‘Writer does town proud in Bridport Prize’ – the headline gives me a tingle as our local paper catches up with the news that ‘Aftermath’ won first prize in Flash Fiction.
An old school-friend alerted me to this article in the Bridport News – and I suppose that’s why it matters. When asked ‘Are you writing anything?’ or ‘When’s the next book coming out?’ I usually mumble something about a tendency to start too many projects and being happy to be working every day.
Often, that feels like enough about me and as the conversation turns, it’s awkward to pipe up with, ‘But I write short things too and sometimes put them into competitions and this time I’ve won a prize!’
Now I won’t have to toot my own trumpet because the Bridport News has done it for me.
The Bridport News (officially, the Bridport and Lyme Regis News) is a local paper read by local people, even when they don’t live here any more. It is held in great affection and sometimes referred to by its old nickname, which is supposed to refer to the sound of the printing presses that were once above Frosts in West Street. I would print the name here but having checked on the internet, I find it has taken on quite another meaning, and might attract the wrong sort of attention.
The press releases about the Bridport Prize went out a while ago, but there’s been other news: our Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, was in town for Bridport Literature Festival and the before and after of that week of events has dominated the local entertainment news. Not that I could grumble about feeling neglected because there were mentions for me along with writer-friends Rosanna Ley and Gail Aldwin, before and after our Bridlit event on ‘Spirit of Place’. There was even a brief acknowledgement of my win, so I thought that was it. This was a nice surprise!
As Frosts is no more, I walked to the other end of town (West Street plus East Street) to buy a paper copy, to see if the article was in there, too. Yes, there it is under the altered headline ‘Maria does Bridport Proud in Competition’ smack on the front of the entertainment section. An entire article about the Bridport Prize with a focus on my contribution. It feels like I’ve been given a badge. It shows there is a result for all the hidden work. I might be spending my days writing in my pyjamas but I have been doing something.
Joanna Davis (aka @DorsetEchoJo) covers everything relevant with a neatly upbeat potted version of my lifestory and all the particulars of the prize including something I didn’t know: mine was one of nearly 1400 stories entered in the Flash Fiction category. Helpfully, in case anyone thinks it must be a local competition only (we have a lot of talented writers round here), she makes it clear that this competition ‘attracts entries from across the world. 2019 saw submissions from more than 10,000 writers from 83 countries, who competed for one of the 34 winner and highly commended awards’.
There’s also the quote from the report by Judge Kirsty Logan, for which I ought to find a place: ‘”Aftermath leapt out immediately: it’s a masterclass in flash fiction, cramming more character development and world-building into 250 words than some writers manage in a whole novel. It’s a truly impressive piece of writing.”‘
From among the official photographs by Rachel Brown, the News features the one of me looking owlish alongside Antonia from Bridport Book Shop. I’m gripping the weighty statue that she hands over yearly to the winner of the Dorset Award (also mine for the highest entry from a Dorset Author). The Award has been sponsored by the Book Shop from the early days of the competition.
The statue, which is the only physical object handed out, apart from envelopes containing cheques, always provokes a reaction from the audience, which perhaps explains why we look (as Kate Wilson, organiser of the Bridport Prize said, when she sent me the photos) like schoolchildren who have done something naughty.
As I’ve said before, I’m enormously grateful to everyone at the Bridport Prize – and now also to the Bridport News for spreading the word.
The competition reopens with appropriate timing on January 6, 2020 – the Feast of the Epiphany.
Finally, can anyone spot the minor error in one of these photos? Clue: it’s not my face.