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The Consolation Prize

A Story Every Day in 2024 23rd April 114/366

By Rachel DeemingPublished about a month ago 3 min read
14
The Consolation Prize
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

It was the day of the result and she had been shortlisted. She dared to hope. Could she be the winner of the Somerset Saki Society's Short Story prize, known as the "5s" or "Fives" in the literary world?

She'd written the best story of her life. Her most trusted friends and family had read it, and they were brutal with their criticism. They had all been impressed.

"It's great, Em," her best friend, Candace told her. "It's gripping and moving and funny and dark - all the things I like in a story. And that Tom is a rogue but you can't help but like him, can you?"

She trusted Candace's opinion, as a reader of Booker and Pulitzer Prize winners, not always agreeing with their choice.

And now, tonight was winners' night.

*

Em sat in the audience, hair coiffed and nervous. Candace persuaded her to think about a speech and even though she had felt uneasy about rehearsing lines, she found herself doing it anyway.

The award was being presented by Audrey Brown, a famous novelist, her husband Bernard, an applauded playwright and competition judge. She hoped that she would be meeting Audrey on stage tonight.

Please.

It was time. Audrey had finished a brief speech and was ready to announce:

"And the winner of the Fives this year is...Juniper Wilson for "Drivers in the Dark"!"

Em was devastated but clapped enthusiastically. But as soon as she could, she went to the bathroom and cried quietly in a cubicle.

Coming out, she was startled to see Audrey Brown there and Em was floored that her literary idol would see her so emotional and lacking composure.

Audrey eyed her, concernedly and said, "Are you okay?"

Em smiled weakly and said,"Yes, thanks," and Audrey went to enter one of the cubicles.

Then Audrey turned, using writers' intuition, and said, "It's not a loss tonight. Bernard said they argued profusely to pick the winner. The one that won - it wasn't his choice."

Audrey paused.

"Can I ask who are you?"

Em managed to squeak out "Emma Stubbs" and Audrey nodded knowingly and smiled.

"Rogueish Tom?"

Emma started and said, "Yes, but..."

Audrey smiled broadly and simply said:

"Bernard's favourite."

***

366 words

I dedicate this story to all the writers out there who hope and pray that their name will be announced as a winner of, or be placed in, one of Vocal's challenges. It is an accolade that I am yet to win, although I have been runner-up four times as well as a multiple recipient of Top Story. Am I disappointed about this? I would be lying if I said I wasn't. Everyone likes to win, don't they? To be picked?

Writing is a great way to reflect on your feelings and so, I created this story to assuage my disappointment but it was also inspired by something else Vocal-related.

Some of you may know that I am also a book reviewer which means that not only do I write but I also critique the work of others and regularly post in BookClub. This week, I published a review of A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas which I managed to read but can't say I enjoyed much. This is a very popular book for many but unfortunately, for me it was lacking. However, the comments' thread prompted some lively discussion which I think is great. Books should be discussed. And this got me thinking about subjectivity and how what one person perceives as good, another may well overlook.

Small solace to the runner-up, but there is truth in this, nonetheless; that we all read things differently and we all get different things from that reading.

And so, this story is for those writers who feel overlooked; for writers who haven't won anything; for writers who feel like they pour their all into a story but it makes no difference because that pure essence of self and creativity just doesn't sparkle for the judge that day; for writers who are good but have just not been recognised as such.

It's a subjective thing. It doesn't mean your writing is not good. It just means that the light has not come your way yet. Hang in there. Keep writing and it will happen.

Because, as my story shows, there's a Bernard who's read your story and liked it more than the winner.

*

As an alternative note, I can thoroughly recommend the stories of Saki, after whom my fictional prize was named:

I also rather cheekily cited Somerset which actually refers to the British county but could equally have referred to W. Somerset Maugham, another great short story writer, who also has a real-life literary prize named after him:

Two great British short story writers.

Thanks for stopping by! If you do read this, please do leave a comment as I love to interact with my readers.

114/366

Short StoryMicrofiction
14

About the Creator

Rachel Deeming

Storyteller. Poet. Reviewer. Traveller.

I love to write. Check me out in the many places where I pop up:

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Comments (12)

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  • Angie the Archivist 📚🪶about a month ago

    So realistic… the family and friends all know a good thing when they read it! All cheering her on! Surely her masterpiece will get recognition sooner or later! I often think writing competitions are so subjective that even the same pieces, judged by the same people a year later, could have a totally different outcome.😵‍💫😳 You will soon be over halfway through your 366 micro fiction challenge 😃

  • Andy Pottsabout a month ago

    Yep, that's why I leave competitions to sports. Just run the race faster, throw the javelin further, score more goals. No subjective calls. Competitions and awards for writing (or music, film-making, art, baking cakes, whatever) might be fun but can never be more than a reflection of opinion. But, yes, it still hurts when I write something I'm excited about and then discover that nobody else cares!

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    I love your cheekiness and am shocked that you haven't won a challenge...but you have won the hearts of so many us who read your work!

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    Really enjoyed and connected with this one as I’m sure so many on this platform would! I went to a writing conference on Friday and during one session there was a panel of agents present. The first pages of attendees’ novels were read aloud and the agents would raise their hands to indicate when they wouldn’t read any further, then when all hands were raised or the page was read fully they’d critique it. It’s just devastating when something you work so hard on doesn’t get received in the way you hope.

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    I think anyone who writes can relate to this story. (Or any other artistic and subjective venture!) Totally felt for Em when she bolted to the toilets afterwards. Such a good story Rachel. Wishing you all the writing success in the world.

  • Mark Gagnonabout a month ago

    I think we can all relate to this, especially with Vocal challenges. I have yet to understand how one of my stories can be selected as a top story but not make it as a runner-up. Strange world this be. Glad you've gotten some recognition though.

  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    Great story, and great insights. It's true, writing is subjective. There will always be people who like and don't like our work. Well said.

  • Novel Allenabout a month ago

    I see so many people with 4-6 wins and runners up. I long ago quit expecting anything from Vocal. If I rec a TS or Honorable mention or a spot on the Leaderboard, I thank them and move on. By now I know I will never get even a runner up spot, no matter how good my story is. I remember our 12 y/o writing a beautiful school essay, we told her how good it was. She didn't win and was devastated, she vowed never to write again, We do our best to encourage. Time will show her the way. All of our stories are winners, even if we are the only ones to see it,

  • John Coxabout a month ago

    Loved your story, Rachel, especially the upbeat ending!

  • Gerard DiLeoabout a month ago

    Resonating strongly. Thanks for this.

  • D. J. Reddallabout a month ago

    Richly allusive and encouraging to the underestimated but ingenious, ink-stained wretch? Surely this merits a loud and laudatory DEFTLY DONE!

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Awww Em, I wish I could give her a hug. This is what I always tell people, just because they didn't win, doesn't mean their story ain't good. It all depends on what the judges like and don't like. There's a bias there. Loved your story!

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