now incorporating the Sudbury Hill and Wood End Times

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Update: The judgment of Solomon

Dear Angry Willesden Herald Readers,

We apologise again for any upset we caused - it was all my (Zadie's) fault*. Stephen is innocent! Better luck next year I guess. Power to the people, etc.

Yours,

Zadie, Stephen and co.

* Not so fast: as a bad Catholic, I demand my share of any guilt that's going round. SM

Note/update: Well, we tried. See above for the final outcome/ decision/ result.

20 comments:

Happy Larry said...

Scary... the power of bitching

SallyQ said...

That's a very fair decision. Well done to those on the shortlist and well done to the Willesden Herald for making this decision.

Happier Larry said...

How very very sad. For just a second there was the flash of a firework against a drab sky.

£500 for penning a not-winning story? sheesh.

Ossian said...

Any inefficiency in this is entirely down to me. Apologies for any unhappiness engendered and a bow for any happiness. My next project will involve beer and will take place in an actual brewery.

Shameless said...

Ahhhh, I'm very happy to see the update above, which wasn't there when I wrote my rant below. Yes, power to the people! Yay to Zadie, Stephen and Co! By the way, will we get to read the shortlisted stories? And how many were shortlisted? And please check that Mansfield didn't slip through to the shortlist! That would be embarrassing.

SallyQ said...

Count me in! I may not be able to write a winning story but I can sink a few pints.

pissed off said...

Congratulations to all the mediocre writers. Enjoy the £500. Use it to go on an Arvon course or something.

This is not power to the people, this is power to those who complain.

If you have no trust in the judges, don't enter.

Ossian said...

The short list may be posted. Maybe. Contrary to one comment, it has never been posted. All that was posted was a hint that it was ready, which it was. I am angling for a job as Boris Johnson's public relations man.

Happier Larry said...

Please don't publish the not-winners anthology. Everyone knows now, despite the squirming, what the judges really thought of the stories in the shortlist.

Craig Cliff said...

Splitting the prize money means all ten writers can add 'Winner of the Willesden Short Story Competition' to their literary CV. It cheapens the competition, especially when you've proclaimed none of these stories were good enough to actually win.

There were only two or three comments suggesting a split anyway. What if two hundred come and complain about this new decision?

One wonders about the decision making process all over again.

Alex Keegan said...

This is very sad.

I totally, 101% agree with the first decision NOT to award a prize. If you bow to nasty email pressure, why not ask for votes?

Many US competitions and a few UK ones have the stipulation that the award can be withheld. Without such stipulations you get mediocrity (and the truth is that almost all of UK short-story publishing is mediocre at best.)

Be PROUD and stand up for genuine standards, raise the level of UK publishing (YES) or allow your competition to become a joke, and as Craig said, maybe ten people will now say they "won" this comp.

Very recently, running a comp for charity, (our third year) I refused to print the anthology as there simply was not enough stories to warrant it.

Just TWO people complained. If every single entrant had complained it would have made no difference.

So is "Willesden" proud or a gutter-level, do what the tossers ask for, place?

I didn't enter your comp, but if I had, after your first announcement (which I praise) the LAST thing I would want was to be formally announced as "not good enough"

Alex Keegan

Anonymous said...

Do the shortlistees know who they are? (he said, hopefully...despite possibly 'you are not good enough' swipes from others)
I would like to see the anthology go ahead. I bought last year's and enjoyed it.

Alex Keegan said...

Why say "You are not good enough" is a swipe at anyone?

The JUDGE or organisers have clearly said no single story met the required standard.

That isn't a swipe at a person, it's a statement about TEXTs


AK

Shameless said...

Announcing a shortlist of writers, each of whom get some cash, does NOT change the fact there was no main winner. Zadie Smith's stance is still valid.

The issue here was about the possible scrapping of a shortlist that had been put together in due process. No main winner does not have to mean no shortlist.

It is wrong to say that the entries on the shortlist are automatically "mediocre" or "not good enough". These people did bloody well to make a shortlist out of more than 800 entries.

Is there really a shortlisted writer who would turn down the chance for the cash and the honour of being placed in the top ten?

If the shortlisted person has a problem with that, they can always say no. I suspect someone else would gladly take their place.

Also, the shortlisted will be able to say they were shortlisted. Of course they couldn't claim they "won".

I think the organisers have made the right decision. Well done.

Mum'sTheWord said...

I remember something similar happened last year with a small independent publishing house, when they decided to extend the deadline for their novel competition because they hadn't received enough entries to make up a shortlist they were happy with. There was a similar fuss kicked up, because it was believed the situation was not handled very sensitively. I have read one of the novels that did not make that shortlist (it was later accepted for publication with another company), and in my view it was excellent - because that's all this is, 'a view'. We put our trust in the Willesden judges, and their view was that there wasn't a stand-out winning story. It's not a question of them being right, it's all subjective - but we signed up for subjective when we entered. I think the 'breaking news' letter could have been slightly less patronising, but I am prepared to accept that my personal offering to the competition could have been better, too. It's a shame, however, that after just a few complaints there was a knee-jerk reaction and a decision to split the money, which seems to muddy the whole affair even more.

sam said...

I agree completely with the previous poster (Mum'stheword), even with their assessment of the 'Breaking News' announcement as being a bit patronising. It could've been handled with a bit more grace, as too could many of the reactions to it.

Alex Keegan said...

Why the requirement for "grace"?

A story either is top quality or it is not.

Personally I found the post excellent and was thrilled to see (at last) at least one organisation trying to maintain standards.

I also had no issue with the tone or colour of the "no winner" post. It seemed fair and honest to me.

The complaints smack of aggrieved egos and greed, people "grabbing at" an "award".

If, originally, there was a single first prize, and X runner-up prizes (no cash but publication if the standard is high enough) then why not stick to that as a principle?

Announce the best (but not good enough) and print them IF they are good enough for print.


A new comp could be run asap (Judge availability permitting) to see if indeed a good enough story can be found.

My own experience of judging competitions is that only about 1% of entries come close to even being worth consideration, but the vast majority of those are much of a muchness, "OK" but uninspiring.

That is what Zadie found and had the courage to say.

Instead of seeing this as an affront, why not see it as a wake-up call and try harder?

Anonymous said...

Sir, yes Sir!

Ossian said...

disposition of the prize money

Ossian said...

this topic is now closed.