Monday, 19 July 2010

My Day In Bristol

I had the great privilege of meeting some writers on Saturday. Actually in the flesh! People like me, who fret about words and pound away at their keyboards and worry all the time about getting it right and learn to cope with rejection after rejection. And, on this one day, have a chance to meet each other and share that magical bond that binds them - the sheer love of writing.

It was so good to realise that we all have similar insecurities and self-doubts. We share broadly similar domestic lives that sometimes go awry, clouding the ability to write. We also feel the same joy when our writing goes well and is recognised with success.

We were in Bristol for the awards ceremony of the Bristol Short Story Prize. We all had a story published in the anthology and gathered for its launch. The first, second and third prize-winners were announced and the rest of us were genuinely delighted for them. There was such a warm and encouraging sense of kinship among us. And we were all shaking in case we won and had to make a speech. Everyone agreed we would rather write than speak publicly.

The winner, Valerie O'Riordan, richly deserved it. Her powerful story was just three hundred or so words. (The rest were the usual two to three thousand.) That tells you how good her story is. Every single word worked hard and she made them all count. It is a story that I will remember forever. It is a perfect example of the kind of writing that makes you hold your breath as you read it. Then it haunts you for a very long time. My elder daughters read it and turned pale. Congratulations, Valerie.

For me, just being there and part of the book was more than I ever thought I was capable of. I could hardly bear to look at my story in the book, but I've read and loved all the others over the weekend. I know I would want to change things and wish I'd done it differently here and there if I read mine now. I'm just grateful it's in there and hope people like it.

Apart from meeting people and having such a wonderful time with them, the other great thing that was that my husband and daughters were there with me too. They were so proud and happy and that meant more than anything. They've encouraged me to write from Day One and have been unwavering with their support.

It was one of the best days of my life. Thank you Bristol Prize!


  1. I thought about you going to Bristol on Saturday, and just knew you'd be having a brilliant day. Look forward to reading your story (and everyone else's) in the latest anthology.

    I know what you mean about being scared to read your work once it's in print. I always feel a bit the same, in case I'm disappointed or see things I would now write differently. The thing is, we're constantly learning and moving our writing forwards so it's inevitable that our perspective on certain things will change. What matters is doing your best to capture your idea, today, in the here and now, because you can't guess how your thoughts or feelings about that subject will change in the future.

    Well done again on your Bristol success! x

  2. Thank you so much Joanne. What you say about reading our stories in print is very true. We have to remember how right those words felt at the time. Rather like life, when hindsight tells you what you should have done/said, but at the moment in question, you respond in the way that feels right for that situation.

    I thought of you when I was in Bristol and what a great day you had. It's hard coming down to earth today!

  3. Thanks, Joanna! It was lovely to meet you and everybody else on Saturday - they put on a such a fantastic night, and it was inspiring to meet so many short story aficionados. I'm still tired!

  4. Many congratulations on being in the anthology, Joanna. Sounds like a great day out.

  5. I'm about half way through the book and really enjoyed your very unusual story.
    It was lovely to meet you and the other authors and judges. Didn't Joe do well to organise such a successful and enjoyable event?

  6. Thank you Valerie, Rosemary and Bernadette!

    I loved your story, Sherri, and thought it was so moving. It kept me gripped all the way through and the twists were brilliantly written. What an amazing day! I would have stayed longer, but my girls were all fainting with hunger and insisted on taking out to eat, so I had to disappear quite quickly! Hope you enjoyed the rest of your weekend. Let's keep in touch.

  7. Wonderful! And I'm currently flicking through the anthology and enjoying it very much.

  8. Nothing as wonderful as meeting writers. I'm so glad you had such a good day.