Thursday, 10 March 2011

The ups and downs of short story competitions

I had planned to write about Canada but this has leapfrogged into today’s post instead. I am GUTTED! Last year in October I entered the Asham Award, which is a short story award for unpublished women writers. The theme was ‘ghost or gothic’ and although I felt uninspired for a goodly amount of time, barely a week before the deadline creativity darkly drop-kicked into shape. I came up with a story, and it was sent out into the wilderness (description more apt for theme, I think, rather than sent to Kent.)

In December, around the time I was feeling extra gloomy, I got a letter – a golden ticket sort of letter – saying that my story was through to the shortlist. Cue jubilation in forms of skipping, hugging letter, grinning like a Cheshire cat, and seeing the world through a gorgeous rose tint.

I was very happy. It was only the second short story competition I had entered, so to be already on the shortlist felt like I was on the correct literary path, spotlights and cheerleaders (let’s make them male; let’s make them Colin Firth clones) pointing the way.

We were told the twelve winners would be informed in March, so I tried to cull my obsessive google clicking until then but it was rather hard... (Who is talking about the award? Who else is nominated? Who is the competition? What do they write like? Darn it! Who else is talking about the award? What do they say? Tell me, tell me... click, click, click.)

But now the obsessing can stop, as I’ve checked the Award’s website and the lucky winners have been announced... without me. Oh poop. Cue crash down in depressive slump, desire for biggest wrongest chocolate lunch ever, and seeing the world through grey gloop.

Still, there is a bright side... My story did make it to the shortlist, which is a fab achievement anyway, and something I can put on my writer CV (more of that another time). My story was read by wonderful authors like Sarah Waters (The Little Stranger) and Polly Samson (Out of the Picture), and Lennie Goodings (publisher of Virago) – for ten minutes they read my words – they were mine, all mine! I do now have a rather nice little story, which I can work upon to send elsewhere (as I think I know what can be improved). It was also a great boost to get through Christmas and that dreary time when you think nothing at all is happening in life the way you wish it would.

So all in all, I feel okay. It would have been brilliant to tell you my story had made it, but sharing the downs and disappointments is all part of the publishing journey. Gosh I sound so zen. I am now off to punch pillows.

PS – The line up and story titles for the Asham Award look fab, by the way, so if you are into ghostly gothic fiction do consider buying the anthology when it is released. Either check the Award website or the Virago website later this year for release information.


Sarah said...

I think the entire process of writing for competition and publication, heck, even just the process of writing itself, is a huge emotional rollercoaster. And although I know that, I never cease to be thrown off by that. Like you, I get some good news or feedback and I'm floating, and then something doesn't pan out, I get an R, and I'm pretty low for awhile. Congratulations on making that short list, and of course you know there will be plenty more "ups" in your future!

Jenna Wallace said...

Shortlisting for the Asham is FABULOUS! Well done you! While it is tough to not make the finals, give yourself a huge pat on the back for the accomplisment.

Maria Zannini said...

You said the magic words, Jayne.

"...I can work upon to send elsewhere..."

Don't spend another minute being sad. Just send that puppy out. If it's good enough to make the shortlist, someone will think it's fabulous enough to buy.

Congrats, hon. Ya dun good.

MorningAJ said...

Let me get this right. It was a SHORT list. Not a LONG list? And you were on it? This was a GOOD THING! Well done!

Out on the prairie said...

I have never tried a competition, it sounds fun. I have read another blog where they made the anthology.I am saddened it didn't makeit, but now you can send it to periodicals.

Old Kitty said...

You got short-listed amongst the very best of the best of the best!! It's a great story already!! Yay for you!!!!! Onwards and upwards - that story should now be on its way to a new home, guaranteed!! GOOD LUCK!!!! You did bl**dy well!!!! :-) Take care

Eliza said...

Yay to you for getting shortlisted, you'll be published one day :-)

Áine Tierney said...

Congratulations on being shortlisted - fantastic achievement. And great that you have a story in your portfolio that you know is of publishable standard.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

You're right, it's all part of the job, way to be philosophical about it--well, at least on your post here :) and I must say I loved your comment on my post about blogging reminding you of pen pals. I've thought of that before too. I had one pen pal from England when I was in grade school. Her name was Linda and we wrote back and forth for several years then lost touch.

Laura S. said...

Congrats on making the shortlist! That's a wonderful achievement.

When these things happen, it's a good learning experience. You'll make it all the way through next time!

Unknown said...

Congrats on making the shortlist. Brilliant news.

You've got a great story there so enjoy that chocolate and then get to work on it and submit it. Good luck!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Well, darn.
But just think.... making the short list is really huge!
Just think of all those writers who have... "shortlisted for the Booker Prize"... after their names. To be shortlisted on a competition such as this is cause for rather good feelings all round.
Still, I understand the disappointment and one big ole chocolate lunch is allowed. But just one!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Congratulations on making the shortlist. You should feel very good about that. Glad you have a new story on the way. Best of luck. And I agree with Maria: If your contest entry was good enough for the shortlist, it's publishable. Keep it moving!

J.B. Chicoine said...

Competitions are rough! There is no was around that. I know that firsthand that it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there...

To make it through to the short list is quite an accomplishment in itself! Congratulations on that bit of validation :) Hang on to it. In the long run, your story wil be all the better for it.

Kate said...

You made the shortlist. That's a huge achievement. Well done.

When it comes to chosing winners out of such a shortlist it's really down to personal taste since all the stories that make it that far will be of a very high standard. So the fact that someone else won doesn't mean their story was any better - just that it hit a chord with that particular judge.

Talli Roland said...

Aw! I'm sorry to hear that, Jayne. But you're right - even to have been shortlisted is an honour!

Pat Tillett said...

I think your accomplishment is still worthy of some major congratulations. Having said that, CONGRATULATIONS!!! There are many other places to send your work!

Happy Frog and I said...

Congratulations on making the shortlist and only on your second try too. I think it is marvelous! I remember you posting about sending that story off and how busy you were/are so I think you have done brilliantly. When I start drinking again in April I will have a little toast to you. :-)

Anonymous said...

wow. Great post. The highs and lows of writing but you have the tenacity to go for it. Which is what its all about. What chocolate was invented for :))

catdownunder said...

Well done making the short-list!

Devon said...

Sorry that you didn't make the final stage. On the bright side, you should be pleased you made it to the next round! Great blog you have, following x

Golden Eagle said...

Congratulations on making the shortlist! That's some accomplishment.

Debbie Coope said...

Congrats!It's a great achievement.I sent a piece to the same comp a few years back, but heard nothing. Being short listed is definitely a step up.

Victoria Dixon said...

This sounds a lot like me and the Sandy Writers convention last year. Sigh. I've been on a chocolate rampage since June. LOL Keep working! Put the chocolate away and keep working. I will happen. For both of us. :)

Jenny said...

Congrats on making the short list! I think we all could do with His Firthness cheerleaders!!! I know *I* would be more productive in my career(s)! ;) Loved this post- you have a beautiful gift for writing, Jayne!

SF said...

Yep, I know the feeling. I recently got shortlisted for an award, and I was so stoked just to be shortlisted. Then as the weeks went by I started thinking, 'ooo, maybe I got a prize!' and I didn't, and was so disappointed, but then also still stoked that I got shortlisted!

Roller coaster alright, but sounds like you know how to cope with it.

And well done on getting shortlisted!

Anonymous said...

You should feel very proud of yourself for not only having the guts to enter but getting through to the shortlist. Well done xx

Rose said...

well I say congratulations for getting shortlisted! and it only means you are getting closer- it was only your second ever story and more importantly I believe in the story of the tortoise and the hare and that people who pass their driving test the second time rather than the first are better drivers xx

Vikki said...

Aww minks, sorry to hear you didn't make the shortened short list, but major wooo for seeing the good points. 'recovery' wine and hijinks soon yes? Vikki x

The Words Crafter said...

What a lovely perspective you have. Yes, it is a big deal that you were on the short list. And, as you said, your story was read!

They'll recognize you the next time you enter....and that will be a good thing.

Have a great weekend!

nutschell said...

Hello fellow A-Zer!
Congratulations on being on the shortlist. I say celebrate every moment no matter how small! Good luck on your submission. :)

nutschell said...

Hello fellow A-Zer!
Congratulations on being on the shortlist. I say celebrate every moment no matter how small! Good luck on your submission. :)

D.J.Kirkby said...

Commiserations :( I do think you are rather clever to get short listed though :)

Jayne said...

Sarah – It really is a rollercoaster – I was sad about the short story, and then saw my blog post had gone up on the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook website! Down, then up! And thank you so much for your encouragement!

Jenna Wallace – Aw thank you!

Maria Zannini – You are so right. Thank you! Will do. x

MorningAJ – It was a short list indeed – thank you!

Out on the prairie – They are fun. At the very least they give you a deadline which can be encouragement to actually finish stories. But oh the anticipation and the waiting!

Old Kitty – Thank you! Yup, I feel tons better about it now. It would have been nice to get further but I’m happy with what I achieved.

Eliza – Aw thank you! Must put my head down and keep going. 

Áine Tierney – That is very true – hooray!

KarenG – I am very philosophical here, aren’t I? You should have seen me on Friday. I ate a whole box of walnut whips for lunch.

Laura Marcella – Thank you! Hope so!

Shirley Wells – Thanks for the encouragement!

Jayne said...

Pamela Terry and Edward – I may have had two rather big old chocolate lunches! (That’s the problem with allowing just one.) But you are right – and I am so pleased to have made the shortlist.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina – ‘Keep it moving’ – great advice. I will, just need to find it a new home!

jbchicoine – I so need validation! That is exactly what I crave. So yes, this is a step on the way. Thank you!

Kate – Great advice – thank you. I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. Will focus on that outlook!

Talli Roland – I ate a box of walnut whips for lunch, I was that sorry! But yes, am happy it got as far as it did.

Pat Tillett – Thank you! And true – there are!

Happy Frog and I – Aw thank you so much. And good luck with holding off alcohol until April!

Amphigora – It’s all about going for it – you’re right!

catdownunder – thank you!

Jayne said...

Devon – Yes, I’m pleased the story made it as far as it did. And thank you!

The Golden Eagle – Thanks!

Debbie – Thank you!

Victoria Dixon – I ate a whole box of walnut whips on Friday. I still feel a bit on a chocolate rampage, to be honest! So I can completely understand. And yes, let’s keep working towards it!

Jenny – Aw thank you so much! The only problem with Colin Firth cheerleaders is that my imagination keeps seeing him in a skirt unhappily waving pompoms.

SF – That describes it to a ‘T’ - it’s a total rollercoaster alright. – Aw, thank you!

Rose – Thank you so much for your encouragement, and I love your analogy – I really hope it’s the case. x

Vikki – Minks?! Love it! Heehee. Recovery wine and hijinks is a definite must. It’s been so long since I drank any alcohol that my body is starting to wonder what’s going on.

The Words Crafter – The lovely perspective was gained after LOTS of chocolate, it has to be said. I am really chuffed they read my story though!

nutschell – Hello! Thank you for coming by. You’ve reminded me I have to get the logo for the A-Z challenge up and linked soon – thank you!

D.J.Kirkby – Aw, thank you!

Ivy said...

Congratulations on your achievement, I hope you find a good home for your story. Thanks for the reminder to persist, it's a great motivation to dust something off and send it out.