Let me explain: there are not many awards, prizes or competitions for historical fiction. One is the Historical Novel Society’s Short Story Award. It is an international competition, with interesting judges, interesting prizes and a high standard.
I entered a story, one I really rather like – Elizabethan England, Kit Marlowe, a couple of narrative choices I’m not unsatisfied with… I had hopes for this one. And lo and behold, when the long list was announced, my story was in it.
I was more than a little thrilled. As I said, they have high standards, and to be selected – and I’m not even a native speaker – sounded… well, it sounded good.
And then there was the wait for the short list – and a whole lot of butterflies took permanent residence in my stomach. As I said, I had hopes. And I kept telling myself level-headed things about it, but well, you know how it works, don’t you? If I had made the long list, after all, why couldn’t I…?
“And what’s going to happen if you don’t make it?” asked D. a few days ago, as I was counting butterflies.
“Well…” I said. “Nothing much, I guess. I’ll console myself with the right kind of sinful biscuits in my tea, and walk on a stormy cliff or two, and then work a little more on the story, before I send it somewhere else…” And privately I wondered: would I really be this sensible, though?
In the end, the short list came, and my story was not there.
I won’t pretend I’m not disappointed. Level-headed be damned, I may as well confess I had rather set my heart on the short list – and the anthology… And yet, I’m not half as blue as I expected I would be while I waited and tried to be level-headed about it.
My story was good enough to be noticed. Not enough to be shortlisted, clearly, but above average nevertheless. It’s something to work with. I can do better. I can polish it up, and do something else with it. And I can write a better one, and enter the HNS Award again next year…
So yes, it seems I am somewhat sensible, after all. And I can be reasonably happy over the long list. And if it is true that, as Rudolph Rassendyl says, Nearly Is Not Enough, it is nonetheless something…
A not entirely bad starting point, maybe?