Sunday, 10 February 2008

Momentous times, momentous Times

Saturday a.m. saw me signing and returning a Client Agreement form to a London agent. A milestone on a long road.

Sunday a.m. saw me reading all about the Willesden competition on Page 3 of The Sunday Times.

Very exciting. And although I didn't agree with much of what was said, it is fantastic that the topic is getting such an airing.

I don't see how poor Zadie Smith saying that many entries seemed to be copycatting her own work could be called 'racist'... but there you are.

Point to add to the list of don'ts when entering writing competitions: Don't send in something similar to what the judge writes. They live with that all day, every day. Give them something fresh.


Anonymous said...

Vanessa, this is awesome! Yay for you. That would show Mimi. ;-)

Vanessa G said...

Hi Michelle...


I expect Mimi to pitch up with a machine gun at any moment ;))

Vanessa G said...


I have had a few comments left, calling Zadie Smith this and that, and I do not intend to post them here.

To be clear: what she did was brave, and it has my support.

She declined to give a prize because she did not feel the writing was good enough.

She decided not to just give it to 'the best of the bunch'.

She gave writers a wake-up call.

She indicated strongly that sending work written purely 'to appeal to the judge because he/she writes like that' is pointless.

She was doing writers a favour, if people would but see it.

In so doing she's got herself embroiled in a hoo ha, and I for one am not going to add to it by giving a platform to those who perhaps haven't followed the whole story, but who seem to be jumping on the bandwagon.

I help to judge a regular small lit competition for a magazine called Cadenza. We too have come to the verge of doing the same thing as Zadie Smith, but there has always so far, been a stunning piece of work that saved the day.

One day, there won't be. And I'd like to think we might make the same decision.

Anna said...

The difference being that Cadenza charges an entry fee, whereas the Willesden Herald, in their defence, didn't.

I can imagine those who entered your competition might have just cause to feel aggrieved if they paid their £5 in good faith of a winner being chosen only to find that the judges don't intend to share out the prize fund. You might just find you don't get as many entries in the future.

When the entrants are funding a competition I think they're entitled to expect someone to walk away with a prize, even if it's not them.

Vanessa G said...

Good point.

I remember discussing the possibility of what we should do if this happened, (and, it has not, thankfully... I'll repeat that!)

Of course, IF it happened,the fees would be returned. Nightmare admin scenario.

But in the end, the work has to be of a standard to deserve the cash. And the reputation of the magazine rests on the quality of its contents.

If we published work that was 'the best of a less than good bunch' it wouldn't do us much good.

Women Rule Writer said...

I still find it hard to believe that there was not a few absolute gems among the 800+ entries. That's a lot of stories, more than many comps get.
I've judged comps and I edit. My problem is more usually 'Which is truly the best of these?' One is never judging like with like; each good story is unique and good in its own way.

Nik's Blog said...


It's useful to have a wake-up call every now and again, isn't it - even though it might sting a bit at first. Bit like Savlon on a cut.

Congrats again!

Nik xx

Vanessa G said...

Hello, WRW

thanks for dropping in.

I am 100% sure that the Willesden judges were looking for 'real gems', as well. But just didn't find any.

They are as saddened by that as anyone, I guess. No, I don't guess, I know.

Vanessa G said...

Hi Nik


And yep, wake up calls are god. You can tell how much they sting by the vitriol poured out on the blogs!!!