It seems that this year's Willesden Herald International Short Story competition is over, and that the winner is ... no one. Due to the judges' inability to a find truly outstanding entry, the decision was made not to award a prize.
Here is an excerpt from Zadie Smith's post, breaking the news.
And we received a whole bunch of stories. We dutifully read through hundreds of them. But in the end – we have to be honest – we could not find the greatness we’d hoped for. It’s for this reason that we have decided not to give out the prize this year.There are many thoughtful comments, but this one had me nodding in agreement.
The little Willesden Herald Prize is only about good writing, and it turns out that a prize faithfully recognizing this imperative must also face the fact that good writing is actually very rare. For let us be honest again: it is sometimes too easy, and too tempting, to blame everything that we hate in contemporary writing on the bookstores, on the corporate publishers, on incompetent editors and corrupt PR departments – and God knows, they all have their part to play. But we also have our part to play. We also have to work out how to write better and read better.
I wonder how many PUBLISHED stories Zadie Smith and the other judges would read to find one “great” story? Of course a free competition will have some chaff, but to expect “greatness” in a mid-level short story competition might be overstating the competition’s importance. Especially one “established to support unpublished writers.” Few writers achieve greatness without first passing through mediocrity, promise, proficiency…