I’ve been asked to judge the annual story competition for Wirral Writers, a group to which I belonged in the 80s. The prize is the Maynah Lewis Cup – Maynah was a veteran professional writer who founded the group many years ago, and did much to encourage local authors on the Wirral peninsula.
I’m glad to be involved in something like this, because I do think Maynah was right, and that it is a Good Thing that writers continue to be encouraged – whether or not they have already had the experience of publication. I’ve been involved in judging prize competitions several times over the years, most recently for the Mace & Jones contest last year to celebrate Liverpool’s year in the spotlight as Capital of Culture. Of course, the judging process is inevitably very subjective, and this is something I remind myself of when I’m involved in competitions or awards in relation to my own writing.
I heard the other day that Hugh C. Rae, an excellent writer of many years’ standing has recently brought out a new book. Hugh judged the competition in which I entered an opening scene that later became the first chapter of my debut novel, All the Lonely People. I didn’t come close to winning, but I found his assessment of the piece very useful. And the first short story I ever had published was picked as a winner of a writing competition by the fiction editor of ‘Bella’. A few years later, as a published novelist, I had the pleasure of meeting Hugh at a couple of CWA conferences in Scotland - and he revealed that his most successful books were not thrillers, but romances written under the name of Jessica Stirling!
With every competition, there are bound to be more losers than winners. But my own experience makes me believe that there is something to be gained from entering competitions, even if one doesn’t succeed. And I hope that the current crop of Wirral Writers will include some stars of the future.