I love short lists. I love long lists. I’ve been on both.
My favourite short list was when I was one of six writers out of a field of over 500 that was short listed for the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award in 2013, Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now, with Shadows of Annwn, which is still undergoing rewrites. I got to go over to London and meet Sir Terry himself.
My favourite long list was for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards this year, with Trouble and the New Kid. Didn't make the short list, but, hey, this was a year of amazing books (although, aren't they all?). I'm looking forward to finding out which of them has made the grade.
When I was on my writerly 'L' plates, I used to enter competitions all the time. They are fun to write for and a great way to practise skills, both very important aspects on the journey to becoming an author. My first published stories (commercially speaking) were as a result of making the short list in a competition, and, not only did my stories see the light of day in a simple but beautifully put together series of anthologies by Ginninderra Press back in the early ‘00s, but I began making real writing friends, another important aspect in the journey to becoming an author.
More about that later.
Right now, I just want to bask in the warmth of having entered some new writing for a competition for the first time in several years, pretty much on the spur of the moment, and with the hopes of getting diverse feedback from several judges about how they see the manuscript, and getting short listed.
I chose to enter this particular competition (run by CYA – Children’s and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators Conference) because last time I entered, way back when, I received feedback sheets from a number of readers, all with very different perspectives on my writing.
At first I found it confusing. Why did Judge A actually comment on how great they thought this bit was, but Judge B hated that very same bit? And what was it that caused this one to like my voice, while this other one didn't? And so on.
But, I learned a lot.
One is that you can never please everyone. Some people will like your writing, some won't.
Another is that you can look at feedback and choose to take note of the things that resonate with you, and, well, not exactly ignore the rest, but politely refuse it.
And not to get precious with your work. If you ask for feedback, take on board that sometimes it will hurt. Be sure that you are not just looking for affirmation. I realised too late that that was precisely what I was doing, and my fragile ego took a knock until I understood what a gift I had been given.
I also learned that when you write in open source software and forget to save it to an rtf, pdf, or docx file, your formatting goes out the window, big time! Embarrassing much?
That was then.
The manuscript that I sent off for this year’s comp is for a slightly older audience than my current books, but still uses my first person unreliable and somewhat naïve narrator style. I wanted to see if it works. How do others read it?
I hope I'm a little less fragile these days. After all, I am now a battle hardened receiver of rejections. I can take it. I hope.
I am dead chuffed to be short listed - which suggests, just a little bit (doesn't it?), that my report won't be too difficult to take - and I’m looking forward to finding out more further down the track.
Sadly, I can’t get to Queensland in time to be there for the announcement. School breaks up the afternoon before the conference begins, and short of paying an enormous fortune if I can get a ticket on a plane that leaves pretty much as soon as I can get to the airport after I’ve waved my class goodbye for two weeks (try reading that without taking a breath!), I just can’t make it.
I’ll be cheering and whistling for all the winners, though, including in my section (Middle Grade and Young Adult, for published authors), whether it is Dee White, Gwyneth Jane Page, or me. We've all put ourselves on the line, and deserve a little love.
Life on the short list is fun.