A group of us from the Crichton Writers took part in the Gatehouse of Fleet Big Lit weekend on Friday, with a lunchtime Rant at Franca Bruno’s….. Being asked to write a rant has got to be a writer’s dream….here’s what my particular tuppence in the pot was:




Our judge is the successful novelist…..

Our judge is the prize winning novelist…..

Our judge, whose second novel….

Our judge, best selling novelist…..


You might think I’ve been entering first novel competitions, but no.


I’ve been reading the blurbs for short story prizes. The ‘n’ word is one of the most frequently used to validate the legitimacy of judges in short story competitions….


The implications are clear enough….If you can write a novel, you can sure as hell judge a mere short story!

And why wouldn’t you be able to?

Isn’t the novel the big sister, or brother, of the short story?

Isn’t the novel the elder statesman? The Senior Partner? The SERIOUS piece of writing?


Isn’t the short story just a new kid on the block, half-cock, half assed, watered down, sawn-off, itsy-bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini, second rate, ersatz, hand me down, office junior, not a patch on the real thing sorta story?

Isn’t a short story some kind of practice piece, an apprentice’s attempt, an easy peasy lemon squeesy, nowhere near as good, unimportant, it’ll do till you graduate to a blockbuster, it’ll do till you get your first novel under your belt, kinda story?



Well, no! That isn’t what the short story is. The short story is the Senior Partner.

And it goes way back, long before the novel, and its partner is pretention, the printing press. It goes back to the days before even pen and ink, before ink and papyrus, before the stylus and the clay tablet. It goes back to the days when we sat around the camp fires with our faces to the light and our backs to the darkness, and our eyes on the shadows and the darkness behind the backs of those who sat facing us….

To the days when we told the tales of what we saw, or thought we saw, or pretended we saw, beyond the shadows that danced to the music of the flames.


So don’t tell me you’re novelist when you sit in judgement on somebody’s short story, because I don’t give damn whether you are or not…you might as well be a pastry chef…what makes you a good or a bad judge, what validates your legitimacy is something far deeper and far older: Maybe, you don’t even have to be a writer at all. Maybe, you don’t even have to be a reader…..