When I was seven my violin teacher decided I was ready to play in my first music festival. My mother made me wear my best dress, something I did every time I performed or took a music exam (even in the very last music exam I took aged 17 - grade 8 piano: me, my sheet music and my best dress). I think my mother hoped that, in the event of a terrible musical cock up, I might at least get some marks for making an effort to look nice (a few years ago I had an MA interview at Oxford University and her advice remained the same, wear a nice dress: I didn't, and I wasn't offered a place - nothing to do with the way I was dressed, sadly).
When we got to the music festival my name wasn't in the programme. There'd been a mistake and I hadn't been entered. I was the youngest person present (and I was wearing my best dress) so they let me play and I was subsequently disqualified.
There were other festivals - I even got to play my violin in the Albert Hall on one, heady occasion. I probably learned some good, early lessons as a result of my disqualification: rules are rules, mistakes happen and best dresses aren't a panacea.
The Frank O'Connor longlist was released a week ago. The Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award is the single biggest prize in the world for a collection of short stories in English. Every eligible, entered collection is longlisted and that makes the longlist a showcase for short story collections from around the world in any given year. The Frank O'Connor is a huge prize and big names win (as you'd expect: big names are big because they're brilliant) so for writers like me the exciting thing is to be longlisted alongside the best practitioners of the craft.
Sweet Home should be on the longlist, but there was an administrative mix up with the publisher's distributors and it wasn't entered. I feel extremely *______* (insert grumpy words here) about this, but I'm still really interested in this year's Frank O'Connor Award.
I've read a little over 10% of the longlisted collections, something I'll attempt to rectify during the summer, after I've finished redrafting my novel. I've enjoyed every collection I've read, but I'm particularly fond of Hitting Trees With Sticks by Jane Rogers and Adam Marek's The Stone Thrower - I'd be delighted to see either on the shortlist.
Of the books I haven't read, I'm especially looking forward to The Tenth of December by George Saunders, Emma Donoghue's Astray, The Peacock Cloak by previous Edge Hill Prize winner, Chris Beckett, The Pre-War House and Other Stories by Booker shortlistee Alison Moore and Hassan Blasim's The Iraqi Christ.
To get an idea of the variety of the 2013 longlist take a look at this gorgeous book cover quilt graphic. Don't the books look beautiful? The shortlist will be decided in late May and the winner will announced in July.
Check out Robaroundbooks for coverage of the Frank O'Connor Award, the Edge Hill Prize and general, lovely, short story goodness.