I won a short story competition this week and now have some lovely comments about structure and style ringing in my ears. I’m flattered the judge, Dr Kevin Hora, liked ‘The Potential Pleasure of New Soft Furnishings’ enough to award me the 2019 *New Roscommon Writing Prize. It’s worth €500, which for 2,000 words is good payback!
After the presentation, as everyone was scrambling to line up for the cameras, Kevin quietly asked me how many times I’d re-written the story. I owned up to many, many drafts, 10 wouldn’t be unusual, neither would 20. I’m always wanting to improve, although I rarely count drafts.
This particular story had its beginnings in the creative space that is the **Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan (ROI), where I’d retreated for a week last year with the intention of writing more poetry. I was still giddy after being chosen for publication by Carol Ann Duffy, the then UK Poet Laureate. I needed to spend some time writing new poems.
So of course, I began a short story or two.
Lots of revisions later, I thought I might be ready to enter a couple of competitions with them. One became a local winner, the other was shortlisted in a national competition, which will be revealed next month.
“The difficulty is in knowing when I’m finished,” I confessed to Kevin as we grinned for the cameras.
He nodded sagely. “I could tell your story had been worked on because it was well polished. And you knew exactly when to stop,” he said.
Truth is, with such an uplifting element to this writing lark, one way or another I’m never going to be able to stop, am I?
* My win in Roscommon is something of an object lesson in persistence – I have entered every year since the competition began in 2014 and have been shortlisted a few times. This win was sixth time lucky.
** I attended the Tyrone Guthrie Centre (aka Annaghmakerrig) three times last year, twice by spending my children’s inheritance, and once with a bursary from Roscommon County Council’s Arts Office, for which I am very grateful.