Thursday, 4 November 2010

Level the field.

I recently received a little brown envelope containing a slip of paper. It was from the Royal Society of Literature informing me that I hadn’t won a short story competition. It went on to list those who had.

One of the names looked familiar so I did an online search. And was left more than a little annoyed.

Before I go any further, let me say that I had no expectation of winning this competition, but like the optimist I can sometimes be, I thought I’d give it a go. So this is not a rant about how my genius is being overlooked. It is about being fair.

My search revealed that one of the runners-up was a story that had just been published by Virago in a short story collection. Yet the rules of the competition clearly state that entries should be stories not previously published.

I emailed the RSL and asked them about this. The response was mealy-mouthed at best: the story had not been published at the time it went before the judges.

Technically I suppose this is true. Yet that story will have been seen by an agent, accepted for publication, and passed through the hands of a professional editor by the time it was entered into the competition. I entered a story that was all my own work from start to finish.

If anyone is going to take money from entrants to a competition, the competition needs to be fair. Transparently so. The RSL needs to make its rules a little more comprehensive and explicit.

I am sure quite a few people entered that competition in the belief they were being given an even chance to win. That some people may have entered work that had gone through a number of external editorial processes undermines that belief.

It is hard enough as it is to get a foot on the publishing ladder these days. Winning or being given an honourable mention in a prestigious competition certainly does no harm. However, it seems even that route in is compromised.

To those that have…


Leatherdykeuk said...

I have to say I'd have been peeved as well.

Pom said...

Why is integrity a commodity in every area? It's exhausting isn't it?