Longlists, Shortlists, and the Excitement of Writing

I first came across the term “shortlisted” when I was casted in my University’s production of “The Pillowman” by Martin McDonagh. The main character, Katurian, is a writer and when he was a young boy he was shortlisted in a writing competition. No one in the cast was quite sure what the word meant, and even after my director told us he was contemplating using a different word in this production so that the audience would understand.

When entering a large writing competition there are usually three rounds. If you pass the first round you are longlisted, or put on a list with all the other winners of the first round. In the second round each story that was longlisted is looked at again and the list is cut down. If you pass the second round you are shortlisted, or put on a list that has fewer people. Finally, the list is looked at again and the finalists are chosen. The length of the wait for a response depends on how many people are in the competition.

Jonathon Pinnock, a PicFic author here at Folded Word, was recently longlisted in the Bristol Short Story Competition for his story “rZr and Napoleon.” This story was also shortlisted in the Fish Short Story Prize. Another work of his, “The Last Words of Emanuel Prettyjohn,” was shortlisted in Southport Writers’ Circle Competition.

“In the last three years, I’ve actually had around 15 stories longlisted/shortlisted/commended and a further 9 prize-winners,” said Pinnock. “The most recent ones to be listed are “rZr and Napoleon” and “The Last Words of Emanuel Prettyjohn.”

Pinnock says that his stories are generally about anything and everything. “”rZr and Napoleon” is about a renegade graffiti artist who takes on a lucrative corporate contract for reasons of his own,” explains Pinnock. “”The Last Words of Emanuel Prettyjohn” is about cult that grows up around a man who never speaks, told from the point of view of several of the people who have encountered him.”

There are several reasons why writers send out their stories to competitions. Some people try to start a career, while others just do it in hopes for some extra cash. Then there are those who just do it for fun. Pinnock’s reasons for sending out many different stories are a combination of the reasons listed above as well as a way of looking for a type of acceptance in the writing world.

“I sent the stories out for several reasons: (a) to try to build a CV* (b) to try to win some money (c) to find out if I was good enough,” said Pinnock. “I chose the Fish and the Bristol competitions because they are both prestigious and attract a large number of entries (1800 in the case of Fish and nearly 1500 in the case of Bristol). Southport is less well-known, but it’s well-run and I’d heard of some of the previous winners.”

Pinnock has been writing all his life, but only in the past 3 years has he been taking it seriously. Unfortunately, he has been unable to live the writer’s dream just yet.

“It’s a hobby at the moment, but it would be wonderful to be able to spend at least some of my working week playing with words,” said Pinnock. “I have several longer projects that I want to work on, such as “Mrs Darcy vs The Aliens”, which I am currently serialising at http://www.mrsdarcyvsthealiens.com

Pinnock will have to wait just a bit longer to find out of “rZr and Napoleon” was shortlisted. The Bristol shortlist will be published on June 7.

Visit Jonathon Pinnock at: http://www.jonathanpinnock.com/

*CV stands for Curriculum Vitae which is Latin for “course of one’s life.” A CV in Britain is the same as a resume in America.

by Casey Murphy

7 Comments on “Longlists, Shortlists, and the Excitement of Writing

  1. Congrats! I haven’t entered a lot of contests recently but there is a thrill to making it out of the slush pile even if just to be longlisted..


  2. I haven’t submitted to contests, but I get just a little excited when I see on Duotrope that work submitted after mine has been rejected by a journal and mine is still pending. I’m sure it just means my work has been routed through a more slothful reader, but I like to envision it going into a “maybe” pile.


  3. Dan: I think viewing your works in the “maybe” pile is a better view 🙂 The way I see it it’s more of a boost of confidence.
    The only contest I ever entered was for Centenary College’s Literary Journal. I forgot that I entered it until I found out I won the grand prize, but I think I forgot because I was busy with school at the time. Recently I sent a story to a magazine (via Duotrope) and now I’m on pins and needles waiting for a response.


  4. Pingback: Interview at Folded Word : Jonathan Pinnock’s Write Stuff

  5. ^^^ Haha. Love pingbacks. Anyway … one of the important things that I forgot to say about how I choose whether or not to enter a particular competition is whether they publish anything apart from the winner(s). I really do like to know if I was good enough to get at least to the second or third round of judging. Kind of like making it into the second week at Wimbledon or making the cut at the Open.


  6. It is really nice to have those different levels of encouragement, especially when you are first starting out submitting work. I think it lets you know when you are on the right track. Thanks for helping us with our article, BTW!


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