a tale?
Running Water
(643 wds)
spag 4/5
t&v 5/5
eval 5/5
react 5/5
overall 19/20

g26 12/11Punctuation in compound/complex sentences
f6.24 (Grade 5) 2:21

beautiful simple flow frag/bkstry+frag-end
begin 60simp/40complx
roll mid
resolution 50%complex

best of month: when <vivid> context is everythingwhere


open/close strong/strong


<snip> trudged out into air raw and sharp as a scream.
In the Now the ice dam leaks from zigzag cracks like black lightning.<snip>
<snip> snow breathing its teeth into my face to be returned as tusks of vapor.
et al

i hope 2021 brings you plenty of writing opportunities.
i want to read more by you.
brush off stray remarks regarding rich imagery.
yours works well.
North, and Ever North!
(650 words)
spag 5/5
t&v 5/5
eval 5/5
react 5/5
overall 20/20

g12 8/7 Punctuation in compound/complex sentences
f7.86 (Grade 6) 2:24

begin 60simp/40complx
compd ends with hurry
resolution 16frag+cplex/33simple+c&c

best of month: the edge!

names-why? :wink:

open/close strong/strong

dialogue minimal appropriately ungrounded

pacing points

<snip> dogs were strangely excited—they sniffed the air, barked joyous barks at nothing at all, and stayed awake all night, blue eyes shining in the winter black.

It was bittersweet: <snip> we felt it.

And then, one day, <snip> stopped and caught our laughing breath.

any adventure oriented publisher of short fiction...
pick one you want to bring joy to
and submit, please.
if i was qualified to have an opinion, i mean.
The Lantern Light (649 words)

spag 4/5
t&v 4/5
eval 4/5
react 4/5
overall 16/20

g20 3 cmpd/cmplx
f6.39 (Grade 5) 2:23

best of month: title :wink:

names light load, descriptors more so

open/close as repeat-effective bracketing

dialogue interspersed

graciously 2x?
anomalous #x3

“I’m glad you followed me.” She hummed.

“Let me take you home.”

pretty sure "Polly Vogan, the retard" can be handled differently by a sensitive creative, such as yourself.
*drools on awesome handcrafted sweater*
*donning short bus helmet proudly*

actionable observation.
old school.
reconsider All at once <snip> still.
tenderness rose like an encompassing breeze?
if this is a rockwell exercise, consider internal dialogue centered around finn joyce.
laura mars lite?
keep working.
you have something i want to hear.
adjust the balance a bit.


Where the River meets the Mountains

I enjoyed this slice of fantasy. To me, the story read like an early draft, a draft from the first chapter of an epic quest. Where it fails possibly is in the application of the longer form of the verbs - which becomes tiresome (to me, & old @ 104).

(Feel free to disagree, I am veteran of the ‘was’ & the ‘had’ wars).

But for my taste, & my opinion, I want the eye to skip – ‘was prepared’ surely becomes ‘prepared’ after some consideration?

was bordered’
‘virtually impassable.’ Give me certitude here.

Also, a wooliness in the dialogue, power up. 650 words in play (only):

“How much further?”
“No idea. We’ll know when we see it.”

Let's have a rock, or a shadow. Tie up your strings.

Nonetheless, yours is one exciting and one intriguing quest. Drone, excellent element.

For a 650 [prose] stick on an ending, perhaps the simplest cyclical return from end to the beginning with the loss of their map, and the tale shall now become more, & more extra coherent. Polish, make the clamber over rocks and streams vivid. You have the makings of the classic adventure.
4 + 3 + 6 = 13 *Arthurian Penlord nominee

Tip of the Iceberg

This vignette approaches tenderness. [more than a vignette because you bring it around from loser to loser].

I was irritated, (growl) at first by the sign-posting of ‘feeling’ that might have bloomed without a word written beyond, say: The Bears aligned in the goal zone, wiping sweat, wiping tears. Ben wiped his own tears.

Followed by grey hairs of men/women meditation which is not strong enough, or is trite, & perhaps should be used in such context only? If you were building a character stuffed with ‘I am a glass half full/half empty kind of guy’ expressions this might serve a purpose re your characterisation?

Then all of a sudden the writing glides, the guidance-clauses more or less drop away, and emotion rises to the fore. It is one very beautiful piece at this point, remains inconsistent in part, however, wonder, passion emerges; a delightful poignancy. I would like to see a draft, & a continuation of this writing. I believe your future exists that will bring many tears to eyes of a wide readership. Contender for the cup, certainly. Well done. 4 + 4 + 8 = 16

As Warm as Flowers

Another strong piece. Ambitious and creative. Again, there is an issue of drafting. That opening needs to become absolutely intense, & crit-proof, & immersive. Really kid me into believing how I am reading wise words of ancients. Kill ‘unknown prophet,’ turn him into a ‘prophet.’ Unless I am missing your trick?

Rid your draft of that sequence of ‘I saws.’ Put me into Biblical times, provoke my utter wonderment at these actual words of the shepherd, wow. Of course, the write needs a couple more reads for total comprehension, that’s a good thing. Congratulations for your demonstration of imagination, imaginative and stylish. 3+4+7 = 14. Most Christmassy bonus prize.

Running Water

To my ear Running Water is a plumbing term. So you start with a bump. You can argue that my association of Running Water with taps/WC and a shower installation is an issue of my own creation. I am laying out my pipe for you to consider.

You provide us one of the greatest lines of the entire contest:

thunk…might have been a log remembering its roots.


But also some errors:

In that When were the good days, my own people avoided me.

As a 650 word story this write defeats me. Imagine me, here sat at the screen, my fourth examination of the prose.

However, your language is extremely elegant. You must gain strength from my ‘crit’ when I say taken to 2000 words the readership will better comprehend your fantastic sense of humour, will better comprehend the exchanges between child and matriarch. The reader will yearn for these episodes painted on the back of the eye. Ensure that this is what you do, & provide to me those pictures. Exploit the suicide opening which at the moment appears clumsy, and has such potential for storyline: motive, revenge, all those themes.

Presently everything is too fleeting. Have confidence to immerse into that village life, continuing to bring unique imagery to the fore. And put me into my armchair. I will pay £19.99 for my copy. 4 + 5 +7 = 16

North, and Ever North!

Second read of this and I perceive the magical elements. I think you’ve stuck to the brief – strongly – if I can be so ugly in my own assessment.

First read I was baffled by contradiction: ‘Greenland! That is not Greenland to me,’ before realising this did not matter. Again, I was confused by the rise of ‘melancholy’ in such an adventure, before I decided this also did not matter.

What mattered what was the joy of the ride, and the rush. It was a fun story and appropriate to theme. Glorious, edge of the world, great, and for a moment I saw the edge of the world, so thank you for that, always. 4+4+7 = 15. Annual Flat Planet Bonus Prize

Happy Christmas everybody. Stay safe. Love from Mat, Scarborough, England. Apols for my own grammar errors. Thank you for the stories: all are remarkable, all are written in different shades of genius. My praise is mighty [pompous] xx

The Lantern Light

A visual piece where I felt comfortable to know where I sat at all times: be that upon a pile of leaves, with no snow upon them, or walking the trail clutching my lantern.

First read-through suggested an impending violation. A sense any moment now the town virgin would be mutilated. Our town lunatic wields his axe. I am grateful the write turned more romantic, tho’ treacle at times with so much of the hair’s attention, and the ‘look’ he could not understand, and the good lad always had time for our school’s special needs student. Meh, and a loser like me.

The [preamble]/focus requires attention, you can switch a couple of words to build mood, unless ‘disconcerting’ was your intention, but I reckon this write was more of a ‘free write finding its course,’ which I applaud as fellow member of Stream Inc.

Grammar-wise next draft requires a snip of the was and had thicket, tendency. [It was cold… and…was walking...and had had had] and a thinning of adjectives [tall, sturdy…enormous, howling…melting butter] to achieve the framing upon wall status such ambition deserves. It will be more effective, and more elegant. The short provokes curiosity: maybe a touch less ‘alabaster’ and ‘glinting’ and more of the yearning? Contrast your early language-flourish to the rather drab ‘was cold, and walk you home[y]’ ending. Perhaps more kissing with snow upon their tongues? [+ a comet in the sky]

A skilled pen, and a pleasure to read. Queen of Hearts shortlist 2020



Senior Member
Thank you Judges for the time and wisdom given to these monthly writing challenges ... and challenges they are! The pieces I write are always so much bigger in my head than what I can express properly in 650 words, so the challenge for me is to contain, from the beginning, the prompt to 650 words (sigh/lol), and trusting the details of writing well will come the more I write. It's interesting too, that I learn just as much from reading the other entries, as I do from reading the judges comments - kudos to all.

New year, new challenges ... Bring It!!


EternalGreen, Bdcharles, xXx, and Matchu:

Wow! I have just read through the critiques and I am so thankful for the time and thoughtful analysis that each of you did on a volunteer basis. There is some solid advice that I intend to put to good use.

Arrow, the points could have gone either way. Your piece was excellent and I REALLY loved the ending's resounding hopefulness.

Terra, the angle at which you took on the prompt was unexpected and a little heartbreaking but good stuff, I liked the little note of hope at the end.

JonThom, Matchu, Undead_av, Sycamore thank you for pouring your talent into writing for this. It's no small thing to create especially over the holidays.

Interesting that several of us keyed in to finding hope for our endings at the end of 2020, isn't it?

I'm looking forward to more, bring on Gunshots in the Hills!
*Grabs Judgin' Hat*
Let's play!


Senior Member
Congratulations Foxee, Arrow, and Terra, and everyone else! I thought all the stories this month were solid and I enjoyed reading them all. Loved the mood and beauty of Foxee's, the emotion of Terra's, and the ever-Northness of Arrow's. Also really enjoyed Matchu's - had a mood that drew me in. Thanks so much to the judges - I know it didn't land for everyone, which I totally understand! Always appreciate xXx's in-depth thoughts - I look forward to your scores every time you judge!

final scene (narrator), word-Word well crafted contrast.
heed? perhaps sit with, think upon or commit my words to memory.
unique (re)telling of a tale?

I like this a lot.
Thank you to all the judges for critiques and kind words! It's always a pleasure reading xXx's scores. Congrats Terra and Foxee!! ... I had a feeling that Foxee's was going to win.

I felt sure As Warm as Flowers was by ArrowInTheBowOfTheLord though ...

That is quite the compliment! I loved undead's story this month.

Arrow, the points could have gone either way. Your piece was excellent and I REALLY loved the ending's resounding hopefulness.

Thanks, Foxee. I really loved your story this month, too. I thought the growing seeds at the end were a perfect image of hope.


Financial Supporter
i may have mentioned how much i love this challenge a time or two.
this space never fails to thrive in incredible ways, imho.

as a reader, i am pleased to see submissions
reflecting areas of author interest that might not appear
in more show-me-the-money story competitions.

thanks all the way around, not just for december's challenge,
but for the whole of 2020.
what a year!
forumites stepped up in every way.
great graphics, committed facilitators, authentic judges/reviewers
and bold, fresh submissions every month.

3 apologies:
while i had scores ready to post on the 23rd (for christmas holiday),
crazy.ness made it near impossible to get them to WF
until nye.
-sorry everyone's feedback was delayed.

on more than one occasion,
my formatting has become another forumite's nightmare.
this is particularly so, when close to timeline.
-sorry to suec for making her experience more frustrating.

as i wanted to assure a pre-christmas arrival of scores,
i did not double check the main challenge index
against the workshop.
this resulted in a delay in posting due to incomplete scoring
a crazy-fight-through-rapid-assessment for the omitted work.
-sorry sycamore for not providing more insightful feedback.
your writing really is developing well, and i hope you do not
misinterpret my comment/lack of same.

as an aside,
while i may not be actively judging as frequently in 2021
(disruptions here may continue to be off-the-chain through
at least the first half of the year),
i will continue with building out processes each month.
feel free to pm about submission feedback.
it won't apply to challenge results,
and the worst that can happen
is i get the request and immediately/repeatedly disconnect.
in which case,
i'll just pull out the bat signal
aim it toward the moon.

congrats, congrats, congrats!
wishing each of you a 2021
that just keeps getting better and better.

*be well*

*djah hear sumfin'?*


Staff member
Senior Mentor
xXx, you are so awesome! And I love "forumites." You did a wonderful job and I know when there are unmanageables a-foot, there is little you can do. We got it all taken care of and that is all that counts. Thank you so much for all of your hard work - so appreciated.

Sue :)