Saturday, 11 September 2010

closing and opening

A couple of established and interesting places to send your work to:

Biscuit Flash Fiction Competition
Stories between 250-750 words
£1000 1st prize, and an anthology of the best 10 stories
£9 to enter
Closes 14th September

These 2 are just for female writers (sorry boyz)

Mslexia New Writing
Stories and poems on the theme 'Departures'
Free to enter
Prize: Publication in the magazine
Deadline 17th September

Asham Award 2010
Stories under 4000 words on the theme 'Ghost or Gothic'
Entry fee £15
First prize £1000, 12 selected stories published in an anthology alongside especially commissioned writers
Closes 30th September (postal entries only)

For me, The Asham Award has been on my list of Places I'd Love To Be Published for quite a few years now. The competition only comes around every 2 years, and the anthologies published by Bloomsbury are gorgeous.

But I can't lie and say I'm not put off by the theme (it's the first time there's been a theme, it's usually open) but this week I have worked myself into and around it, wading past all the Very Bad Ideas I got when I first brainstormed 'Ghost or Gothic'.

I think it's fair to say that a themed comp has the potential to attract a lot of entries with similar plots, so the further past your first 50 or so ideas you get you have more of a chance of presenting something original to the judges. I wonder if the Asham theme will put off some short story writers who are a bit snobbish (I was) about writing to a theme they don't usually dabble in?

But I really wanted to enter. Like I said, it's one of my Writing Ambitions. And I want to see if I can create something I believe in from such a challenging starting point.

So, after some delving and note taking I have found a story, which I didn't expect to. It's maybe more suspenseful than ghostly. It's certainly not Gothic-y. But it's proving interesting to put together, and feels refreshing enough. I'm excited to be writing something brand new.

Other news:
Tomlit is back - check out the new look, and an a non-fiction piece by Tania Hershman.


Dan Purdue said...

Without wanting to sound too Jim Davidson, I'm not sure women-only competitions are as relevant as they probably were thirty or so years ago. A scan of most winners and shortlists of short story competitions suggest that the ratio is at worst 50:50, if the girls aren't actually edging ahead. Certainly the Bristol Prize has the scales tipped in the ladies' favour. Same for Bridport.

I'd be interested to see whether there would be any kind of outcry if somebody set up a men-only competition (as far as I know, there aren't any already - [unless you count science fiction competitions, ha ha ha]).

I don't have a particular problem with it, although to be honest the Asham does seem like a particularly good prize. I'm just interested in the reasoning behind it. Are the organisers trying to offer reassurance to timid ladies who don't like the idea of squaring up to a bunch of horrid hairy men, or are they looking to put together an anthology of a certain 'type' of story, ones that only a woman would write, or something? I'm not sure either of those possible explanations stand up to much, if any, scrutiny, but I've never read anything that gives a proper insight into why these competitions exist, what they achieve.

How do you feel, Teresa - I mean, as a woman, is it a tiny bit patronising to have half your potential competition excluded, or do you relish the opportunity to just compete against other women?

Maybe I'm being over-sensitive, but setting entry conditions based on gender somehow seems more provocative than competitions that are only open to people living, say, in Scotland, or over (or under) a particular age.

Dan Purdue said...

Whoops, sorry - forgot to say, Good luck with your ghost-esque story.

It does seem an uninspired theme for them to pick, maybe it is their way of testing writers.

Rachel Fenton said...

I was keen to enter the Asham one but I can't as you have to be a UK resident! Wrote a story for it, too!

I think it somewhat sexist to have women only prizes but then I read about a male writer who was also the judge of a comp and he said he was bored of women writing about domestic themes and I thought that is exactly why women need these prizes. Still the vast majority of women (even working ones) are the ones running the homes and it really infuriates me when people complain that this is not interesting subject matter. As with any writing, it's the skill of the writer which makes something interesting or not. Pah!

I don't think anything has changed for women in the last thirty years.
Once women were given religion, then education to keep them occupied and quiet, now we have feminism. I want something else. I want respect and equality, which means getting rid of the women only prizes and patriarcocentric judges.

What I would like to see is an award for men and women writers soley on the subject of the domestic.

Teresa Stenson said...

Hm. I'd say, Dan, in answer to your question - that I've never thought of Asham as being a place where I'm either reassured because it's just women or excited that it's just women, though I know you're not saying it has to be one or the other.

Maybe because it's a very well established prize, I just assume every writer entering will be good, solid at their craft and as keen as me to be included in such a prestigious award.

I feel a bit naive maybe because I've never viewed either Asham or Mslexia as sexist or discriminatory, even though they are excluding a group of writers. I haven't thought enough about it ever, I've just been interested in being in both because I admire both. They've been on my tick-list, places I'd like to see my work. Places I think would help elevate me too, look good on my CV, if I'm honest.

But you're right, in terms of short story prizes at least (not sure about Booker etc - I think that's what gives Orange the ammunition to keep going - so many Booker shortlists are male dominated. I haven't checked that though) there are plenty of female winners. Bridport last year was dominated by female short story writers, 10 out of 13 were women. Is it too big a debate to wonder if Ali Smith somehow was attracted to the stories women were telling?

Thanks for the good luck with the ghost story thing. I can really imagine lots of usual Asham entrants feeling put out by this theme. Oh well, less competition maybe... esp seeing as there are no fellaz either :)

Rachel - good writing is just good writing isn't it? Wherever it's set, whatever genre it's in. If a female judge had said she wished the men would stop writing about robots and orcs they'd be suitably offended too. (The men, not the robots and orcs.)

Aw, how annoying that you wrote a story and everything for it... bugger. Send it somewhere else? Doe sit fir Mslexia's 'Departures' theme? You know, ghosts and departures, could work...

Teresa Stenson said...

'Doe sit fir' = Does it fit