Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Willesden Update

Ah, as one Herald blog commenter wrote...the power of bitching. Or words to that effect.

Having stated that no story was strong enough to win, and a vibrant, brave exhortation to writers to do better, The Willesden Competition now has ten winners. The prize money of £5K is to be divided equally, in an act worthy of King Solomon.

One of the winners is a writing friend of mine. Congrats!

But, if I may, I am also sad. Sad because a wake-up call is so badly needed in short story writing all over, especially here. Sad because having taken a decision, however hard, I think it is best to stick to it. And sad because it's a fair bet that this might see the end of this brilliant competition. Will Zadie Smith really want this hoo ha again? It remains to be seen. And is there a Willesden competition without her? And will the hard working filter judges really do this again?

Why the f*** they had to bring money into it, is a mystery. It was lovely, generous, don't get me wrong.

But when the prize was just a mug, there was something straight and true about the competition. It was 'doing one's best for art and a pat on the back'. Thats how this writer saw it.

And that mug and pat on the back was worth ten times the prize money.


However. This writer now has a 5000 wd stodgy historic story to inject a little zip into. No wonder it didn't get to the last ten!!



TitaniaWrites said...

I agree with you - firstly, that the large cash prize seem to have spoiled a really good thing. Why was it assumed that £5000 would stimulate any better writing than a lovely mug and an accolade from Zadie S? And I also agree that, while I believe WH didn't handle the whole situation terribly well, once they had made a decision, backtracking in the face of three or four (mostly anonymous) comments on the blog makes it farcical. Who is running this competition? We still don't know... because the latest on the blog says "Following consultations with everyone concerned a final statement will be made in the next few hours." Oooh, could everything be reversed again? Maybe there is a winner? It's doing my head in!

Ossian said...

That may not be the last word on it. That has had to be put to the writers. The detailed outcome may be slightly different. There will be a further announcement later today.

Wordsbody said...

The update is actually no 'update', because it's been pulled. Many of the questions being raised by disgruntled writers on the Willesden Herald blog are valid, in my view. They have a right to ask these questions. Why bring money into the competition, you ask? Why not? Most writers I know are battling to be creative in the face of serious financial odds. Many are in poverty, and a prize with money attached to it can ease the writer's struggle for a while; and provide much needed encouragement to carry on.

Vanessa, you have done well in this competition in the past; you made a previous anthology of the competition's stories. Your seeming 'hooray' comments this time round may have been better received if you had tempered the tone just a little bit.

Ossian said...

Only four of the ten agreed to the "split up the prize"/publish the stories plan, so we had to stick to Zadie's very good original decision in the end. It's all on the WH blog. In a nutshell: no winner, no prize, but all praise to the finalists.

Vanessa G said...

Wow, what a roller coaster.

Os, I hope you have a bottle of fine single malt somewhere...

Wordbody (are you related to Mimi??)at no time have I said 'hooray'. The whole thing is sad. It's sad that there weren't stories of a brilliant standard submitted. It's sad that things swung around the way they did (and maybe are still, I dunno, I've been out all day).

However, it is NOT sad that someone with the status in the writing world of Zadie Smith had the balls to say 'these are not good enough' to win five grand.

And sure, I know writers struggle. Is that reason to drop standards?

No. The encouragement is in raising the bar, not in being patronising and doling out cash to substandard work because writers are mostly the wrong side of rich.

Wordsbody said...

Needless to say, I am not Mimi, whoever that is. I only discovered this blog via the Willesden Herald yesterday.

One is not suggesting that standards should dropped. My point about writers' struggles was directly related to your questioning of a cash prize in the first place.

By and large, things could have been handled better; and I think people have a right to say that.

No, you did not say: 'hooray'. Your tone in the comments just gave one that feeling, rightly or wrongly.

Now, I simply want to forget the matter.

Ossian said...

I certainly know now why there is that clause about not entering into any correspondence about the results. Unfortunately we had an unusual result, for which I hadn't planned properly. Of course, were it all to happen again, which it never will now, I would know exactly how to handle it. I am not a manager. I'm a person of creativity, to put it that way. I have never had any desire to manage anyone or anything, I've only ever wanted to create things of some use.

Vanessa G said...

And you did, Stephen. It was brilliant.

Now its kind of in your hands whether to let it die.

I can do no more than offer to help, as Ive done on the WH.