Saturday, 22 August 2015

Winning Words And Women’s prose competition

Lora Stimson won our 2014/15 prose competition for her short story Cornflake Girl. The story was published in our annual anthology with twenty commended and she also received a cash prize of £600 and read at our International Women’s Day celebration in Norwich and our anthology event in Cambridge.

We asked Lora to write something for the blog on what winning has meant for her. We hope her words will encourage you to enter this year’s prose competition which will be launched on the 7th September. We have an amazing guest judge this year, and are hoping for many entries from women writers in the East of England. The competition is open to writers of memoir, creative non-fiction and fiction and entries can be 2,200 words or under.

Over to Lora:

“This year begun in the most wonderful way for me – with the news that I had won the Words And Women Prose Competition with my story Cornflake Girl. My initial reaction was that of surprise. Then joy, obviously. Because the short story form is something I’m still learning to nail, one that I love and respect and therefore am naturally wary of.

I think short story has the most potential, is the most exciting form to work in, can do so much with so little. I read a lot of short stories. I find myself returning most often to those by Ali Smith, Jonathan Safran Foer, Raymond Carver, Jane Rogers, Miranda July. The short story must be both vast and painfully narrow. It’s deceptively difficult to nail. It has a lot to do with sprawling backstory and precision editing, about vignettes and universal truths. I’ve so much more to learn.

To quote a line from Cornflake Girl: ‘Here’s how I do it.’ I write short stories very slowly and many times over. I often interrogate what I’m doing until the whole thing falls apart and I hide it away and try to forget I thought of such a useless idea in the first place. Every now and again something clicks into place (a change in perspective, thematic conceit, stylistic approach; an ‘aha’ moment) and the story, lurking in the shadows behind all those unnecessary words, suddenly makes sense. And then I finish it very quickly and treat it like a scab; try not pick at it, let it have some open air in which to heal.

Cornflake Girl is dear to me. I realise this sounds trite. It’s inspired by a Tori Amos lyric. I sketched it over and over before I realised what it was actually about. I workshopped it with my writing group (whose comments I’m very grateful for!) and then I left it for some time whilst I wondered and tried not to pick.

I didn’t expect my story to win. Honestly. Words And Women exists for women writers living in the East of England and there are a lot of fantastic writers in this region. A lot. It was daunting and delighting. And, let’s be honest, cash prizes are rare and infinitely helpful. Especially when your laptop battery has died and you can only write whilst 3 feet from a plug point.

But most importantly, wins like this generate confidence. A month later (and with a laptop that was actually portable) I finally let my novel out into the world and subsequently signed with my literary agent. The Words And Women prize played no small part in this. I’m very grateful to be part of the cohort, especially reading through the Anthologies themselves, which are brimming with vast, clever, readable, artfully edited stories. Best of luck to those submitting this year, I look forward to the next wonderful Anthology.”

Lora Stimson studied creative writing at Norwich School of Art & Design and UEA. She has published stories and poems with Nasty Little Press, Unthank Books, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Streetcake Magazine. In 2014 she was mentored by novelist Shelley Harris as part of the WoMentoring scheme. Her first novel, about sex, grief and model villages, currently hides in a drawer. She has higher hopes for her second novel, about twins, which received an Arts Council England grant and is now in its final edit. Lora works as a programme manager for Writers' Centre Norwich and sings with the bands Moonshine Swing Seven and The Ferries. She lives in Norwich with her husband and son.