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  • Writer's pictureHelen Lederer

From nothing to something or indeed something to nothing depending on mood

Seven months ago, unpublished chapters of unpublished novels and already published novels were entered.  There were loads – here are two dozen (bakery term) wonderful witty works – from a joyous stash of 234 unpublished and 78 published entries.  

Published Longlist

Unpublished longlist

There had to be all manner of bossy strictures and terms - as used by other prizes -but that is where CWIP parts company with the big boys. It’s CWIP’s first year. CWIP couldn’t have administered this without the support of the University and the support of the judges for the longlist.

And since we laugh at different things on the page - to get consensus is wittily impossible. Next best thing – to create a platform of visibility and encouragement. Unhappily, excellent witty entries will only just miss out on this platform, at this time, with these elements…and happily others will make it.  

This prize is to herald an interest in witty work. To write witty is to succeed.  And even though (for me) musing on ‘failure’ as a concept is always a tempting preoccupation – they do say that if you can make failure your friend, you’ll never trip over in public… (I had to make this up, apologies).

And speaking as a person who has never actually won anything ever – well, only a James Taylor LP from the Daily Express aged 15 for my ‘Why I like James Taylor’ in less than 30 words competition - and a position badge aged 10 for standing up straight – that’s about it in the winning stakes.

And oh, my novel was nominated for the PG Wodehouse comedy literary prize along with the amazing Nina Stibbe a few years ago, but winning anything? Moi? Na, it’s not what I do. (Particularly after my play was badly received at my school open day aged 10) I know not to expect it.  

What I do is write … I write most days - I write radio scripts, articles, TV treatments, novels, memoirs, shopping lists and gratitude lists. I write and write ...and nothing much happens. You should see my filing cabinets. Teeming with scripts and ideas. Probably just like yours. This is normal.

More recently, I had a meeting with a publisher who wanted me to do a different kind of book from the one I can write - like I was supposed to feel pleased about the inevitable failure ahead. And then I’ve had lunches (well one actually) with a Book PR who never read my book - it’s all hilarious and tragic and deliciously (ish) destabilising all at once … but it doesn’t really matter because here we all are – writing witty stuff …. all the time.

I’m very familiar with that sinking feeling of – ‘oh no I didn’t make it’. Luckily my ‘go to’ recovery position is stoic. I wait. I allow the adrenaline to course through the body. I allow myself a few further moments of sadness and then I determine to do something else that is quite different. Like …kill a fly maybe. 

And even though I created CWIP, I removed myself from knowing anything at all about any entries and just prayed that there might be a few to justify a prize. I needn’t have worried. In this first year, CWIP received 234 unpublished entries – and being a passive aggressive people pleaser, I did ask if we could offer 234 prizes but was told no we couldn’t - at least CWIP has initiated a platform of visibility.

And who cares that you didn’t make this list of 12? You are funny, you are writing, and like me, you keep at it. The act of witty writing is all.

And for the list of 12 - effing brilliant. Always nice to be recognised. It’s a little miracle. And no one – not even the other 222 witty women writers in our midst, would begrudge that.  

Next year we are doing more categories - stay with us. I still won’t judge but I’ll be championing.     

Published authors longlist

Unpublished authors longlist

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