Is it weird to be pleased when you get an email telling you your work won’t be published? Usually those kind of emails just make me want to howl at the moon, then go and eat biscuits underneath a duvet for a while. But when it’s the Bridport Prize telling you that, although your short story hasn’t been chosen to appear in the final anthology, it’s made it onto the shortlist – well, under those circumstances, somehow that glass really does look half-full.
Apparently there are about a hundred of us on the shortlist – including fellow Scott-prize winner Jonathan Pinnock – chosen from the six thousand-ish submissions to the 2012 competition. Six thousand. Six thousand. If I’d known that beforehand I’d have been far too intimidated to even think about having a go.
I’m especially pleased because the story I submitted, Mid-November, was difficult and uncomfortable to write. My comfort zone is probably a little bit less about the heartfelt exploration of impossible choices, and a little bit more about the absurd black comedy. I like writing about modern-day incarnations of the Seven Dwarfs, or gawky wannabe stand-up comics, or cynical journos stuck in the interview from Hell. But somehow, the idea of the prison visit got stuck in my head, and the only way to shake it was to write the story. (Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that there actually is a prison in our village, which comes in handy when trying to explain the concept of respect for the law to the kids. “See that? That’s where the naughty people get put. Yes, right there, behind that big wall…”)
So, yeah. Not in the final Bridport anthology; sad face! But on the Bridport shortlist; happy face! And of course, huge congratulations to the fifteen winners, whose stories I’m really looking forward to reading when the anthology is published.