Wednesday 17 March 2010


I was sent a total of 34 stories, all writers' names removed. They arrived on the day after I got back from Ireland, in early February, having just completed the first draft of the novel. The entire longlist. My wonderful job was to read these stories, selected by the readers of TNY from hundreds of entries, choose three winners, some 'highly commended' and some runners up.
This is what I did. I opened the parcel and sat with the pile of stories, all paperclipped together, on my knee. And I flipped from story to story, reading the TITLES and the FIRST LINES only. If my interest was piqued, out that story came, put to one side. I read those first.
I started three piles.
1)YES, a definite maybe.
2)MAYBE, a definite re-read.
3)NOPE, sorry, not this time.
When every story had been read twice(it took a week or so) and allocated to a pile, I took a break. Left them for a few days.
I then took the NOPE pile and over two days, read them all again. And again. And shifted a few stories up to the MAYBE pile.
Then I did the same with the MAYBEs, shifting a few stories up or down as necessary. Then the YES pile, again, making each one work hard, to convince me it was in the right place, by now, or down it went.
I ended up with five stories in the YES pile. And over three days they shifted position on the dining room table, until three separated themselves out as the top three.
But what a top three. They are so different. Chalk and cheese. Apples and bananas. Toffees and mintoes. Gin and beer. How to decide? Here, breaking each one down by craft element helped hugely. And - I'm putting this bit in bold - in the end, it was a sci-fi story that came out on top. Which gives me a real buzz! It is a terrific story.

Then, having given my decision to Merric Davidson of The New Writer - the fun of waiting to find out the names of the entrants - knowing that I would recognise lots of names - the town of the short story is a very small one. It is not even a town, it is a village. You can't do anything without the neighbours knowing!
Anyway - here are the names of the stories, and the names of the marvellous writers who wrote them. Many congratulations to everyone - I enjoyed them all.

SHORT STORY category
1st Judi Moore The Dark Side of the Moon
2nd Gill Belchetz Out of Holbeck
3rd MP Stanley Construction Over Water: An Elegy for Wanda

Highly Commended: Gabriela Blandy Borrowed Light; Hilary Fennell Not Like Us; Susannah Rickards Mudlarks.

Runners-up: Sophie Coulombeau Church Going; Caroline Freeman The Ginkgo Tree; Jacqui Rochford Red; Sharon Zink The Log Flume.

Longlist: Joanna Campbell, Paul Curd, Sarah Evans, Suzanne Ferris, Lynda Fletcher, Clare Girvan, Ghislaine Goff, Rhonda Grantham, Eliza Hawkins, Jonathan Haylett, Helen Hogan, Liz Hobbs, Helen Kitson, Nancy Le Nezet, Rebecca Mayhew, Kenneth McBeath, Teresa O’Brien, Ali Pardoe, Iain Pattison, Glenn Price, Eira Reed, Frank Talaber, Nemone Thornes, Mark Wagstaff.

Finalists: Tina Aidoo, Robert Atkinson, Gill Blow, Cyril Bracegirdle, Jo Campbell, Rebecca Camu, Jo Cannon, Thomas Croger, Franca Davenport, David Gibson, Jenny Gordon, Barbara Henderson, Anthony Howcroft, Karen Jones, Cliff Kitney, Hilary Lloyd, Ann MacLaren, Nina Milton, Prue Phillipson, Julian Ruck, Joanne Rutter, Aoo Sanusi, Adrian Sells, Fleur Smithwick, Chip Tolson, Nicholas Underhay, Judy Walker, Lisa Weir, Laura Wilkinson.

And yes, it is weird, seeing names of people I know in there. The standard, as they say, was very high, unsurprisingly.

So what was I was looking for? Not much - a good story, told well. A story that held my interest. Great characters, of course. Originality, quality of writing, and something that wouldn't quite let me go when the story ended.


Tania Hershman said...

Congratulations to all! A sci-fi story, Ia m not surprised, I am reading so many of these now and the breadth of their imagination is often astonishing. Thanks for sharing your process with us - interesting that you seem to have ended up with a majority of female writers in your top 6 +finalists, but then again the longlist was already very women-dominated, which you didn't know, it being all anon of course. Must be very interesting having chosen and then waiting to see if there are names you know...!

Group 8 said...

Congrats V for being a v committed and thorough judge - I'm sure all who entered appreciate that and especially the winners. Good on you. N x

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Really interesting stuff! Thank s both.

Lauri said...

It's nice when a story is heads above the others when judging but hell when there a few very good ones. Congrats on getting the job done!

Nik Perring said...

Congrats to all involved - and to you V; must have been a difficult and fun job, that!

E.P. Chiew said...

Thanks V, a very illuminating look into a judge's mind.

Yes, a few recognizable names. Huzzah!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Lauri - I have to say, all the longlist could very happily be published, some with a tweak or two, and I hope the writers polish em up and get them back out there when they can. There were some reasons why a story ended in the 'nope' pile and at this level, those just didnt hold my attention in addition to a few technical things. And yes, it would be lovely to have had the winners separate themselves out neatly - they didn't! I had to work hard.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Nik

fun certainly. I met some great characters, in fascinating stories, and am constantly moved by the variety and breadth of our creative minds.

Elaine - dont look to closely inside this judge's mind. It's dark in there!

Caroline M Davies said...

That's such wonderful news. Judi is in my local writers group. You couldn't have given the prize to a nicer person and I'm sure the story was great as well.

Small world innit.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Caroline - thats great. I have been told she won first prize here in 2002 as well - clever lady! Send her my best regards.