Tracy Chevalier (The Girl with the Pearl Earring - saw that film over Christmas, what fabulous cinematography it had, like a moving painting)
Anyway Tracy judged the 2007 Bridport short story competition. She was given a longlist (doesn't say how long) culled by Bridport readers from the thousands of entries. She has some interesting comments to make on the type stories she received and the flaws she noticed.
- Certain themes recurred with almost monotonous regularity: aging and problems with elderly parents, suicide, road kill(?), illness, religious faith and lots of cigarettes. So I would steer clear of these for a while unless you can spin them your way.
- Underlying all of these issues is a persistent attempt to make sense of death. ditto
- Sorely missing from the entries was humour. Humour is hard. Humour gets you noticed. But in my experience wit can be misidentified as light writing.
- What let down many of the stories, however, were their endings...the reader demands the impossible: to be both surprised and satisfied. So drag them in with a well crafted beginning but don't forget the ending has to work too.
- Make every word count. How often have you heard this but it bears repeating. There is no room for flab, waffling or wandering off at tangents.
Click on the title to read the whole report and comments on the winning stories. You can also buy the anthology.
The winner, Graham Mort, lectures in creative writing in Lancaster University.
The 2nd prize winner,Vanessa Gebbie, won the Daily Telegraph novel competition and is Assistant Editor of Cadenza (who just rejected me so they're not in my good books)
The 3rd prize winner, Lisa Wieland is an American writer and teaches creative writing in East Carolina University.
Other shortlisted writers also teach creative writing at Leicester, Reading and John Moore Universities but most of them are part timers. Except for Toby Litt.
I'll blog later about the poets and on the 2008 Bridport prize competition.