Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Literary Prizes

I know Zadie Smith doesn’t think much of them, but I quite enjoy the razzmatazz of awards like the Man Booker. Anything that gets people reading has to be a good thing, and anything that gets people reading stuff they might not ordinarily read is even better. [UPDATE: But if you're thinking of rushing out and buying a copy of Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger perhaps you should read this post from the Literary Salon first!]

I’m particularly in favour of small literary prizes – especially prizes for short stories. There just aren’t enough outlets for short fiction (as I’ve mentioned recently) so small literary prizes are what my grandmother used to call ‘a real boon’. And the bonus is that, when and if you win one of these prizes, the taxman lets you keep all your winnings. According to my local Revenue and Customs office, literary prize winnings are treated in the same way as a lottery. Which, considering that’s exactly what they are, is fair enough.

I know quite a few wannabe writers who say they never enter writing competitions because they are ‘simply lotteries’. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper (as my other grandmother used to say). But if these writers were to consult the results tables of these competitions they would spot the same names coming up time and again. For example, I heard this morning that I came third in the Wellington Short Story Competition, held in conjunction with the Wellington Literary Festival. The winner, Penelope Randall, had previously been shortlisted in the HappenStance Press International short story competition (I know this because Jo Field, my colleague from Deal Writers, came second in the same competition). Hats off to her for persevering, I say. Her success is a lesson to all those other writers who think there’s no point in entering competitions or, more pertinently, who give up if they don’t win (the competition-world equivalent of the rejection slip). As Churchill himself said, ‘Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm’. And while writing competitions may be a lottery, like any lottery you’ve got to be in it to win it!

8 comments:

Cadenza said...

Hi Paul,
I agree with your assessment that short story comps are a lottery 'up to a point'. At Cadenza though, I always give a commentary on which short stories won, and why. So those reading both the magazine, with its winning entries, and the judge's comments, will come away with a far stronger idea of what makes a winning short story as far as we are concerned. And armed with that information, entrants are then in a far stronger position to offer an entry which might find its way into the listings.

Keep up the good work!

Zoe

Paul said...

Hi Zoe

Believe it or not, I was just about to post a new blog about the latest issue of Cadenza and specifically about your ‘Judges Report’ feedback. As one of the longlisted authors I found your comments personally very useful, but I also thought the general points were excellent. I totally agree with you – the feedback does indeed equip your readers with a stronger idea of what makes a winning story.

Jane Smith said...

I won a prize from Cadenza a few years ago (I think it was a second prize, but can't check as I didn't ever receive a copy of the magazine, despite being promised one and issuing a few reminders: ah, well). It's a good magazine with a solid reputation, and that feedback is invaluable.

Incidentally, as far as I know Cadenza was the second literary magazine started by Jo Derrick who also was behind QWF, now sold to an American publisher, and The Yellow Room, which has just published its first issue.

My friend Sally Zigmond used to edit QWF; I won a prize from that magazine too, so long ago it was before I even knew Sally (at that time she was winning most of the prizes and I was just plain bitter); and I've got a small piece in the next(ish) issue of The Yellow Room. It's a small world, isn't it?

Cadenza said...

Hello, Jane.
I'm so sorry you didn't get your copy! Contact me and I'll check which issue it was and send one out to you.

Zoe

Paul said...

Hi Jane

Yes it is a small world, isn't it. As a relative newcomer it's interesting (as I mentioned in the main post) how often the same names pop up. Although I don't know Sally, a friend of mine who also writes for women's mags knows her quite well.

I'm sure Zoe will sort out the 'missing Cadenza' issue. Meanwhile, I hope your vision problem clears up soon!

Paul

Jane Smith said...

Paul, my vision is still interesting, but not half as interesting as the two copies of Credenza that have now arrived here: the issue that had my story in it, and the latest issue.

Sad to say, I read them both, cover to cover, in a couple of days and now will have to go and buy myself a subscription. Great stories, great comments, and a great magazine. Thank you, Zoe!

Cadenza said...

Thank YOU, Jane. Glad they landed.

Zoe

Paul said...

Glad to hear your eyesight is getting back to normal, Jane!