Overall Comments on the Writing Contest

Nguyễn Vân Mai

It’s time for us to find out the Winners of the Writing Contest “Where Dreams Begin”. However, before their names are announced, the Writing Contest Board of Examiners would like to give some comments on the contestants’ submissions. Please click on your sections of interest or click directly on the works that you like to read.

Story Contest – Comments
Essay Contest Comments
Poem Contest Comments

Please note: Since there are (on average) 3 markers for each category, there might be some different points of view for the same submission, yet still reflected the true final results.
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Story Contest – Comments

The general comment is that none of the stories stands out with a creative content. Ending is a general weak point. English is relatively good though.
“Nice connection but given too much of author's biased opinions, good ending though”

“This is an interesting story even though it looks more like an essay than a real story because there is not much going on except for Linh's brainstorm. It doesn't have a real plot. The writing flows pretty well despite some grammatical errors common to non-natives. I am not convinced that Linh has always thought about contributing to his country because in his ramblings, all the benefits and fame he could possibly gain from enslaving himself to a foreign firm always comes first, then his thought about Vietnam came as a second thought, so I am not convinced by the ending which shows that he is so pro-Vietnam's growth. Also, the part about his bleak expectation of working as an official is rather vague because not enough information is provided. Why would he be a slacker there? I feel that he can delve a little more into that”.

“This is a story of hopeful ambition. The struggle as outlined is of a young man making a career choice. Offered several positions with multi-national companies, he ultimately rejects them all, opting instead for a "patriotic" choice of growing his own company in his home country. The ending suggests that the young man's decision was inspired by drinking a local blend of coffee, rather than the usual multi-national brand (which was presumably uninspiring). I would have like to have seen better developed thoughts in this story. Certainly, dreaming of personal success and prosperity for one's country is all well and good, but the story suggests no depth beyond that. The choices facing our young hero are real choices that face young people today, but an inspiring cup of local coffee only affords a quick and easy ending without grappling with the real issues that would have made it a better story. For example, the young man could have just as patriotically gone to work for one of the multi-nationals to learn, mature and hone his business theories with an intent to begin his own business better equipped and better funded in a few short years. A story about such a subject needs to ask the hard questions that the young people themselves ask of themselves to provoke meaningful thought”.

“Early submission. Ending is a surprise but not too persuading”.
“Emotional story yet no deep thoughts, no solutions, weak ending”

“This is more like an essay to me than a story. However, I like the materials based on which she writes it. I can see her sincerity and her feelings, and sometimes, a little clumsiness in her expression makes the feeling more real. I also like the way she puts her growing up parallel to her nanny's deterioration. At times, her expression reveals some grace and elegance " ...instead of kissing my cheeks like when I was little, she kissed my hands...”

“This is a sweet story of the love of a young woman for her caregiver. Unfortunately, it reads more like a journal entry than a short story. The deep feelings of love one has for one who has cared for them are universal, and we often feel the desire to give back to the one who cared for us. Many times we cannot. So, instead we freely give our love to others when we are able, in place of the one who cared for us. There is universality in the theme; however, the author missed her chance to illuminate it”.

“Touching but no clear action, could have been developed more”
“Nice, gentle story however not a new topic”

“I can see that there is an effort to create a plot here. But sometimes the story line gets confusing and hard to follow. Toward the end, I did not really get how he finally got in touch with her again, and I think that should have been a very important moment in the story. Or why did he have to sleep on the hard floor? And is the feeling a little bit too dramatized because I did not see a tight bond between the two people, they were just class mates and things were not even clear, why did he display such tragic reactions after losing her? I know I sound so busy body, but as a storyteller, you should make it clear to your reader by being as coherent as possible. I would also want to know more about why she had a hard life and did not smile much. As a high school student, what could have been the hardship? I think there is a lot of withdrawn information here, making the story unclear”.

“This story explores the fearsome terrors of romantic love, albeit unexpressed and unrequited, experienced almost entirely in the mind of the character (his heart being carefully guarded through the chance encounters). Let's hope the character in the story learns to risk a little more in love as time goes on. The story is really a peek at the vulnerability of not being vulnerable and the consequences, but it is rather undeveloped.”

“Bad ending; quite good vocab and grammar structures”

“Shocking ending, quite interesting”

“Good use of English and the story flows very well. But the story line is a little weird. I can see the built up frustration, (which is very well described), but the solution is a little bit off. When I first read the story, I thought it was a kind of funny, comedic story, but the ending turned out to be rather troubled. I think there is a mismatch between the tone of the story in the general and the ending here.”

“This story actually had the beginnings of a good story. I wondered if the author would develop the mad psychosis of the character. Unfortunately, the ending was abrupt and flippant, lacking remorse, pity or even a proper show of madness.”

“What is the point of this story? What will the readers get from it???”
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Essay Contest Comments

My general remark is that the submitted works are very disappointing. None of them showed any efforts or seriousness. At least since this is a competition, they should have got somebody to proofread before sending it out. Understand that they are still inexperienced in writing and are not kept abreast to current issues to obtain a deeper understanding, yet I really don't feel that any of these essays is worth giving the first prize.

“ Made some efforts to do research. Lots of mistakes! Verb tense confusion. Reminder: this is an essay, not a speech. At least write it for the readers' sake!”

“Tend to write too long sentences. The essay format is very bad. There are mistakes in the use of grammar, phrases, tense, etc.”

“Hien has some interesting ideas (such as the closing paragraph about human's irresponsibility to the environment), but they are usually left unsupported. There are a lot of grammar faults in the essay. However, she should be given credit for her efforts to research a complicated scientific topic.”

“Wrong use of words, verb tenses. Chose a rather personal content. A messy structure and bad use of linkages.”

“Good in general”

“I really like this essay because of its sincerity and Dinh's writing style. He makes his points in the essay and develops them by lively examples. There are some sparks in word choice (fraught with tension, resolute sense of hope and optimism) and the closing lines for each paragraph are strong).

“What's the point in talking about oil prices? The conclusion is unclear, and when saying, "there are many reasons leading up to this problem", the essay mentioned only one, which is not even a reason… Overall, this essay is very insignificant and does not carry any main theme except stating a fact that oil is expensive.

“Lack of discussions and arguments.”

“This essay is not very strong in terms of argumentation. I also have a feeling that Trung has not spent too much effort in this essay”

  • In support for an open-minded education.:

“Too colloquial, cliché, misuse of punctuation and words, lack of formality, some simple grammatical mistakes.”

“Good. More details needed to back up the arguments”

“Wrong hypothesis, "Keynesian theory helped to boom the economy of many nations after the war": How can a theory help boom an economy, or here what he means is the Keynesian government, or that the theory evolved in the post-war period??? Also, "classical perspective was built in a small world", yeah? Nowadays there are still people that choose to believe in the core classical view, only developed into a different name, so-called the Neoclassical. The essay discusses the difference between Classical and Keynesian, but fails to do the job to the most basic level. And what's new in mentioning these 2 "obviously clashing" views whereas anybody can pick up an introductory macroeconomics book to read? Grammar mistakes, not at all proofread”

“Phuoc's two essays stand out because they talk about rather complex and controversial issues, and he knows how to lay out his arguments. However, his sentences are sometimes cluttered and expressions not very clear. Without fact-checking all the details he mentions, I think he makes pretty persuasive cases in both essays.”
Poem Contest Comments

“I find a good sense of humor in this poem. Just by a few simple examples of the narrator’s success as a child, the reader can realize a typical lesson given by an adult and picture the reaction of the child. This can be a father; an uncle or a brother proudly views himself as a role model for the kid. The writer is witty in choosing the tone of the poem, quite narrative yet figurative. Also, the examples of exaggeration and fabricated perfection are well chosen.

The poem, however, will flow better with less usage of the passive voice. In some sentences, the author still uses the direct translation from Vietnamese. Also, there is an excessive use of adjectives and some repetitiveness maybe due to the needs to make the lines rhyme.”

“This is a very elaborated poem. This makes a nice late night parent/child talk. I can see that the writer writes in English with much ease. I like her use of sophisticated metaphors. Sometimes, though, the technical part overshadows the content. I think the poem lacks some depth because most of the part was written about the impressive accomplishment of the parent, without much related to the child. Also, overuse of flowery words sometimes lead to inaccuracy. Terms like "crushed clothes hoard" or "rebellions disfiguring my face" are unidiomatic. Overall, though this is a relatively good one.”

“This is such a cute poem with a sing-song cheerful tone. The idea of imitating the voice of a teenager having a crush has worked out well. I especially like the last stanza and find it quite meaningful. However, other than that, there’s not much left in the poem to discuss. There are several grammatical errors which could have been avoided by proofreading.”

“A very lovely poem. Sincere and a little bit playful, it gives me the impression that I'm reading the diary of a schoolboy who first knows what "love" is. His language is very simple and straightforward. In most case, it would show a lack of sophistication, but in this particular case, it adds to his sincerity.”

“It’s a nice picture. Initially, it seems to be a quiet and peaceful one. However, in the middle of the picture there is a human being whose mind wanders a lot. That person also has all soggy emotions deep down. The painting, therefore, has two interesting layers. As a picture, it’s more half clear half indistinct, which is probably what the writer aims for. However, as a poem, this is not so original and I have the feeling the author put together separate pieces of phrases and sentences that rhyme. The writer probably didn’t plan out the beginning and the end of this poem. It’s common to let emotions direct your words but a final touch is needed to make a good poem. About grammar, there are some very basic errors.”

“This is original, creative and very touching. I like this poem a lot. Creative instead of skilled, she must have written with a lot of enthusiasm and love, and that's how the poem finds it way to its readers' heart. The poem is deep; it sketches a picture of life in the four seasons in which both people and nature are imbued with different kind of emotion, and that creates a sense of things moving and life forging ahead. At times though, there are still some mistakes in expression such as " Despite of", "a blue eye," "its leaving", "its feeling warmer".”

“It’s a cute story told in a straightforward way with genuine feelings. Small but well-chosen details help create a lively picture of a happy family. This happy poem is like a pleasant breeze, which comes and goes. If that’s what the writer wants, she/he has succeeded. If instead, she/he wants to leave a deeper impression; my suggestion is that there could be some more unique experiences in the family that tell the personalities of family members. The grammar structure is simple but there are still some errors. The writer may want to review the use of some words in this poem as well.”

“Nice details of the good memories with the family, but there are quite few expression and grammatical mistakes. The content is good but not very special. Mediocre use of English.”

“I feel the struggle of the author to clearly express his/ her emotions. Maybe (hopefully) that’s because the emotions are too deep for words. There are some old cliché as well as some awkward expressions in this poem. The writer probably didn’t invest much time in writing this poem. Besides all this, there are some good images such as the road they were walking together.”

“This poem gives me the feeling of reading the lyrics of a song written by a boy/girl band with so many clichés, not much originality. Sometimes the unnecessary use of melancholic verses like "not let me dream any more" leaves me wondering whether she is writing about friendship or love.”

“There are some very good metaphorical images in this poem. So true is the feeling that the readers can relate to it. The difference between the one who just left home and the one who has grown up in a new place is nicely described. However, at times, there is a weak connection between ideas. The author takes it easy by using old cliché in places where there could have been more creativity. There are several minor grammatical mistakes.”

“The content is good, but there are many grammatical mistakes which hampers the flows of the poem and the ease of expression.”

“The content is pretty good. The author seems to have a clear idea right from the beginning of what she/ he will write about. The structure of three stanzas is sensible. However, this is also the weakness of this poem. The author is too conscious of the content that the poem lacks surprises and creativity. The images in the poem are not so original. The grammar is good but there are some typos which should have been avoided.”

“There are many grammatical mistakes in this poem, which makes it hard for readers to really appreciate it. For example, the writer failed to use parallel structure (Cruel, fright, hopeful _ they should be either all nouns or all adjectives). Spelling errors like "unbelievable" also makes the poem a lot less appealing.”

“The author has done a good job keeping the poem brief and enjoyable. The last stanza is a nice mix of literal and imaginative images. The second stanza, however, is weakly related to the rest of the poem. Some more investment in the second stanza will strengthen the structure of the whole poem.”

“This poem is fine grammatically and idiomatically. But I had a hard time figuring what the writer is aiming at. Why did her nanny worry she might disappear into the night? Why did the memories came back not totally pleasant? (The aching feeling when she lies in the wooden bed). I feel that this could have been a good poem if the writers had provided more information about how the grown-up child is like now compared to before. Otherwise, the poem is rather vague.”

“The feelings are genuine yet hard to relate to at first. The tone is appropriate and effective. There are some minor grammatical errors but overall, the poem flows smoothly.”

“Concise yet very telling, this poem did a good job in sketching a child hood tragedy. I like the way the writer emphasizes her mom's actions and movements before she left, it is like a close-up scene, very cinematographic.”

“The author has done a good job putting philosophical ideas in a simple way that makes reading this poem pleasant. Curiosity is a very universal feeling; thus, it’s easy for readers to relate the poem to their own experiences. Short lines with parallel images have proved to be really effective in this poem. The weakness here is that the author is tempted to come to a conclusion. In other words, he/she feels the need to come up with a moral “Just step one step and it will be a right step.” Sometimes there doesn’t have to be one, especially in poetry. Once there is a conclusion, it has to base on other assumptions, which may or may not be true. A bit more focus on the “wondering” part with some examples will make the poem more interesting.”

“A philosophical poem which poses the question if there exists something greater than us all, which is more justified to judge right from wrong in this life. I have to confess that my head spinned around a little bit when reading this poem, even though I think it is a good one.”
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