Words for Breakfast (and why we love longlists and Tania Hershman)

This post has been transferred in from a previous blog.
Thanks to  all who contributed or commented. 

The munching noise you hear… the slurping, the pause, the belch… that’s me, eating my words.

I deleted a blog post today; the third favourite girlfriend, my reaction to The Longlist.

It’s true that my initial reaction to The Longlist was the same as once being called a third favourite girlfriend (school, honest guv, I didn’t marry him) — of course I wanted to bounce over the longlist, past the shortlist, and leap into the realms of publication, CV bling, and hard cash.

BUT, really, I kicked the longlist a bit too hard, and that wasn’t fair because I’m always delighted when anyone reads my stories. To be on a longlist — where someone’s not only read my story, but enjoyed it — is wonderful. As a status symbol, it might not be a shortlist or win, but it still confers a human connection; a nod and smile from a judge who’s had to select a very limited number of final winners from, often, an impossibly big pile. As a reader, I know this — but it didn’t come across in my original post.

While I was grimacing at my own post, Tania Hershman commented. She said this:

As someone who has longlisted as well as been longlisted, I can tell you that the longlist for me as a judge was the most important list! That was the list that divided the great stories from the not-so-great, getting on that list was THE achievement. The step between all-entries to longlist was a GULF but between longlist to shortlist was a tiny HOP…. Does that help? No third favourite girlfriend at all, I believe I remember every story I longlisted for the Sean O’F comp, all 40.

I deleted my post, but I didn’t want to abandon that comment. It’s why I follow Tania on Twitter, read her blog, and buy her book; she holds the soul of the short story in her hands.

If I could turn back time, I would celebrate my past longlists (and the shortlists) and offer up a bigger vote of thanks to the people who read my work and said nice things. If any of the judges are reading this, I thank you now. And just to share a giggle, since the last post, I received the news that I hadn’t made it onto a longlist — one that I’d have loved to have been on. (Serves me right!)

So… big congrats to all writers who’ve made it onto lists recently, and to everyone as always — happy writing!


  1. You are lovely, thanks for this, “she holds the soul of the short story in her hands” is the nicest thing I think I could imagine anyone saying about me! And here’s to longlists!

  2. Pete says:

    I think it is a social thing that winning has become everything. We may only remember the X Factor winner but that doesn’t mean that they were everyone’s favourites at the time! Claire King’s recent blog post on Amazon reviews shows that people have Marmite views on the same book so making a shortlist or winning isn’t a straight forward process of ‘better/worse’. Tania’s comments were so encouraging. Perhaps ‘third best girlfriend’ is correct but it may be better thought of as an enjoyable holiday romance?

    p.s. “She holds the soul of the short story in her hands” is the nicest recommendation I’ve ever seen for anyone’s writing.

    • Tracey says:

      Hi Pete, thanks for dropping by! You raise a good point about competition and winning — I’d probably enjoy the ‘lists’ a lot more if I liked competition for the sake of it. I don’t — I enter competitions as a way of building a portfolio. (Note to publishers, agents, filter readers and judges: I love lists, please put me on them…)
      And yes, Tania writes astonishing stories. Have you read her book?

Leave a reply