Sunday, 9 December 2012

Do you enter Writing Competitions? Don't dismiss the small ones!

I do enter writing competitions, I've had a go at dozens over past years. Mostly I never even know if my manuscript or email has reached the correct location and not exceeded the deadline. Those who run competitions obviously can't notify all who enter and don't win, but it is frustrating never knowing.

However I'm not saying there's no point in entering competitions. I have been told I was on a long list years ago and once I was even on a shortlist and very close, but my short story didn't quite fit with the others which were all to be published together in a magazine. So that was that.

And once I was joint winner! It was a local playwriting competition for scripts of up to one hour, and there were not hundreds of entries. However there were two winners and the prize wasn't cash, but much more valuable than a couple of hundred quid. My play was joint winner with Andrew Crowther's Funny Men. We both got to see and participate in full productions of our plays as part of the Snowgoose New Writing Festival in Bradford in 2008.

The Single Utamaro at the Carriageworks Theatre,
Leeds & Bradford Playhouse in June 2011
cast: l-r Richard Houghton-Evans as Chas,
Steph Lodge as Martha and Harry Venet as Benedict
My play was called 'The Single Utamaro'. The whole process was extremely rewarding. I helped with the set and props but the directing was done by an expert, Audrey Caldron. I learnt a huge amount and after two re-writes the play was revived three years later with a largely new cast and I directed. I've written other plays since but the Utamaro* is still a piece of writing which I'm very close to.

So forget the Mann Booker prize, entries for that have to be submitted by a publisher anyhow! Get involved with smaller competitions run by groups and organisations nearby. The fact that there will be less competition for the prizes doesn't imply that it's not worth entering. There's more chance that you will get valuable experience and recognition. This doesn't mean you don't have to be a really good, conscientious writer. It does mean there's more chance of your good writing being noticed.

*Utamaro was an eighteenth century Japanese painter and printmaker who was famous for creating exquisite images of beautiful women.

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