Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Bridport Prize

If any blog title is sure to get the attention of short story writers - poets too - it's one that mentions The Bridport Prize.

But I'm not trying to get your attention, honest. (At least no more than usual.) I thought I'd put a post together because each year a month or two before the Bridport deadline I notice more people find this blog by Googling Bridport related phrases. I say 'people', I mean more specifically writers - who are also people, but people who have more than just a passing fancy in The Bridport Prize. They are hungry for information, thirsty for the facts.

I know what it's like to get your work ready to submit and desperately want to know stuff about where it's going. What worked in the past, what it's up against, how many entries, when the winners will be announced. I am still that writer - I still send stories out and I sit and refresh web pages or my email when the results are due.

I've written about this before. In May 2010 I wrote a few pieces of advice about entering the prize. And if you're interested in my experience of the prize-giving, you can read about it here.

It's not like I have any definitive answers but I can tell you one or two things based on my own experience only.

You can't read any Bridport winning stories online. This is the most common Bridport related thing people type in their search engines. You can buy copies of the anthology from the website, and you might find a few copies on Amazon.

The selection process takes a long time.
From the deadline to me hearing about being a runner-up took 3 months. And then I had to keep it under my hat until the prize-giving, almost 2 months further down the line. The best thing you can do when you have entered is let it go. I say this - I know this - I hardly ever do it myself. The main thing though is that a competition which receives around 6000 short stories is going to take a while to get back to you.

Your story will be read by a volunteer first, a reader who loves to read, who might have been doing this for the love of it for years. Bear in mind your story, like any short story, needs to grab and hold that reader from the start.

Selecting, and judging, is subjective. The story that got me into the final 13 in 2009 was rejected in 2007. It was the same story, I hardly re-wrote it. Simply put: it got read by the right person in 2009. Whoever read it first, liked it enough to pass it on to the next stage. And then someone else liked it, and then someone else, and maybe another person, and then Ali Smith.

The element of luck that is required in short story competitions is immense
. I never fully appreciated that until I attended the prize-giving, and got to learn a little about the stages of reading and sifting that stories go through to get on the long list.

This is part of the process of sending your work to any major writing competition and it can be overwhelming to think about. But the important thing is - 12 or 13 stories and poems WILL make it through all those parts of the process and one of them could be yours.

And, the thing that's most important - at least to me - when sending any of my work away is - send the story that feels true. This is nothing to do with facts or writing a 'true story' but is about the sort of writing that you feel is true to you. Write in your style, with your passion, in your way of telling.

And if your work is selected, you might get to look like this after the prize-giving. I think I look happy, tired, excited, relieved, drunk. My hair was nice as well, wasn't it?

I'm really glad that people can find this blog by Googling Bridport stuff. There are some things you can't get by looking at an official web page. I think in this digital age of blogs a-go-go, Facebook, Twitter etc, we're looking for personal connections to out of reach things more and more.

Good luck to anyone who enters. The deadline is a month earlier than previous years - it's May 31st. Details here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a really interesting post! You have given me an idea of writing something about my own Bridport experience on my blog (I was a Poetry runner-up in 2010)! You've started something here. Will look out for more of your work.

Teresa Stenson said...

Hi Josephine - thanks so much for reading and saying hello. And yes yes yes - do write something about your experience. I think it's useful and kind of takes down some barriers. Plus I'd love to read it! Congrats to you for your success in 2010 - what a year - CA Duffy - that must have been amazing.

Rachel Fenton said...

Might give it a bash - it's uber tempting - and I think your advice about the luck of it all is so reassuring for writers starting out, too. Your pic is gorgeous, by the way!

Teresa Stenson said...

Ah cheers Rachel (but note the blurry of the camera setting as well as blurriness of my expression). Yes - do enter - do. Do. Do.

And Jospehine - duh (me) getting your judge wrong - it was Michael Laskey not Duffy 2010. I'm all out of touch with how fast the years are passing!

Everyone: Jospehine has written a post about her 2010 Bridport experience here:

Anonymous said...
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Miss McFish said...

I shall be entering! And yes, your hair looked reet cracking lass! Mandy

Teresa Stenson said...

Haha, thanks Mandy. Good luck with your entry.

And where are you from - you don't have to answer, I just appreciate the Northern-ness.

Miss McFish said...

I'm from Scarborough, but now live near Leeds. In between I lived in London. They don't pronounce things proper down there though....

Teresa Stenson said...

Ah, of course, I remember now you said you were an ex-Scarbarian (think that's how you phrased it?!)

And, aye, tha's right about them Londoners.

Jim Bun said...

thanks for the tips.... interesting and informative... cheers
oh yeah,
and your hair looks good too!

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