The creative writing competition, Golden Point Award, saw two firsts in its 13th edition this year - the first time a writer won both first and second prizes in the same category, and the first time a category had no winners in the top three spots.
Freelance editorial consultant Nur-El-Hudaa Jaffar, 47, clinched the top two prizes in the Malay short story category.
Meanwhile, the judges for the Tamil poetry category decided not to choose any winners as the entries were not up to scratch. Instead three merit prizes were given out.
Poet and Cultural Medallion recipient KTM Iqbal, who was one of the judges, said: "The winners of the merit prizes showed some promise in terms of style and were awarded to encourage their efforts."
Twenty-one writers were feted at the award ceremony yesterday at The Arts House, at which Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, was the guest of honour.
The biennial award, which received close to 700 entries this year, is a competition for short stories and poetry in Singapore's four official languages - English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. It is a National Arts Council initiative managed by The Arts House.
It was second time lucky for Nur-El-Hudaa, who submitted the first short story she ever wrote to the competition in 2015, but did not win a prize. The judges praised her first-prize story, dark marital satire Balada Kasih Romi dan Junid (The Love Ballad Of Romi And Junid), for its "sharp and controlled prose, confident tone and deft use of irony".
AND THE WINNERS ARE...
• 1st, English: Mohamed Saleem Abdul Hadi, for Mani
• 1st, Chinese: Yolanda Yu Miaomiao, for The Missing Clock
• 1st, Malay: Nur-El-Hudaa Jaffar, for The Love Ballad Of Romi And Junid
• 1st, Tamil: Suresh Rama, for The Secret
• 1st, English: Teo Xiao Ting, for Diagnostics
• 1st, Chinese: Sun Jie, for Venice, and other poems
• 1st, Malay: Samsudin Said, for Tale Of An Old Tree, and other poems
In her second-prize story Biarkan Dia Berenang (Let Her Swim), she wades into the debate over the "burkini" ban in France by tracing the story of a Serbian woman who leaves behind a history of trauma to move from Bosnia to France.
The entries were assessed anonymously.
Nur-El-Hudaa, who is married, said she is interested in depicting the dissolution of relationships, whether between a couple or across a community. "Peace in a multicultural society is such a fragile thing," she said.
The competition is open only to writers who, at the time of application, have yet to publish a solo work in the genre they are competing in.
First-prize winners get $4,000 in cash, as well as a $6,000 enrichment grant that can be used for programmes such as writing courses and residences. There are cash prizes for the other winners.
Mr Baey said greater diversity in Singaporean literature, or SingLit, should be promoted. "SingLit often captures instances of everyday life, which mirrors our multicultural landscape. If not us, who else will tell our stories?"