Longtime readers of this blog will know that in 2009 my story ‘Rip Rap’ was awarded 2nd prize in the Winchester Writers’ Conference short story competition. Last week I received news that my short story ‘Where’s Tracy?’ made the commended list for the 2010 prize. Today I received the feedback for my two entries to the Short Short (under 1500 words) Story 2010 Prize.

While filing away the certificate and comment sheets it struck me how good this set of competitions is. Winchester Writers’ Conference runs a whole host of competitions in the run up to the conference itself, from poetry to writing for children to autobiography via everything in between, with each and every entry receiving feedback from the judging panel.

Having sent out a fair few competition entries in the last twelve months, I have to say that Winchester Writers’ Conference is easily the most encouraging. Neither of my Short Short entries made the grade but the feedback I received tells me that it won’t be too long before I find a home for them in a journal somewhere. While many competitions offer feedback or critiques, most require additional payment for the privilege.

For those of you interested, here’s the positive feedback my work has received from the judging panel, this year and last:

Rip Rap

‘This story stands out on account of the subtlety of the subject and the competency of the writing. Its strength lies in its avoidance of the themes of death, loneliness, repression and the nature of love, at least on the surface of the text; these preoccupations are allowed to resonate by implication and suggestion, giving each line a shadow-meaning which haunts the reader throughout the piece and builds to a powerful effect. A writer may be judged by the subtlety of his themes. This charming yet serious piece is a refreshing story written by a refreshingly skilled writer.’

Where’s Tracy?

‘Well controlled, stylish, with an intriguing opening and totally apt conclusion.’

Half-mown Lawn

‘If we had set loneliness as the theme for the competition, we could hardly have drawn a stronger story. It doesn’t tell us that Annie is now lonely, it shows us. And it is all the more powerful because of that.’

Jump Start

‘A brilliantly structured story.’

I’d recommend any emerging writers out there to send their work to next year’s round of competitions. Entering the Winchester Writers’ Conference competitions has raised my confidence in my abilities while also showing me I still have quite a way to go. All for less than the price of a CD per entry. Can’t say fairer than that.