February 6, 2008 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
Wow, I should write snarky entries about competitions more often; I’ve gotten more search engine hits for it than about anything else I’ve ever written. Do stick around! No doubt I’ll soon have equally irascible commentary about markets who don’t even bother e-mailing out form rejection letters.
Anyway, the final statement is here, but the important details are:
- out of 850 entries, only two got ‘yes’ votes from all three judges who did the initial reading;
- Zadie Smith read about 20 entries, after the rest had been either dismissed (with three ‘no’ votes) or haggled over by the judges;
- judging competitions is really really tough [I’m not being snarky about this];
- the shortlisted writers don’t want their names announced NOR do they want any prize money, and many seem to have been outright hostile about it (unless the blog writer’s statement ‘They told us to f*** off’ is meant in a metaphorical sense);
- ‘to be worthy of first place in a competition which celebrates outright excellence’ is better than ‘to be the best of a batch’ though the latter is also good.
The bottom line is that they were unable to find even one story of ‘outright excellence’ [insert acknowledgement of relativism here], and only 1/425ths of the entries got a thumbs up from all three initial judges. I’m glad they have standards of excellence, and no one should feel obliged to compromise because heaven knows there’s enough mediocrity in the world, but with a pool of 800+ entries, it’s clear that few of us have the slightest chance of reaching those standards.