Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 22 February 2015

THE REWARD'S IN THE AWARD

How do we all feel about awards? Is the reward in the award merely monetary? Or could there be something else of more worth? I firmly believe that money isn't everything in this case. But then - to quote the late Mandy Rice-Davies - I would say that because I've won a few. My first award was a shortlisting, £50 and publication, in a Woman's Own Competition. I've won a few other awards with similar purses. All small fry in the scheme of things when you think of the 'biggies' with very big purses indeed. The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly Woman's Prize for Fiction, Orange Prize for Fiction, and Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction) has a purse of £30,000. Not to be sniffed at! The 2014 prizewinner was Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. The Man Booker has an even bigger purse - £50,000, with £2500 going to each author shortlisted. These two competitions are for novels. But there are some very nice purses in short story competitions. The Bridport Prize offers a first prize of £5000 for a short story, and £1000 for the flash fiction winner. The Bristol Prize offers a £1000 first prize for a short story. Entry is now open for 2015.
But I'm left wondering how easy (or difficult!) it is to be objective when choosing a prize-winning novel or short story. We all have our likes and dislikes, our preferences, and surely a little bit of the subjective must creep in there. I wouldn't want to be a judge for a competition that has such a big purse. To be so close and then not take home the award must be hugely disappointing at this level.
I'm a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and when I was on the New Writers' Scheme I was lucky enough to be awarded the Katie Fforde Bursary. This 'win' if you like is the one that has been most beneficial to me in terms of spurring me on to hone my craft and to become a novelist. It took me a while but I got there in the end. It also gave me the confidence to submit a short story for the RNA's first anthology, LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT. There was no monetary prize for this (although I have received royalties) but my reward was to be between hard covers with novelists I'd long read and admired - Katie Fforde, Joanna Trollope, Elizabeth Chadwick, Carole Matthews and Eileen Ramsay, amongst almost forty others.
So where do you sit on awards and rewards? I'd love to know.

14 comments:

  1. What a thought provoking post, Linda. I remember when Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni was shortlisted for the People's Book Prize I was very excited - until I got to the ceremony in London and had to stand on the stage with the other two shortlisted authors and look terribly pleased when they awarded the prize to the winner. Later int he evening they announced another award, the name of which I can't even remember, and my book was shortlisted so up on stage I trundled to be pipped at the post again. I know I should have still been chuffed to have reached the final three, twice, but the public humiliation for those of us who came so close was dreadful.
    I've won small prizes in poetry and short story competitions - £250 was largest amount for coming second in a short story comp. I haven't entered any of the really big purse short story comps since some years ago a co-student on my MLitt course told me her flatmate was one of the preliminary readers. The stories had been ignored until, with the deadline approaching, simply made her decision to long list or not based on the first sentence!

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    1. And a thought-provoking answer! Made her decision on the first sentence? OMG! I am heartened by something Fay Weldon once said about a comp she judged....the winner's work was outstanding but she didn't have the character to cope with success so the runner-up is the name we now all know. I'm taking comfort from that!

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  2. I think that the important thing abut an award would be the boost it gives a writer's (almost certainly shaky) self-confidence. I've never won won. I'd love to, though!

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    1. And to win or shortlisted in the Baileys one would give us a boost of another sort with freebie Baileys... :)

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  3. I suppose I have mixed feelings. I do feel the Booker is over-hyped, but wouldn't at all mind being on the receiving end of any award at all. And of course our own RNA Romantic Novel of the Year awards are not hyped enough!

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  4. Great post, Linda. I think awards are about a lot more than winning - they draw attention to books, and the attention of the public to specific books - which means that those books get a huge boost. That also helps bookshops. I used to be involved in organising and judging awards in my other professional life (employee communications), and the number of awards given each year ran to dozens (best magazine, best newspaper, best campaign, best photo, best headline etc etc). They were presented at a wonderful evening of razzmatazz which was also great for networking. I was shortlisted many times, but only won once (nationally - I won many Scottish awards and even European ones).

    It was a also a great moneyspinner, on which that Association depended greatly. The RNA awards are very different in many ways.

    I think they're great. I'd love to be shortlisted for an RNA Award, and I did win the Elizabeth Goudge Award (and was runner up the only other time I ever entered). And I did come runner up in the Woman's Hour/Woman's Weekly Romantic Novelist of the Year Award back in the early 80s. I'd never written a novel at all, so I think that was quite a big achievement!

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    1. Ah yes, the razzmatazz .... we must never underestimate the razzmatazz! Thanks for your considered response.

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  5. I've won a few short story prizes, one with a large monetary award, but it was the validation of my writing that meant the most. I like competitions that are fairly judged on merit but I can't stand those where the nominee has to canvass votes - seems that those with most friends might rise to the top, rather than the talent of the writer. However, perhaps it's slightly different if someone like a publisher has entered the author for the award!

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    1. I think you've hit the nail on the head there with your comment 'validation of my writing'. Part of me, now that I have had so many stories published, wonders if it is unfair to enter any more competitions? Comments anyone?

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    2. Ooh, ooh, tricky! I would say keep going, especially if, like me, you find these things motivating. But maybe don't enter the smaller ones?

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