03 October, 2011

A Deadly Sin

As I can't think of a suitable picture for this post, here is one taken near our home on Dartmoor. I like living here.

Three months ago I was told that I had won a short story competition but that I wasn't allowed to tell anyone which competition it was until October. Well, happy October everybody! Please indulge me in the sin of pride for a few moments...

The competition was run by the Association of Christian Writers but it wasn't to write a Christian story, but a story on the theme of '40' to coincide with their 40th anniversary. On Saturday, Paul and I travelled to Wimbledon to attend their Writer's Day and pick up my prize. The few other times I've won things I haven't gone to collect my prize personally as it would cost more money than I was winning. But we decided to just go along for the adventure this time and it only cost about half of the money I won, so that was a bonus! I'll be able to get a new raincoat now. It's a glamourous life...

Really, my husband wanted us to go because it was a day hosted by Adrian Plass. Paul grew up reading Adrian's books and wanted to meet him. It was a little bit daunting as I had been asked to read my story during the day and therefore I was the only person, other than Adrian -with his years of writing and public speaking experience - to be speaking. But actually it was really fun. The best bit of course was hearing the judges' report...

Whenever I've done well in a writing competition, I've always had the nagging feeling that there were only 10 entries and seven of them broke the rules or something. So it was reassuring to hear that there were 150 entries into this competition - not massive but a decent number - and that both the judges independently chose my story as the winner, right from the start. I still feel like there was a bit of luck involved - one of the judges spoke about what they were looking for in the stories and I found myself thinking, "Gosh, what a coincidence that my story had those elements in it. That's pretty lucky." But maybe that's like winning the London Marathon and thinking, "Gosh, it's jolly lucky I ran fast." I don't know. Anyway, they were very charming about my entry and after I had read it, everyone was very nice about it so it has given me a new burst of confidence that maybe I have some idea what I am doing. Well, sometimes at least...

Apparently, one of the plus-points of my '40' story was the original interpretation of the theme. I think they had a lot of stories about birthdays and anniversaries! I love themed competitions because I'm just not one of those writers who is bubbling over with ideas and so a theme gives me parameters to work in. It also means that everyone is trying to do the same thing with their writing which makes it more competitive but - on the down side - easier to appear unoriginal or to be compared unfavourably with other entries. What do you prefer when you enter competitions - themes or open entries?

Lots of people have said they will look out for my name in future so I suppose I'd better do something about getting my name visible now! This month I hope to crack on with a few assignments on my writing course and maybe write one bit of short fiction before November comes and I attempt to write a whole novel in those 30 days as part of NaNoWriMo. But as this post is rather long already, more on that another time...

Thanks for indulging me.


  1. Congrats! So jealous by the way - to point where I had to pray about it. : D Think it's because we are so similar. I had a feeling that the story I had sent was too gritty. Will look forward to reading yours - in the next magazine?

    Why did you title this post "a deadly sin"?

  2. Congratulations, Chloe! It sounds like you had a great day. Enjoy your new coat :-)

    Re: your marathon analogy, I think a writing competition's more like a race in which the runners haven't been told the route or where the finish line is. They might know the general direction (a theme), or know the kind of distance they're expected to run (word count), but other than that they're on they're own. You just have to run your best and hope the finish line just happens to be around that final corner...

    In this case, it sounds like you got it just right! Well done again.

  3. Ah, Freya, I didn't know you entered. I'm sure your story was one of the ones they liked. I think they discounted lots of stories because people re-wrote bible stories or tried to make their entries too Christian. NOt gritty enough! That was their chief complaint and it sounds like yours didn't fit into that category so you will at least have pleased the judges. That's the thing with writing - so subjective. Another judge might not even have shortlisted me! As a scientist I find that the hardest bit about writing!

    Yes, it should be in the next magazine. And hey, part of my prize was membership of ACW - really I'm just on a campaign to become as much like you as possible...

    The "deadly sin" was pride. I was feeling pretty darned pleased with myself. I think mainly because you don't often get to hear exactly what the judges thought.

  4. (Thank you, by the way - nice of you to comment!)

  5. I usually keep my failures to myself but I thought that probably wasn't fueling my jealousy very well. : )

    Yeh, writing is so subjective. Luckily, I'd sent this story off a few weeks ago, for an editor to critique and she only had good things to say. Otherwise, I think I'd be more bruised.

    Oooh membership! I think you're allowed to be proud. All the work and rejection that writers have to go through - it's a welcome break. I'm thinking about getting a critique partner, if you're looking for one too - then give me a shout. If not, don't worry. : ) See you later on the blogo planet.

  6. I keep my failures under wraps. Maybe I should add an extra page to my blog for all those competitions I didn't get anywhere in! This competition I really didn't think I stood a chance whereas a few months ago I entered something I thought was good and got nowhere. I don't understand! I want to judge one of these things one day!

  7. So pleased the day went well ~ I think you're entitled to some pride, as long as it subsides into confidence and inspiration. Keep going, gal! Ceve

  8. Congrats, Chloe! You should always share news about your achievements and successes. As a writer, sometimes they are few and far between. Keep up the great writing!

  9. Congratulations! You should be rightly proud! :-)

    Fickle Cattle

  10. Thank you Mr. Fickle (or should that be Mr. Cattle?). From the briefest look at your blog it looks like you know a little about winning. i admire anyone who can win blogging competitions - I can't seem to manage artistic blogging!

  11. Congratulations! You never said what your approach was with the theme of '40'? I'm guessing it wasn't about a man named Basil....

  12. Ah, Derek. I thought you'd never ask...

    You're right. It wasn't about a man named Basil. It's like you're prophetic (or perhaps anti-prophetic - you can tell me stuff that didn't happen in the past!)

    I used the idea of 40 miles per hour. I won't say anymore as it will rather ruin it for anyone who reads it. I'm surprised only one other person took the same angle - I would have thought it's the next most obvious thing after birthdays and anniversaries and Noah's Ark etc. I certainly didn't think I was being particularly original.

  13. Hi Chloe. I'm pleased to find myself once again saying 'CONGRATULATIONS' to you my friend. In the time I've attempted to keep up with your blog and writing I've noticed two main things (apart from the tower of strength that your hubby is),
    1) You apply yourself to your craft with an energy some can only dream of, and
    2) You are so humble about your success.
    Give up on the humility girl and enjoy being bloody good at something you enjoy.
    Regarding your question, if I was pushed I think I would go along with 'theme' for a competition entry. I enjoy trying to think outside the box. You know, work out the first ten ideas somebody else will come up with ... then start again.
    I liked Dan's analogy, but having some experience of distance running I can tell you that unless you go out and practise on the route you are both right; on a marathon you are too keen to keep that pace going to worry too much about anybody else.
    Anyway, once again, I'm really pleased for you.

  14. Thanks for the encouragement, Tom!


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