Thursday, 16 April 2009


Well, well, my husband surprised me. He went for the literary novelist. Hmm, note to self: the pen is mightier than the sword.

Here's Harry's verdict on your pigeon post pieces.
(By the way, he is a man of few words so don't expect any gushing):

"I congratulate the bloggers and their creativity. Every entry brought a smile or a shiver. All should win prizes. (Steady on there. You're not that nice to me.)

I especially commend:
For wacky, original, left fieldness - bshanks (the Geisha girl)
For cool language - Jan
For wit - Rebecca (the troll) (don't make personal remarks about my blog-readers, please)
For nice try but too many words - Ebony (yeah, Ebony, read the submission guidelines, why dontcha? He liked that one a lot but he's a rule-follower so you had to go)
For management training advice - Phoenix (heh? He doesn't normally like management training advice.)

But, the winner for me - and this is because I find the evocation of war zones heartbreaking and scary - is Sally Zigmond - "when her window shattered she knew he had lied."

Well done everyone. A humble capitalist salutes your skill - all of you.
Best wishes, Harry Morgan

Aww. Thank you, Harry. (Edited to include the words, for Sally's benefit: A very good choice - you are, after all, a man of taste.)

I should add (because it's my blog and I can interfere if I want to) that, because he hasn't been following this blog properly, he missed the cleverness of Sandra and Sarah, who both did pigeon-related spoof query letters (and one in rhyme and mentioning Werther's toffees, no less). I also loved Emma's disappearing garden idea, and Elen's detective-themed one. Really, there were loads of others he or I could have mentioned but life's a bitch. We laughed, a lot, and then we laughed again. And then we realised that a decision had to be made so I went and had another glass of wine and he made his decision. Which is as it should be.

I thought the whole thing was fascinating. So many different writers, so many different personalities, so many different takes on the same subject. Every genre was there, and every mood, from urban to surreal, from literary to chick-lit, from dark to light and from sensual to prosaic. There were the ones who'd done their research, the ones who'd used local knowledge and political topicality (comparing us to our fairly near neighbour, Fred G, are you??) and the ones who led others in new directions.

It was the world of books in microcosm.

Then too, there's the reader. Oh, the reader. The unpredictability of another person's response; the need for a writer to understand that not everyone will "get" what you were trying to do; the knowledge that your reader will judge you while not knowing what was in your mind, or without appreciating your talent or wit. Every reader comes from somewhere different, brings different desires and meanings and pleasures to the words he/she reads. And likes it differently. You don't know the reader but the reader will judge you as though you were writing especially for him.

So, when you write, and then you send it out, you take a leap into the unknown. You can't know how it will be received.

Which is so the scary bit. Trouble is, readers just don't know how hard it is. Damn them.

And then, of course, there's trying to sell books, which I've just realised I have spectacularly failed to do: my husband just picked as the winner the one person who'd already said she was going to buy Deathwatch anyway. So, that's one lost sale and we don't get to eat today. Thanks, mate. Back to my garret.

Meanwhile, thanks to everyone, congratulations to all the named writers and especially to Sally.


DOT said...

Sob! My first rejection.

Jane Smith said...

Congratulations to la Zigmond, who years ago I stalked through all the literary short story competitions. The only time I ever won anything was when she hadn't bothered to enter. She's a very good writer, and as usual I loved her writing here.

Knowing Sally, she'll probably still buy your book, though, Nicola. She's like that.

Sally Zigmond said...

Thank you, Harry. Thank you, Nicola. What a lovely start to my day. The fact that you personally wouldn't have chosen my entry just shows how much writing competitions depend on serendipity and whether there's an R in the month.

It was a great competition and I enjoyed the challenge. Writing something that makes sense in less than thirty words really exercises the mind.

By the way, is the window mended yet?

Nicola Morgan said...

Sally - arghh: see how writers read too much into the feedback from agent/publisher??! No, no, no, I didn't mean that I wouldn't have chosen you as the winner (I LOVED your entries!), just that he'd missed the chance to commend some others that I'd have high-lighted too. Of course i agree with him (would I dare not?) - I was just surprised that HE picked the lit fic writer! I didn't have to think about who I'd choose overall - luckily. Yes, thank you, the window is mended, yesterday, and the room now smells of putty.

Sally - email me ( and I'll post your book, and also tell me who I should sign it to. (And if you'd prefer a different book, just say - as long as I wrote it ...)

Dot - you'll get over it!

Paige Bruce said...

Congrats Sally!

And congratulations to all of us who were not mentioned and thus 'rejected'. After all, every rejection is another step towards acceptance, right?

(I know that's cheesy, but I read that somewhere, I think it's a great way to look at rejections positively! Or to at least delude yourself a bit into them being a good thing. ;) )

Also, thank you very much Nicola! That was a great way to take a break during my work day and try to think of something within 30 words! I'm looking forward to the next one. :)

Jan said...

Congrats Sally! That entry made me shiver too. Glad you won!

Thanks Harry for the nice mention and the judging.

And thanks Nicola for the idea and the exercise, such a lovely example of shownottell to make your point. One frustration I have with writing is it never seems to capture everything that's so clear and brilliant in my brain and although the most probably reason is lack of skillandpractice, still this exercise sheds light on another aspect - our words do come from a depth that is more than the words, and the reader will read them with a depth of his/her own. And then it all comes alive like your garden in spring. (I'm still jealous of your early spring!)

Clare said...

Congratulations Sally (No, I don't remember "A Painted Garden" but I do remember "Ballet Shoes" -you did ask!)

(Sorry Nicola, didn't realise you were a neighbour of Fred - I was thinking along the lines of Press and Journal, "Aberdeen-Man-Dies-In-Shipping-Tragedy" (Titanic) First we saw Fred's broken windows on our screens, then yours - think local and it's good news for the glaziers!! I don't actually live in Edinburgh.)

I really enjoyed reading all the entries and the accompanying blog re whether or not creative writing can be taught.
Thanks to your blog and links, I've come across a huge range of entertaining and informative materiel - and procrastinated for longer than I dare think about from actually getting on with my own writing. Thanks - I think!

Nicola Morgan said...

Jan - you are so right. And so often we know what we want to say and the words don't come, too, but when they do come, isn't it fantastic/ (Until someone doesn't "get" them ...). I, too, loved your vocabulary and your hapax legomena. (And that's a word/phrase I don't often get to use!)

Clare - not quite a neighbour but not a million miles away! Thanks for your comments about my blog - I really enjoy doing it.

Paige - don't worry, we liked yours a lot too!

Emma said...

Congratulations Sally!
And thanks very much Nicola for the competition, it was great fun to join in, and also to read everyone else's fabulous ideas.

Ebony McKenna. said...

Congratulations Sally,
That was so much fun, Nicola.
I loved reading everyone's take on the challenge.
It's similar to what happened with an anthology I took part in. We had the same set-up and challenge, but all the writers had such wonderfully different stories.

Sarah said...

Congrats, Sally! Your entry was so good. I've a dear friend who lived through the war in Bosnia- your entry immediately made me think of some of our conversations about the war.

Rebecca said...

"For wit - Rebecca (the troll) (don't make personal remarks about my blog-readers, please)"

Ah, this made me laugh! Thank you. This contest was tons of fun!

Congrats to Sally!

Ebony McKenna. said...

With apologies to Chekhov.

Don't tell me the window is broken,
show me the dead pigeon on broken glass.

Phoenix said...

Ah, relegated to the non-fiction section yet again (management training advice). Well, perhaps I can count this another nail in my platform. (Now I just have to decide if that's a good thing.)


Thank you, Harry (and Nicola). And congrats, Sally!