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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Meanwhile, in literary news, Zadie Smith has announced that no one has won the Willesden Herald Prize this year.

Our sole criterion is quality. We simply wanted to see some really great stories. And we received a whole bunch of stories. We dutifully read through hundreds of them. But in the end – we have to be honest – we could not find the greatness we’d hoped for. It’s for this reason that we have decided not to give out the prize this year. This doesn’t make anyone at The Willesden Herald very happy, but we got into this with a commitment to honour the best that’s out there, and we feel sure there is better out there somewhere.
I know the proper response from a cynical, seen-it-all-before guy like myself is "Good for her"—that's what Bookninja had to say—but I actually feel like this is a betrayal of the ethics of contest judging. It's cheap. It's actually really easy, and offensively self-aggrandizing, to say "No one met my lofty standards"—much harder to actually pick something someone else wrote and put it out there with your stamp of approval on it.

A contest judge has an obligation not to go out of their way to spit in peoples' eyes.

Maybe the entries really were all, to a one, that bad, but somehow I doubt it.