Saturday 11 December 2010


I look back over seven years of hard work, and can see very clearly those turning points where my writing career took a leap forward. (If that’s not too many mixed whatsits…leaping, and turning, whatever next?)
The most important was winning (jointly with Mikey Delgado) the inaugural Willesden Herald Short Story Competition in 2006. I’d not heard of this – but had the details and entry conditions sent to me by various writing friends and colleagues late in 2005 – it suddenly appeared all over the serious short story writers’ networks, and created something of a storm, in a minor way.
Storm? Well, it was a bit different. There was no entry fee, for a start – they were asking for quality work, and had landed a very well known name as final judge – Zadie Smith.
I sent off an unpublished story, and as the guidelines said it did not have to be published by the comp after the judging if entrants didn’t want – that seemed a great deal. What was to lose?

Prize? Well – a mug. Wot, no cash? Nope, not then.

The mug is a much loved thing, and I am very proud of it. Winning the competition started a friendship I value highly with Stephen Moran and his wife Tess, and there was another prize – although I didn’t realise that at the time. Zadie Smith’s judge’s comments – a paragraph about my story.
Being able to quote from such a highly regarded writer was priceless. Worth more than lots of cash. Unquantifiable, actually… suddenly, I was taken seriously.

Why am I banging on about this, now? Because YOU have a week before Willesden Herald Short Story Competition closes this year. Before Stephen Moran reads YOUR story, and if it’s good enough – puts it on the shortlist that goes to the final judge.

This year’s final judge is Maggie Gee. She has a special place in my heart, this lady- she has just mentored me, thanks to the Arts Council, as I struggled to structure a string of short stories into a coherent whole work. She also gave me a generous endorsement for ‘Words from a Glass Bubble’ almost three years back, and again – the credibility that bestows on a not-yet-there writer is unquantifiable.

• There is a minimal entry fee. £3.00.
• Your reader loves short fiction with a passion. If it is good enough, it WILL get through.
• If it gets to the final judge, it will be read by an intelligent, lovely writer whose decision and comments might just be a turning point for you in your career, just as Zadie Smith’s were for me.
• What’s to lose?
• What are you waiting for?
• They’ve had 200+ so far – and already, Stephen is shaking his head, slightly. That means,

Willesden Herald and competition details, HERE

Maggie Gee at Contemporary writers, HERE


  1. Just read your other fantastic news over at Sara Crowley's blog - many many congratulations. Brilliant; so pleased for you.

  2. You're right, Vanessa, sometimes comments from a big name can make your career much more than any prize money can. You've come far in a short time- you ought to be very proud of yourself!

  3. Thank you Rachel!
    Lauri, I dunno about it being a short time, it feels like aeons ---