Last year, I took part in the launch day for the Jesmond Library Short Story Competition, and it was a really fun day, hearing stories on the theme of ‘Bedtime Stories’. This year, the competition is running again, so here’s a Q&A with Victoria Watson, who is organising and judging the competition (with a little help… info below!).
What are the ‘headlines’ for the competition? What is the theme, deadline, length of entry etc.?
Following the success of the inaugural short story competition last year, Jesmond Library have chosen a theme close to their hearts – Jesmond! So no matter what genre you write in, you can enter your story or poem as long as it features Jesmond.
The word limit for adults (entrants aged 18 and over) is 1,500 words. For the two under eighteen categories, the maximum number of words per entry is 500. And for the poets among you, you have up to 42 lines to impress the judges.
We had a fantastic amount of submissions last year and we hope to get even more this year, particularly from younger writers.
The deadline is Tuesday, 1st November. You can hand your entries in at Jesmond Library or email them. The entry fee is £3 and goes to the running of the library which receives no government funding and relies solely on contributions and volunteers. You can download an entry form here: http://jesmondlibrary.co.uk/2015/11/victorian-christmas-at-jesmond-library/
The judges this year are me – Victoria Watson – and you – Jennifer C. Wilson! It’ll be great to have you on board to cast your eye over the entries. (Note from me: This is really exciting, and I cannot wait to be involved in the judging process!)
What do you look for in a short story? How can entrants look to impress you?
That’s a great question. I look for originality. The winner of last year’s competition, Andrew Atkinson, took the theme of ‘Bedtime Stories’ and flipped it on its head completely. His entry was funny, imaginative and well-crafted. Runners-up included heart-warming stories about hedgehogs, Brussel sprout fuelled capers and matchmaking birds!
For me, the operative word is ‘creative’. As a tutor of Creative Writing, and a writer myself, I like imagination and innovation.
I’m looking for a compelling story, I want to be absorbed in whatever I’m reading. 1,500 words isn’t a big word count in which to tell a whole story so whoever wins will have shown skill in writing to a limited word count but still creating a complete, captivating narrative.
I like to be invested in the characters – I don’t necessarily have to like them but they do have to catch my attention. A word of warning, though, don’t try to cram in too many characters – don’t forget your word limit!
Is there anything entrants should avoid?
Although you won’t be penalised for spelling, grammar or punctuation errors, it can draw a reader out of the story so try to avoid them.
I remember an English teacher of mine bemoaning the ‘then I woke up and it was all a dream’ ending and I have to admit, it does show a lack of imagination or originality.
How long have you been judging short story competitions?
I first judged a short story competition in 2012 for Good Guy Publishing. The result of that was an e-book called Flashy Shorts.
Last year, I set up Jesmond Library’s short story competition as well as co-judging the entries. I was also one of the judges for North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne competition last year and will be again later this year.
I really enjoy judging competitions as it gives me the opportunity to read a wide range of work from a variety of writers. It’s a lot of fun.
What can the lucky winners look forward to in this competition?
This year, Blackwells Bookshop, Keel Row Books and Tench and Co have donated prizes. This year’s prize-giving ceremony is on Saturday, 10th December and will feature the judges’ comments on the winning entries as well as prizes presented by Michael Chaplin.
Winners of last year’s competition not only received their prizes at a prize-giving ceremony at the library but also had the opportunity to read their work out at a performance evening the following month.