By this point in the week, I would usually have posted the previous Saturday’s entry to write-invite.com (or “Write On-site” as the competition’s proprietor’s call it).
This week, I have been outwitted: I have been forestalled. This has come about because entry has been short-listed. I won’t post it until after the result has been announced on Saturday afternoon (that’ll be Christmas Eve, babe).
This is only the third time out of about sixty attempts that I have been short-listed. On both the previous two occasions, my entry was chosen somewhat to my surprise, and probably because I had managed to put an unusual slant on a difficult prompt. At least half a dozen previous entries have been better than those two that were short-listed. However, this time, the piece is one that I felt confident about as soon as I had written it.
There is now a ballot among all those who competed last Saturday, except the three who have been short-listed (I can’t vote for myself). This is done on the basis of one-competitor-one-vote, and first-past-the-post. You usually have to get about 40 per cent of the vote to win. There is a single prize of £50 (the fee to enter each week is £4).
All voting is supposed to be anonymous, which is why I don’t want to post the story itself until after the result.
My takings from art-related activities so far this year amount to £310 and a bottle of white wine. This comprises:
Prize money for coming 2nd in the ‘Grist’ short fiction competition: £250
Prize for winning “Most Chins Stroked” award at the open mic poetry event during Huddersfield literary festival: £10 and a bottle of white wine
“Contribution fee” for appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Brain of Britain: £50
(For those reading this from overseas, £ means GBP.)
The history of the bottle of white wine perhaps bears re-telling. My prize was awarded last among those that evening. Michael Stewart and David Gill, both friends of mine and writers who work for the University of Huddersfield, had with them a mixed crate of red and white (I think it was Jacob’s Creek). By the time they got to me, all the red had gone, and so I had to have white. Fine. The pub where the event had taken place was just in the process of closing. It was that time of night when one stands outside the pub in the freezing cold, waiting for the rest of one’s party to finish dithering on the threshold, or taking so long in the toilet that one becomes convinced that a friend is a secret drug-taker and has had an overdose. I was talking to Michael Stewart about, as it happens, my hardening resentment towards the judges of write-invite.com. While this was going on, the bottle of white wine was taken out of my hands by a person or persons unknown. It was momentarily handed back to me so that I could take a swig out of it. Considering the bitter cold of the night, the wine was remarkably warm. About five minutes later, I received the empty bottle, which then had to be unceremoniously deposited in a litter bin outside Huddersfield railway station with a ‘clunk’ that echoed through the crisp air. Fine. Absolutely bloody fine. I bet Julian Barnes doesn’t have to put up with things like that.
I fight on.