A few weeks ago, I received a package in the post. Feeling the shape and weight of it and scrutinising the postmark, I was pretty certain it was the package I’d been waiting for. A strange new nerviness descended. The parcel was tightly sealed, bubble-wrapped, and by the time I’d finished juggling scissors and old sellotape and finally broken it open, I was practically popping with excitement, myself.
It contained exactly what I’d hoped.
A pile of brand new, as-yet-unpublished short stories, each neatly printed, each writer anonymous.
I had been asked to judge a local writers’ group annual short story competition. The terrifying responsibility of the task hit me right alongside the enormous privilege. But even before I started reading, I was grinning from ear to ear.
I love competitions.
I’ve had stories short-listed in a few, including the Asham and London Writers. And I’m pretty sure that having How We Were Lost placed second in the Yeovil Prize helped to draw it to the attention of certain publishers. But I also believe competitions are hugely rewarding even without the placings or the prizes. They’re great for the discipline of constraints and regulations, and for their deadlines, and perhaps for pushing writers into attempting something new.
Tonto Books have recently announced the results of their latest short story competition, judged by the marvellous Caroline Smailes. The finalists’ anthology, ‘Even More Tonto Short Stories’ looks like it’s going to be a fantabulous collection and I wanted to add my congratulations to all the winners, but most especially to some highly talented, bloggy friends, Shanta Everington, Nik Jones and Fiona Robyn.
And to those who didn’t quite make it this time (ahem) – Congratulations too for giving it a go (-: