By Lindsay Bamfield
Lindsay Bamfield has written a number of short stories and flash fiction pieces and has been published in several anthologies and magazines including Hysteria 6 Anthology, Stories for Homes 2, Greenacre Writers Anthology, Mslexia, Writers’ News and Writing Magazine. Prizes include Hysteria 2017, Writers’ News, Writing Magazine and Words with Jam competitions.
Some years ago I started writing a short story. The inspiration came from my memories of first seeing my grandmother-in-law’s art studio. The story evolved as I wrote, with the studio based on reality but the characters all from my imagination. I was pleased with my effort but spent some time tweaking it.
I read it out to my writing group and received very positive feedback. My tutor encouraged me to submit it to a competition. It was rejected but undaunted I tried again. And again. After these three rejections or nil responses I re-examined my story did some rewriting and sent it forth once more. Another rejection.
I made my story a little longer to fit another competition’s word count and later shortened it to fit another, but twice more it met with no success.
I knew it was a worthy story – I’d had others accepted in publications so I did a bit more editing and sent it to another competition. I’d done plenty of research to find the right sort of home for it. Where possible I read previous winners or researched the judges to see if they’d judged previous comps and the sort of stories they had selected. It was obvious that some competitions wanted something quite different from my story so I avoided those, but others were selecting stories that seemed a good fit with mine so they were the ones I focused on. This was now my story’s seventh outing and, yes, its seventh rejection. It wasn’t even getting longlisted. Twice more it was the same outcome.
I wrote a blog post asking ‘when do we give up?’ not admitting that I’d received nine rejections! I had several responses from those who read my post, mostly along the lines of ‘don’t give up.’ But surely there comes a time when you have to? But the responses from writers who have had their own share of rejection as well as success spurred me on to try another competition. Once more I went through the story and edited a few sentences, tightening it a little. I paid my fee and pressed send. At least the fee was going towards an anthology for charity!
My story was longlisted. At last I felt I hadn’t been barking up the tree of delusion. It was shortlisted.
It won the competition.
Of course the prize money was welcome – after all a writer needs to fund further competition fees, paper and ink as well as funding the coffee to fuel the writing! But for me the win felt like a vindication. I knew that some very good writers had entered the same competition and while not everyone will like my story, a panel of judges considered it had merit. Enough to win.
So the message is be brave. In the face of rejection, re-examine, re-work, edit and send your work out again. There is always an element of luck when it comes to competitions and your luck might be about to change!
My toes drive once again into the damp grass; the soft wet mud that greets them causing me to shiver and clench at my fists. It’s almost funny to me that this is my primary focus when my throat is constricting painfully at the prospect of what is to come. This spot is lush and green. Remember? Our picnic space after a long, summer walk, and then, between mouthfuls of chips and messy dip, where we would dance drunk on the edge, swaying for the audience of trees beneath.
I daydream about that ‘typical’ writing day often. Up early, four hours of serious prose, lunch, an afternoon nap, back for the editing … In reality, like most writers, my writing has to be fitted in around my money-earning job. There are days when I feel inspired (although on re-reading it’s often more like mania), and I write for hours at a stretch. But most of the time I need a bit of bullying. I belong to a group of writers who meet fortnightly to critique each others’ work.