The Winner Takes It All

6ws400A few weeks ago, one Saturday night, I read about Magic Oxygen’s six word competition on Twitter. The guidance on their website was, “your six-word story should present the reader with a snapshot of an event with a pertinent happening and offer a suitable enough conclusion to deliver a sense of completeness within its brevity. In other words, make it short and great! The best ones should leave the reader pondering an array of side-shoot possibilities for why it occurred and for what happens next”.

downloadI love flash fiction and as the telly was rubbish as usual, I thought I might as well have a go in collaboration with my old pal Pierre Smirnoff. And then I forgot all about submitting my entry (often the way of things after spending the night with Pierre).

So it was a lovely surprise to be told that I’d made the final nine on a shortlist, drawn up from 1,722 entries from 38 countries. Also, my entry would be read out with the other shortlisted stories and the winner would be announced live on radio.  I’m off chocolate right now (too many Weight Watchers Pro Points!) and all this unexpected excitement replaced the usual sugar rush I experience over the Easter weekend.

Appropriately, ‘The Winner Takes it All’ by ABBA was played just before the result was announced. Hubby and I paused unpacking the shopping to hear that Dan Micklethwaite’s very clever story scooped the £100 prize. You can read Dan’s winning story and the others shortlisted here.

Of course it would’ve been great to win, I’ve managed a 2nd prize in a writing competition but never a first. But it wasn’t to be, not this time… Hubby is a sore loser and looked more gutted than me and he was surprised that I wasn’t more upset by the result. Maybe it’s because I know that rejection is more common than success in the writing game and as I’ve had plenty of experience of knock backs over the years, I honestly didn’t expect to win (and the other entries were really impressive).


And although this will sound cheesy, I did win and here’s why: the competition was free to enter, it was a fun challenge, getting the email that I was shortlisted was exciting, hearing my story read aloud and discussed on radio was weird in a good way, listening to the other entries was inspiring. What’s not to like about that little list?

The word ‘winner’ has six letters in the word but my story has 6 words.

Cash withdrawn. Profile selected. Sperm deposited.

My story lost out on winning by a bawhair (recognised unit of measurement in Scotland) but there’s always next time…

Have  you tried to write a story in six words?

Writing and Rejection

I was chuffed to bits to reach a milestone recently by having my first short story published. It was the wee boost I needed after being on the receiving end of the dreaded ‘R’ word.

“I’m afraid your novel is not right for our list”

“unfortunately, the piece is not for us”

“we will not be publishing your short story”

“thanks, but no thanks”

However it is worded, a rejection still hurts. It feels like someone telling me that my sons are ugly and they aren’t worth loving. Do I see any flaws in my boys? Of course not, they’re my flesh and blood and I wouldn’t change a thing about them (well maybe their selective deafness, eating habits, untidiness….) And my writing is my baby too and that’s why it gets messy with tears and snotters when another knock back drops into my inbox.

We’ve all heard the stories of famous writers being rejected and I’m sick to the back teeth of being told, “Don’t worry, J.K. Rowling suffered 12 rejections from publishers before she found the lucky 13th company to publish Harry Potter into literary history.”  Yeah, whatever. Only 12, I want to scream? That’s nothing, she had it easy!

So the lesson is that I need to get used to rejection. But does it get any easier I wonder? I doubt it; I think it’s more about accepting that rejection seems to be part of being a writer and living with it.

The trick I suppose is to learn how to cope with rejection. Here’s my 3 step strategy:

1) I try not to take it personally, although I’m glad that I don’t actually know any of the editors/judges so I don’t have to worry about awkward social contact in the future and bumping into them whilst drowning my sorrows with my old buddy, Pierre Smirnoff. There’s no risk of me telling them exactly what I think of their crappy literary journal. And who wants to be published in it anyway?

2)I also try to get straight back on the saddle and fire something else out to another magazine or competition.

3)But most importantly, I make it my goal to keep writing, with the hope that the more I write, the better writer I’ll become. I need to stay upbeat with PMA and all that guff (although PMA deserts me more often than my hubby would like).

My gran had a wooden plaque in her hall with the inscription, “Don’t take life too seriously, nobody gets out alive anyway”, painted on it along with the manic face of a circus clown. I can still picture the plaque and the message must have stuck in my brain because although it’s rotten receiving a rejection, I remember that rejection is not fatal, nobody died. And I laugh it off (courtesy of large vodka or two).