Thursday 14 February 2008


It has been a revelation, seeing how people are taking my attitude re: Willesden and Zadie Smith’s refusal to award the prize this year.

(I refer to a few blogs I've visited, intelligent people... a few well known people. And to an office of excellent writers from around the world on Zoetrope, working together on a multicultural project)

I supported her decision. I am apparently gloating. Just because I was a joint winner two years back and won a mug, I am now gloating that writers (including a super writer I know personally) have been hurt and disappointed.

Maybe people need to remember that I see hundreds of entries for Cadenza competitions every year and the standard of most is low. And those PAY to enter!! I therefore was able to imagine what happened with a free-to-enter competition…the bulk would have been not worth putting into the race.

Including my own.! Some you wins, some you doesn’t. You need time to see work for what it is...

But we are lucky. Cadenza has enough of a literary reputation that there have always been a cohort of strong stories vying for the little £200 prize.

Frequently, when we choose a winning story, we find the writer has won prizes before. Sometimes all three placed writers will be seasoned competition entrants. This time for example, I was delighted to find that the story we both picked blind as winner with no dispute at all, was written by GP Jo Cannon. She has won several awards.

Gloating? Come on.

If I wanted to, I could have hidden behind a pseudonym, or called myself anonymous to post on Willesden Herald. I didn’t.

The lady had a point, and I agreed with it. I SEE enough bad writing to be able to agree with impunity.


Emerging Writer said...

Interesting post, Vanessa. In your experience, would you be surprised out of 850 stories to get none that were publishable? Or how many on average?

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hello Emerging Writer...

'Publishable' is such a very broad word.

Walk round the average newsagents and you will find many many magazines full of stories.
The womens' magazine fiction market publishes thousands of stories every year, earning their writers good sums.

There's a vast market, paid, for gory horror stories. The gorier the better. Loads on the web and in print.

There's a strong paid market for erotica. For good children's stories. For sci-fi, the list goes on.

Additionally, the range of publications available to aspiring writers of literary fiction encompass a huge field. From The New Yorker at the top, to small ezines at the other end.

So sure, there might be work in any competition that might hit at the lower end of the scale.

Therefore its certainly possible that many/some/a few/ of the 850 submissions would have been 'publishable'. I can't call.

But just because they might be 'publishable' does not mean they would find success in a literary short story competition.