Friday, 27 April 2012

Words, Prizes, & Other Conundrums

In the Dec 31 2011- January 1 2012 edition of review (extract from The Weekend Australian) a picture of Miles Franklin and Vogel Awards winner Tim Winton caught my eye. Quite the Aussie writing legend, I figure anything with him in it is worth a decent look and progressed to read the article by Matthew Lamb (full 'Show and tell' article here) about whether or not prizes and literary awards are causing a bias further down the track for writers new and old.

Are those prize-givers who have the last word shaping publishing trends by the nature of the competitions and awards given?


Lamb argues that fault may not necessarily be at the feet of authors "but perhaps with the ambiguity of an award culture that imposes narrow limits, usually in terms of word length and theme, to which writers must conform to be eligible to and then to win."

Among the to-ing and fro-ing of persuasive argument in the article, two paragraphs that followed this brave statement jumped out and caught my attention because they remain so much at the forefront of writer's beefs today.

"I have banged on about the question of word limits before and shall probably do so again. Be patient with me. The problem is that good fiction writing ought to find its limits within the story being told and not fit itself to the external limitations dictated by the allocated time judges have to read or the limited space publishers have to print.

"It takes skill to write a good story in 1000 words, yes. But it is a skill like jumping through a hoop. And writing ought not to be about performing tricks but about telling stories. The problem is that writing that follows its own course but does not conform to the award culture, which is the likeliest point of entry into the publishing comminuty, is not likely to succeed."

Don't even get started on showing vesus telling or first person vesus third POV...  ;)

Decide: What do you think? Is he right, or just being idealistic? Do you think self-pubbing will shift the playing fields? Does going with a House truly weed out the good, the bad, and the ugly?

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