Words for Breakfast (and why we love longlists and Tania Hershman)

This post has been transferred in from a previous blog.
My thanks to  all who contributed or commented. 

The munching noise you hear… the slurping, the swish of napkin on skin, the pause, the giant belch… that’s me, eating my words.

I deleted a blog post today; the third favourite girlfriend, my reaction to The Longlist.

It’s true that my initial reaction to The Longlist was the same as once being called a third favourite girlfriend — because of course I wanted to bounce over the longlist, past the shortlist, and leap into the glorious realms of publication, kudos and… (ahem)… hard cash. BUT, really, I kicked the longlist a little too hard.

I was mean to it, and that wasn’t fair because, truth be told, I’m always delighted when anyone reads my stories, and so to be on a longlist — where someone has not only read my story, but enjoyed it — is wonderful. As a status symbol, it’s not a shortlist (hmmm) or a win… but it’s something more than that. It’s a mark of human connection; the nod of a reader, the tick of a teacher, or a smile from a soul who has to select a very limited number of final winners from, often, an impossibly big pile.

As a reader, I know this — and I’m not sure it came across in the original post.

While I was grimacing at my own post, an experienced and gifted writer got tapping, and Tania Hershman’s comment appeared. She said this:

As someone who has longlisted as well as been longlisted, I can tell you that the longlist for me as a judge was the most important list! That was the list that divided the great stories from the not-so-great, getting on that list was THE achievement. The step between all-entries to longlist was a GULF but between longlist to shortlist was a tiny HOP…. Does that help? No third favourite girlfriend at all, I believe I remember every story I longlisted for the Sean O’F comp, all 40.

I deleted my post, but I didn’t want to abandon that comment. It’s why I follow Tania on Twitter, read her blog, and buy her book; she holds the soul of the short story in her hands.

If I could turn back time, I would celebrate my past longlists (and the shortlists) and offer up a big vote of thanks to the people who read my work and said nice things. If any of the judges are reading this, I thank you now. And just to share a giggle, since the last post, I received the news that I hadn’t made it onto a longlist — one that I would have loved to be on. (Serves me right!)

Luckily, when it comes to the ink dance, the music doesn’t stop.

So… big congrats to all writers who’ve made it onto lists recently, and to everyone as always — happy writing!


  1. You are lovely, thanks for this, “she holds the soul of the short story in her hands” is the nicest thing I think I could imagine anyone saying about me! And here’s to longlists!

  2. Pete says:

    I think it is a social thing that winning has become everything. We may only remember the X Factor winner but that doesn’t mean that they were everyone’s favourites at the time! Claire King’s recent blog post on Amazon reviews shows that people have Marmite views on the same book so making a shortlist or winning isn’t a straight forward process of ‘better/worse’. Tania’s comments were so encouraging. Perhaps ‘third best girlfriend’ is correct but it may be better thought of as an enjoyable holiday romance?

    p.s. “She holds the soul of the short story in her hands” is the nicest recommendation I’ve ever seen for anyone’s writing.

    • Tracey says:

      Hi Pete, thanks for dropping by! You raise a good point about competition and winning — I’d probably enjoy the ‘lists’ a lot more if I liked competition for the sake of it. I don’t — I enter competitions as a way of building a portfolio and to me, it’s about having my work assessed by someone knowledgeable, not about beating people. Also I find the idea of comparing writing a tricky concept, because most pieces contain a snippet of someone’s spirit; maybe their beliefs, or a sense of self if not a factual reflection… without many readers and a voting system, judging is not an objective process.
      (Note to publishers, agents, filter readers and judges: I love lists, please put me on them — ta! ;) LOL)
      And yes, Tania writes astonishing stories. Have you read her book? S’good.

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