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Twitter Stories competition draws overwhelming response
[December 10, 2012]

Twitter Stories competition draws overwhelming response

AMMAN, Dec 10, 2012 (Jordan Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Early in November, Project Pen and Inches Social Media Solutions challenged the region's writers to tell a story in 140 characters or less on Twitter; over a month and 5,000 tweets later, the results were overwhelming.

"To be honest the stories exceeded my expectations," Aysha El Shamayleh, English content developer on Project Pen and a member of the panel that selected the winners in the Twitter Stories competition, said on Saturday.

"This proved that there is a lot of artistic potential in Jordan," Shamayleh told The Jordan Times at a ceremony to honour the writers of the best 140-character stories.

Inches Director Laith Al Adham said 5,000 stories were submitted for the competition.

Of those, 3,100 were taken into consideration because they matched the criteria, according to Adham, who added that around 60 per cent of the submitted stories were in English, while 40 per cent were in Arabic.

"Forty-five per cent of the tweets were from Jordan, so here we had the highest interaction," he told The Jordan Times.

Saudi Arabia came in second, with 14 per cent, followed by Palestine (12 per cent). Other contributions came from Syria, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and the UAE, while some others came from outside the region, including France, the US and Australia, Adham added.

An online platform for writers to submit their stories in prose, verse, video, audio and illustrations, Project Pen's Twitter Stories competition took place between November 5 and 30.

One English and one Arabic winning entry was named every week, while two grand-prize winners -- one from each language -- were announced at the end of the fourth week.

"The idea was to stimulate people's imagination," noted Maisa Al Khudair, Arabic content manager on Project Pen and also a judge in the competition, highlighting Twitter's advantages as a large platform where everyone can read what is submitted.

"And it has also gained a lot of attention in the recent years," she added.

"It was quite an experience, and with the word of mouth and the retweets it actually went viral," Khudair noted.

The campaign's Twitter reach, the number of potential Twitter users who saw tweets related to the contest, reached an average of 35,000, "which is really a huge number", according to Adham.

Khudair added that most of the submitted stories focused on love, "as was expected", while others broke stereotypes and even ventured into fantasy and science fiction, despite the required brevity.

"Some of the stories that we received were really inspiring; there were stories on self-discovery and others were inspired by the events in Gaza and Syria," Khudair added.

Manal Sahouri, who won the grand prize for her story in Arabic, said she came across the hashtag #ProjectPen and liked the idea of writing short stories within the limited space of 140 characters.

"So I tweeted several stories in English. Then I found out it was a competition, so I got more excited," the 27-year-old, who works at a telecom company's quality department, said.

One of Sahouri's English stories won one of the weekly awards, while her only Arabic tweet bagged the grand prize.

For 15-year-old Shahd Shammout, who won the grand prize for best story in English, the idea of condensing her thoughts in 140 characters or less was appealing and challenging.

"I've always been interested in gathering my thoughts in one short sentence," said Shammout, who writes "poetic prose" and has submitted several pieces of her writing to Project Pen's website.

A selection of over a hundred stories from the 3,100 was compiled in an anthology and released in Project Pen's third e-book, which was launched on Saturday.

"This anthology is evidence of the creativity that exists in this part of the world -- a place where fiction publishing has long been dead, and imagination has long been under siege," the prologue to the e-book reads.

"Events like this -- although they might seem mundane -- give these artists hope to continue writing and make them feel that their talent is appreciated," Shamayleh said.

___ (c)2012 the Jordan Times (Amman, Jordan) Visit the Jordan Times (Amman, Jordan) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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