Zadie Smith Dislikes Judging, Poops Her Pants

Filed under: The Publishing Biz — joy at 12:19 pm on Friday, February 8, 2008

Zadie Smith refused to award a prize in a contest she was judging because no one was good enough for her.

This is a difficult thing to write. Just like everybody, we at The Willesden Herald are concerned about the state of contemporary literature. We are depressed by the cookie-cutter process of contemporary publishing, the lack of truly challenging and original writing, and the small selection of pseudo-literary fictio-tainment that dominates our chain bookstores. We created this prize to support unpublished writers, and, with our five grand, we put our money where our mouths are. We have tried to advertise widely across this great internet of ours and to make the conditions of entry as democratic and open as we could manage. There is no entry fee, there are no criteria of age, race, gender or nation. The stories are handed over to the judges stripped of the names of the writers as well as any personal detail concerning them (if only The Booker worked like that!) Our sole criterion is quality. We simply wanted to see some really great stories. And we received a whole bunch of stories. We dutifully read through hundreds of them. But in the end – we have to be honest – we could not find the greatness we’d hoped for. It’s for this reason that we have decided not to give out the prize this year.

This happened to me once. I sent a short story into a fiction contest only to be informed months later that the judges were not going to award the prize because they felt no one was good enough to win. It was insulting to me and to everyone else who entered. It was also rather suspicious too, since they charged a $10 reading fee.

Well, guess what Zadie Smith? Contests are crapshoots. People send you entries and you pick the winner from whatever you get. The sampling of stories you receive is not symbolic of the state of current literature. It is a matter of how well-advertised the contest was, how much time you gave people to respond, and whether people (read: good writers) even care about your prize to begin with. As a judge, it’s your duty to pick a winner from whatever you get. Anyone who put on a writing prize is implicitly agreeing to this little contract. To not pick a winner is breaking a trust.

Also, what’s up with this?

Once again, the judges and I, we are absolutely certain there is great writing out there on this internet. Many of the entries we received suggested it. But we didn’t receive enough.

But you only have to pick one winner, right? Then there doesn’t need to be “enough” good writers, only one. Seriously, am I missing something here?

Again, contests are crapshoots. If a contest gets a bunch of bad entries, then it’s supposed to be the best bad writer’s lucky day. But to not pick a winner because no one measured up to some ideal in your head is lame and a cop-out.

Worse, it’s not doing your job.

~ Joy

3 Comments »

Comment by Jonathan

February 10, 2008 @ 7:24 am

Ludicrous. I’d boycott her books except I’ve always ignored them anyway.

Comment by gorgeous george

February 10, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

i bet she ignores your books to, jonathan…oh, hang on,,,,

Comment by gorgeous george

February 10, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

too

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