(photo par mes amis Nick et Pam)

(photo par mes amis Nick et Pam)

This is not the blog I thought I would be posting! For yesterday I received an e-mail from the Bridport Prize Administrator. Don’t Panic! I am not a prizewinner – wouldn’t I be insufferable! I did get a flash fiction though, into the shortlist of some 50 out of the 2,700 entries.

The Bridport Prize has an interesting way of going about things, with an equally interesting rationale behind it. The shortlist will be published in October, but it will not show the titles of the shortlisted flash fictions, but only the names of their authors. This, the e-mail explained, would allow me to use the story elsewhere (bolstered no doubt in the hope-over-experience department by the knowledge that a fiction that has made 50 out of 2,700 might well be in the first three of a smaller competition with, say, a mere hundred entrants).

There’s an implication too, behind this way of doing things, and that has something to do with our ideas about celebrity. The prize, where there is one, is, of course, awarded to the person, but it has been won, anonymously in almost all the competitions I have come across, save one, by the story. Most shortlists give writer and written, but where we are chosing to give only one the choice is revealing.

I’m in the interesting position of being able to make a comparison here, for a few days ago I stumbled across an interview by Katy Darby, lioness of Liars League London. Talking about Liars League and its undoubted success – now in not only London, but Leeds, Leicester, New York City, and Hong Kong (Hong Kong performed my story Petra at the end of August, and I hope it will be showing on their website soon: New York City has just taken Hand-Jive for their upcoming Murder & Mayhem evening – Katy mentioned a couple of her favourite stories, and (whoopee!) my old Hecho a Mano was one of them.

Hecho harks back to my cigar smoking days – sigh – and the phrase was stencilled on many a box of Nicagaruans that I puffed my way through. I could never afford Cubans, besides, spitting out the bits of American shrapnel added a little something to the smoke. The phrases, by the way, means, ‘made by hand’, or, as I have it in the story, ‘a hand-job’. Hecho a Mano is the dirtiest story I have ever written. It was intended to be so, and, if I dare say so, I think I pulled it off. It was a celebration of the cigar, and of another cylindrical object. It was a bit of fun. The writing of it brought tears to my eyes. It was a story I hoped would go down well. (Enough of that!) Liars League have used it a couple of times, and I’m glad of that. Both readings are on their website – there’s a link to the left.

What Katy didn’t mention was who had written it, and the old ego twinged a little at that, yet, there was a sort of parental glow – that’s one of mine, I told myself, and it’s making its way in the world! In fact, on reflection, I rather prefer it that way. If you know about the story, you can track it down, and if you like it (or loathe it), you can make a note of who wrote it. Working from the other end is not, I feel, such a worthwhile journey. Knowing the author won’t necessarily lead you to a story on anybody’s list, long or short.

Yet, there is no doubt, we are asked more often who our favourite author is, than what is our favourite story. Here’s something to change, perhaps. Among my favourite poet’s work I can number, out of several hundred published poems, only a handful of favourite poems, and a list of my favourite stories would include the works of several writers, any of whom would be lucky to get more than one into the first dozen.

You might have been wondering which flash fiction of mine actually made that Bridport shortlist. Well. I’m not going to tell you! But I may well send it elsewhere. The picture, by the way, was sent to me by my friends Nick & Pam and is of a village in France… I don’t know where, but there it is (to mangle a phrase). Presumably they know. I offer it as a taster of what this blog post would have been about, and will be, next week, shortlistings permitting. The other picture is whatever you think it is!