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markpete

story writing contest with HSK level 3 vocabulary

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markpete
Hi, all.  I've been impressed with the few books out there that provide cohesive stories using a relatively small vocabulary (e.g. short books that use 300 or fewer different characters).  These are a lot more fun for me to read (and therefore to practice reading skills) than what I usually see in textbooks.  

 

To that end, I'm running a short story competition to see what stories people can come up with using only the level 3 HSK vocabulary, which comprises about 700 words.  I figured that if there are enough good entries, I can put the best ones together on the website for anyone to read.  

 

More details are here:  http://www.hskreaders.com/contest.html

 

(Or in simplified or traditional Chinese.)

 

If anyone has suggestions for the contest, I'd love to hear from you, particularly if you have ideas around a) how to get the word out, either in the U.S. or overseas (e.g. China), and b) what would make it easier for someone to write a story with only a specific vocab list to draw from.

 

Thanks,

    Mark

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Demonic_Duck

Fantastic idea for a contest! Littering your writing with high-level vocabulary and chengyu is all well and good, but I think being able to write simply and concisely is a valuable skill too (perhaps even more valuable).

 

I may well submit something for this.

 

Edit: only tangentally related, but this always makes me smile, and it's a good reminder of what's doable with only a very limited vocabulary if you're creative enough with it.

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edelweis

question: the list contains separable verbs such as 帮忙. What happens if people write 帮个忙 for instance?

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Demonic_Duck

Also, now I think about it... what about proper nouns? Do names have to be comprised of characters/words in the list too?

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edelweis

The bits about prizes and licensing are also a little puzzling.

Do you intend to make a profit with these stories?

Else where does the prize money come from, and why use a license which allows anyone to make money with these stories without paying the authors?

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markpete

Ha, thanks for the xkcd strip, Demonic_Duck.  To answer your question about proper nouns, yes, those would have to be taken from the vocabulary list (e.g. you could use "白先生" as someone's name), but entries are also allowed to have up to ten words that aren't on the list (and those ten can be repeated), so a name could be one of those.

 
My motivation in limiting the vocabulary to just that list was so that people familiar with the list wouldn't have to look up too many new words to enjoy the story-- that applies to names in short stories, too, which I often find have the characters I wind up looking up the most when I'm reading.
 
edelweis, that's a good point about separable verbs.  Those are totally fine and not a problem.
 
Regarding the prizes and licensing, the prize money comes from me.  More than I'd normally care to part with, but a friend convinced me that having one's story published on a website wouldn't be enough motivation to get many people to enter unless I ponied up a cash prize as well.  
 
I did intentionally pick the most permissive licensing.  I don't think there's a whole lot of money to be made on these stories, but if someone wants to take the winning stories that I post on the website and post them on their own website (or even sell them), I think I would have no problem with that.  I think it's important to get more practice materials out there.  The licensing does require attribution, so the author would always get credit for the story.  

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imron
why use a license which allows anyone to make money with these stories without paying the authors?

But which doesn't prohibit the authors from making money from them either.  I'm guessing obscurity is more of a problem for anyone submitting a story to this contest rather than other people making money off their work.

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Demonic_Duck

Yeah, if this contest was for aspiring native authors submitting stories in their own language I might be a little sceptical, but I don't think there would be an awful lot of value to be made from stories submitted by non-native speakers anyway (without undergoing extensive editing first, and in that case I'd agree with imron that the non-monetary value to the author would probably outweigh the potential "loss" of money).

That said, drawing attention to the licence can only be a good thing.

 

Edit: following from my previous question, what about names that are comprised of characters included in words on the list but used outside of the original words? For instance, could you have a 马静 or a 张万成 without using up word allowance?

 

Edit 2: or indeed a 习近平 (学习、最近、水平)? :wink:

 

Edit 3: also, what about classifiers? E.g. the list mentions that the classifier for “马” is “匹”, but that's not included as a separate item on the list.

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markpete

Demonic_Duck, that's a good question about names, and one I hadn't thought about before.  The point of limiting the vocabulary to that list is so a reader wouldn't have to look up a ton of new words, so I suppose if it's clear that the character is part of a name, and that the character itself would be familiar from the list, then there's no problem with that and it shouldn't count against the allowance of new words.


 


For the measure words, though, since it's not a separate item on the list (even though they might be mentioned in definitions), that would count as a new word that's not on the list.  Not being able to find an "official" list of definitions for the HSK vocabulary, I used an open source dictionary for them, but it could be that not everyone would use or read that.  Perhaps one could use "个/個" for some of those in a pinch, however. 


 


Good questions!  I should add a FAQ to the website.


 


Thanks,


   Mark


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edelweis

To be clear, my question about profit was also inspired by

- this whole thread about Chinese Breeze - apparently they have lots of fans eagerly waiting for new instalments. And the publishers and authors do not always agree about everything.

- this post from Elina stating it's quite difficult for native writers to adapt to a small vocabulary set.

- this page of the OP's website advertising a Chinese reading book for beginners "edited" by the OP and sold on Amazon.

- the fact that the OP is willing to shell out a total of 425$ (not counting web hosting costs) for a bunch of (unusable?) stories written by non-natives.

- the fact that the contest is run by an individual, and not an organisation or association or school or even well known website/forum or anything.

- the fact that only 5 stories will get published on the website, so only the OP will have access to the whole bunch of them if there are many. We will never know for sure how many there were in total, or (see how suspicious I can get :evil: ) whether the ones that "got prizes" and were published on the OP's website were actually written by contestants or by the OP himself...

 

Ok now, I am overly suspicious =*  but from the above you can see (I hope?) how one could imagine that the OP might want to edit and publish stories collected with this contest, in a book sold on Amazon.

(Well, it's already been shown that I'm a less trusting individual than Imron and some others :P   I can't find the thread, it was about remote assistance over the internet).

 

 

But if the OP says he doesn't intend to make money from those stories, I say I believe him.

 

 

Other questions for the OP:

the contest rules state "All work must be your own and not previously published."

What does "previously published" mean in this context?

As a non-native writer I might want to post my story on Lang-8 in order to iron out the most glaring grammar and word usage mistakes before submission to the contest. Does that count as publishing?

Also say I submit my story on your website, and the next day I post it in the "Chinese corner" here on Chinese-forums, does this violate the rules of the contest?

 

And I really wish you'd reconsider publishing only 5 stories on your website. Because I am quite curious about the stories people will come up with, good or bad. This contest is a grand idea but I find it a little selfish of you to reserve the full list of submitted stories for your eyes only.

(Since you are the one providing the prize money, I won't suggest public or committee voting, it's well within your right to select any story you like heh.)

 

Also I think you should make clear what happens if a submitted story doesn't fulfil the vocabulary requirements. I assume there will be some possibility for interpretation/disagreement here, whether it's a human being or a program (written by a human being) which does the vocabulary check.

Does the writer get notified that their story is disqualified because of

  1. , or is s/he just silently disqualified with no recourse?
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MariaMaria

Mark,

 

I think what you're doing is wonderful.

 

I don't understand all the suspicions and doubts. I understand that smoke strokes fears of fire, but I don't see any problems so far. To help and encourage learning Chinese is a great goal.

 

Thank you and good luck! :)

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