Sunday 10 July 2011

Short-list or short straw?

Two disappointments this week. I was runner-up in the purple moose poetry pamphlet competition and on the short-list (but not a prizewinner) in the Frome short story competition. Oh well. Better to have loved and lost I suppose, but sometimes I think I'd rather go unnoticed than appear on a short-list only to have hopes dashed.

The disadvantages aren't just psychological. Sometimes in competitions the short-listed pieces are published. When (as in the Bristol short story competition or the Templar poetry pamphlet competition) the result is a well produced book, that's good news, but some other competitions just produce a pamphlet or put the pieces online. I think I'd rather send a good poem somewhere else than have it appear on the web. I've already sent my Frome entry elsewhere.

For some competitions (the Bridport Prizes and the Forward Poetry awards, for example) being on the short-list is a reward in its own right, something to mention on a book cover. Publishing "long-lists" dozens of entries long has become fashionable. I suppose they increase interest generally, but they don't interest me. There are publicity merits of being on the Frank O'Connor short story book award long-list, but prospective buyers might not realise that "All eligible titles constitute the long-list, which is read by the jury".


  1. I think short listing is cool - and if you dont like being published as a result you can always check the entry guidelines and not enter, after all. Running comps called after yourself is the new must-do for towns, villages, hamlets and writing groups all over the UK. A handy money-spinner... Tis a shame that there isn't a standard definition of long-list, short-list and so forth.

    However. So many longlists are actually 'everyone whose work was entered and which meets the criteria' that actually, longlisting doesn't mean much, apart from the very important info that one's publisher rates one's work enough to send in a zillion copies - which in the case of small publishers like Salt, with no groats to rub together, is a big deal, and I'm v. grateful!

    congrats on the runner-up position and the short-listing - both of which do mean something in this wierd old writing world!

  2. Thanks for the congratulations - in time I will come round to the "glass half full" attitude, but as cup final losers know, there can be a lot of difference between being 1st and 2nd.

    I do read the small-print about publication rights that entrants must sign-up to. I've yet to avoid a competition on those grounds yet. On the contrary, they're an extra reason for entering. For me though, competitions are about prizes, not being "long-listed", "short-listed", "commended", or even (another fashion) "highly commended".