Saturday, 18 September 2010

I wanna tell you a story...or 150

Originally printed in the Bath Chronicle on Sepetmber 2 to talk about the success of the Chronicle's first ever short story competition to write a story in 250 words in line with our 250th anniversary
Sep 2

When you launch a competition in the paper – particularly one that has never been done before – it is always with a certain amount of trepidation.

Will anybody bother entering? Will people take it seriously? And if nobody enters, is there a big enough cloth to wipe away the egg from my face?
ll of these went through my mind when we launched our short story competition as part of our 250th anniversary celebrations.

I came up with the idea of getting readers to write a story about TheBath Chronicle in exactly 250 words – it is not an easy task, not one that wouldn’t require a good amount of thinking and planning and certainly not one we had done before.

Would this be an idea like the Sinclair C5 or playing Emile Heskey up front – ideas that were just not meant to be?

Well, I need not have feared. When we closed the entries earlier this week we totted up that we had received more than 150 – a remarkable figure in my opinion as each entry took time and thought to produce.

What has particularly pleased me is the wide range of ages of those who have taken part. It is said that there is a good book (and presumably a good short story) in everyone and clearly age was no barrier in this context. We have received entries from people of all ages – schoolchildren, students, those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, a big batch from those in their 50s and 60s and then plenty in the 70-90 brackets too.

We deliberately asked for ages on the entry form to get a flavour of who enters and it was amusing to see how many people qualified their ages – ie, hello Dean Gallagher of Odd Down who is nine years AND ten months and also to Suzanna Mead of Southwick who is 41 but was keen to tell me that her son says ‘she looks 35’!

One of the other things we did was to make the subject matter for your story completely open and we’ve been astounded at the variety of subjects covered.

We have seen stories set in the past, set in the future, set on the day of Armageddon and set during a number of major historical events including the Second World War.

In addition we have seen all manner of odd chracters entering TheBath Chronicle newsroom with King George III, Beau Nash, Roman soldiers, talking lions and even the odd gull muscling in as our readers let their imagination run riot.

And now comes the tricky bit. Along with a number of my colleagues (who unwisely agreed to help me judge!) we’ve got to try to whittle down this amazing collection of stories into a shortlist – and it really won’t be easy.

There can ultimately be only one winner but I have been so impressed with the quality and breadth of the entry this year that I’m very tempted to make this an annual contest because clearly we’ve got some very talented story writers out there and it would be great fun to have this battle every year.

251 words next year perhaps?

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