Third Prize - Ruth Rendell Short Story Competition

I am delighted to have won third prize in the Ruth Rendell Short Story Competition run by Interact Stroke Support. Interact are a fabulous charity who send actors into hospitals and care centres to do dramatic readings of short stories to people recovering from strokes. The benefits to the recovery of memory and language abilities of these survivors are quite wonderful.

The competition was for 1000-word stories in any genre (not just crime!) that were suitable to be read in such a setting. I was concerned that perhaps meant the organisers were only looking for humorous pieces. My story, Wildflower, was perhaps better described as poignant than funny, but they must have seen something in it.

Of the 200 or so entries to the competition a shortlist of 12 were given to the judge, who was none other than literary legend Dame Margaret Drabble. To have Dame Margaret even read a piece of my work is incredible; for her to award it a prize is beyond wonderful! On top of that I received my prize at an award ceremony in London where an actor (the lovely Sophie Dickson) performed my story to all the guests. I’m not very good at public events (how I tend to act around people is summed up very neatly in this XKCD cartoon) and it was a long way to go (luckily, six hours on trains feels like a treat to me!), but it was nice to get to feel like a proper writer for the day.

The competition was won with a fabulously comic and believable story by Shelley Vincent, and second-prize was won by a darkly funny piece by James Dunford. I was in the strange position of being comfortably the youngest of the three finalists (although I am not as young as many people apparently thought I was!), but also probably the most experienced writer. Would you believe it, this was Shelley’s first entry into a competition?! And I believe it was only the second entry for James too. Some people clearly have the talent from the start, while the rest of us rely on years of getting things wrong to work out what we’re doing!

Finding out that I had made the top three in a competition like this was a great boost to me. I hardly have time to write at the moment and the idea for this piece came to me suddenly just a few days before the deadline for this contest. I only had a couple of hours to write it and perhaps one more to edit before it had to go, yet it meant a lot to me. It is the first time I have ever written about motherhood and it felt a lot more personal because of it. I was touched to talk to Dame Margaret about it afterwards (she is famous for writing about motherhood herself), and to hear how much it moved people. Perhaps the biggest compliment was as I was handed my prize when Dame Margaret said something about how much truth my story contained. Fiction may be conjured out of the author’s imagination but good fiction is always deeply true at heart.

I will post my story in a separate post. I hope you find it true too.