An interview with Linda Parkinson-Hardman from the Hysteria Writing Competition

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If you’re a female writer and keen competition entrant, you’re probably aware of the Hysteria Writing Competition (indeed, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll be well aware of it as I’ve posted about it several times). The annual event has taken place since 2012, run by Linda Parkinson-Hardman who founded the Hysterectomy Association in 1997.

Unfortunately, this year the competition is taking a break as there are changes afoot at the Hysterectomy Association which will demand too much of Linda’s time, but it will be back in 2019, revamped and reenergised. Before Linda gets too embroiled in all this work, I asked if she’d mind giving a short interview so we could find out more about the competition, and Linda’s own writing.

Q: What was the driving force behind setting up the Hysteria UK Writing Competition?

Gosh, that’s a really interesting question and not easily answered. I’m a writer myself and I know how hard it can be to get your writing in front of an audience. I also run the Hysterectomy Association, a social enterprise website and it’s a publisher. It seemed like a good way to marry my two interests, and help raise some money for the association at the same time.

Q: What’s the best thing about running the competition?

The variety of people who get involved. Each year, I ask if anyone is interested in judging and every year I’m inundated with offers of help – lots of the women who have been involved for a while came to it because they’d had a hysterectomy themselves and valued the support the association had given them; this was one way they felt they could give a little something back.

Q: How did you decide on the judging format?

The judging format came about because we tried at first to have a readers panel and then two overall judges. But that seemed rather unfair to me as it was the readers who put in all the work. I wanted them to have the final say. The easiest way to get a group of people who may be inexperienced at judging seemed to me to be to give them a form to fill in. And surprisingly, it works. In fact, I’m always surprised by how consistent the judging marks are – it appears that the old adage about cream rising to the top really is true.

Q: Have you ever judged on any of the Hysteria UK category panels?

Goodness no, I try not to get involved with that side at all as there were a few comments in the very beginning about me being the final arbiter and that I might be biased towards people I knew. Now I stay well away and focus on the administrative, marketing and publishing side instead.

Q: You’ve written both fiction and non-fiction: which have you found more challenging?

Definitely fiction. That burrows deep into your soul. I find non-fiction really easy to write, probably because I’m writing remote, research or observational things every day. I work in IT in adoption and engagement around new technologies, therefore I think I’m pretty good at writing easy to understand and learning focused materials.

Q: What’s the single best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

“Don’t expect to make a living from your books”.

Q: What’s your favourite short story of all time? 

‘For sale, wedding dress, never worn’ – it has it all in just six short words.

Q: You’ve self-published several books: how has self-publishing changed since you started out?

Pretty much all the books I’ve written and edited have been self-published. I fell into it because of a conversation with a publisher back in the mid 1990’s when the Hysterectomy Association was just starting. I’d written a couple of books for women about the topic and I remember asking if it was something they might be interested in, his reply was that they would never publish something about hysterectomy as there was no market for it. To some extent it’s true, if you go into any bookshop you’d be hard pressed to find a book on hysterectomy on the shelves. But the Internet changed all that and with the Hysterectomy Association I now have the perfect platform. So for me, self-publishing hasn’t changed really, it’s just become easier.

Q: Apart from writing, what do you love doing most?

Spending time with my partner, the lovely Stevie and our dog Belle (also known as The Beeble) – one day I’ll put some of the short stories I’ve made up in my head about her onto my personal blog. Reading features heavily of course, and I always have a book or two on the go somewhere about the house. I swim before going to the office in the mornings and love to walk – especially if a coffee shop is involved somewhere on the route.

Though the Hysteria competition isn’t running this year, Linda will be maintaining the blog about all things writing, competition and judging related. You can keep up with the latest posts here.

If you’re interested in my experience of judging in the competition, you can read my post about it here. I’d highly recommend the experience.

And if you’re more interested in entering a writing competition rather than judging one, please take a look at my eBook, Short Story Competitions: A Writer’s Guide to Success. If you’ve never tried writing for a competition before, it should give you a good start.

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2 responses »

    • Think it’s possible for a small number of judges/readers to come to similar conclusions given structured criteria, but I’m often struck when I look at say Goodreads how a huge number of books end up scoring around 3.6-3.8 as there’s such a wide range of judgements. (If there’s any statisticians out there, they will probably say this is regression to the mean.)

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