The people organising the Bath Short Story Award are having quite a bit of fun tweeting teasers about the content of their longlist, due up Saturday. Rachael Dunlop blogged about her opinion of longlists here – she is not impressed in general, though finds the Bath tweets entertaining – and Tracey Upchurch is also quite amused. Got me thinking, well, what do I think of longlists.
I think my answer is jaundiced by the fact that I’ve been on too many of them. Just recently I had a novella on a very short longlist and I didn’t make the shortlist of 6. Well, get over it, one might say, but dear reader, the prize money was HUMUNGUOUS. Lots of lolly and it broke my heart not getting on that shortlist. As Rachael says, I’d been allowed to hope and that raised my expectations.
I’ve been longlisted for the Sean Ó Faoláin Prize, the Bristol Prize, the Raymond Carver Prize, the Fish Prize (again and again – oh and then on a shortlist of 30! Argh!) the Aeon Award and possibly a few others. I’m kinda burnt out with longlists because for all that everyone says “oh they’re an achievement”, what can you do with a longlisting? You can’t convert it into dinner for two in a mid-price restaurant, or even one of those burgers which fall apart when you’re eating them at Eddie flippin’ Rockets. When I make up my writing CV, for example on the front page of this website, I don’t have a consistent record of my longlisting because, well, people are more interested in actual prizes.
But I’ll tell you the longlists I hate most. It’s the ones where the people in the know crow about how the shortlistees have already been chosen and informed – so those who haven’t are sitting cooling their heels and refreshing their screens all in futility.
I think if I summed up my thoughts on longlisting it would be: a miss is as good as a mile. Or, as Yeats says, too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart. Or, as Coleridge says:
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And Hope without an object cannot live.
That said, I think what the Bath Short Story Award are doing is pretty clever. It’s fun and gives them a lot of publicity; they seem to get the process and inject a bit of humour into it. So, what are your thoughts about longlisting?