Back in the day after leaving University, I remember a horrible few months of fruitless job searching, laboriously completing complicated multi-page application forms for various graduate training schemes for which I didn’t really have a hope of being chosen, and failing even to get a job on the check-outs at our local supermarket (an all time career low, it has to be said). Then late one evening, I discovered a form I’d forgotten about, lost in the detritus of my cluttered desk. It was for a lowly role in a large, prestigious organisation. If I was going to apply for the job, the application would have to go in the post the following day to have any chance of making the deadline. I almost didn’t bother, but in the end I just completed the form as quickly as possible, without any of the pen-chewing consideration I’d given to any of the other applications. Not only did I end up getting the job but, subsequently, it led to several promotions and me working for the umbrella organisation through a number of re-shuffles and mergers for the best part of 14 years. How glad am I that I didn’t simply chuck the form in the bin!
So what has this got to do with writing? Well, umpteen years later and here I am entering as many story competitions as I can in the hope of furthering my writing career. As a subscriber to Writing magazine last year, I was eligible for their new subscribers’ competitions – there was no doubt I’d enter the short story comp (indeed, I spent some time reviewing and selecting a suitable entry), but there’s also an annual poetry competition. Now, those of you who know me well will be familiar with the sort of poetry I write – it’s the kind which is appropriate to scribble in a birthday card to raise a smile. A poet, I’m not. Still, I’d written a poem as an exercise for one of my local writing groups. Feedback from the group had been positive so I decided to send it off.
Months went by and, unsurprisingly, I heard nothing. On my submission tracker, I marked the story submission as unplaced but I hadn’t even entered the poem on the tracker. And then I had a call from Jonathan Telfor, editor of Writing magazine, telling me my poem had won the competition! Me? Win a poetry
competition? Surely there’s been some mistake?
I’ve waited until it’s appeared in print, just to be sure – but honestly, the October Issue of Writing, which is out now, includes the 2016 competition special along with Jackie Tritt’s winning short story, and my winning poem ‘The Midnight Demons’. I couldn’t be more chuffed – particularly as Jonathan has written lots of lovely things about it in the judging comments.
It seems as though all those years of attempting to pare back my prose and remove redundant words has paid off – albeit in a different genre. Thank you Writing magazine for encouraging me to widen my horizons!