Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Surprise, Surprise

On June 6th the six finalists in the Davy Byrnes 2009 Irish Writing Award were announced, and the overall winner will be announced on June 22nd. The Award is Ireland’s biggest short story competition and the world’s richest prize for a single short story with an award of €25,000 (approx. $40,000) going to the best short story and five runners-up each receiving €1,000 (approx. $12,500). The acclaimed American novelist and short story writer Richard Ford judged the competition.

I was surprised and delighted to receive an email yesterday from Declan Meade, Editor of The Stinging Fly and administrator for the Prize. He informed me that my short story "Strange Fruit" was one of the final thirty stories forwarded to Richard Ford for his consideration. He asked for my permission to be named as a longlist finalist. Yes, please! He also invited me to the reception in Dublin on June 22nd when the six finalists will be honored, and the overall winner announced. Sigh. How I'd love to be there. I have many fond memories of Davy Byrnes pub, immortalized in Joyce's Ulysses. Dear old friends and many laughs come immediately to mind.

Funnily enough, Declan's email came minutes after I'd read for the third time Roxane Gay's story, "We Didn't Mind The Fire And We Watched While It All Burned" in Foundling Review. What a story. What a writer. I read the story riveted, enjoying it oh so much. But I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that after finishing the story I also experienced that sinking feeling, filled again with self-doubts, and that frustrated sense of "how can I be a better writer? Give better stories to my readers?" And then I received Declan's email.

It's not lost on me that at times when that "sinking feeling" hits me the universe sends me signs to keep going, keep trying, and for that I am deeply grateful. Only couldn't I please receive bigger indicators, like an agent, book deal, awards and prizes, and .... you get it.


  1. Oh, my gosh, I just read that story, and wow. I have to say, "Please come and get me," is the sweetest, sorriest phrase in a relationship, ever. It's a lot like ours, which is, "I'm stuck."

    You do write like that, only your redemption is more subtle, and sometimes, is absent, which is also good, and jagged, and real. I believe you will get there, to that place of book deals and agents.

    I believe.

  2. Ethel - CONGRATULATIONS! I bet you replayed that phone call in your mind dozens of times and will continue to do so dozens more times! That is thrilling news.

    I haven't read the story you mentioned, but I will definitely check it out.

    Oh I'm so happy for you right now! Win or not - it is HUGE! to get moved into the cream of the crop file...HUGE!!

    Yay! Ethel!

  3. Ethel, congratulations. So well-deserved is this recognition.

    I feel that sinking feeling almost every day, because I read so much brilliant writing. Then I realize that we're all doing great things, only differently and those differences are what make literature so freakin' awesome.

    Having said that, I'm so glad you liked this story. I really loved writing it. I love this couple. They feel like people I would want to be friends with and that's a good thing seeing as I created them.

  4. Also, we should start a writing workshop.

  5. Thanks so much, Paula!

    Yes, Tanita, "please come and get me" is so tender and moving and totally got me. Thanks for your kind words.

    Thanks, Roxane, for sharing your own "sinking feeling"--it's encouraging to know you go through that also. I just spoke to a dear friend who also loved your story: felt totally drawn in, and admired how skillfully you weaved through time in this piece. There are two wonderful and memorable characters. Brava. A workshop? Sign me up!