The Dundee Book Prize and other Disappointments

Hot hot hot day. Spend most of it in saleroom. Buy nothing. Should have stayed at home, writing. Husband is at sea, operating liberty boat for local Cruising Club lift-in day, ferrying boat owners to and from their newly afloat boats. Comes home looking like a beetroot in a teeshirt. Will not need to light lamp in sitting room tonight. Can simply read by the light of husband's crimson face. Looks like victim of Masque of Red Death in the old movie. Saw it when much too young and was comprehensively terrified though understood not a word of it.
'Why didn't you put sun cream on?' I ask, furiously. He has only just had treatment for sun damage on forehead.
'Forgot' he says. 'Went out at six in the morning and forgot. We all did. Forgot our sun-hats as well.'
Why do men neglect themselves so much? Why do none of the socks in the washing machine at any one time match? Why is the car you are buying 'very much in demand', while the one you are selling 'not what people want these days'?
Why do we believe that going in for - or even winning- a literary prize will help our career?
Have been thinking about The Dundee Book Prize, reminded of it by news of this year's winner.
In interests of fairness, consider it from the publisher's point of view. The main drawback must be that you have no control over the judges, or the submissions either. And you have no idea who will win. You may loathe him/her/the book.
So you publish the winning book(s) anyway, milk the prize generated publicity for all it's worth, and then leave the writer to get on with it.
From the winning writer's point of view, however, this seems like the Big Break. This is the start of a Beautiful Relationship with Your Publisher. Everything is falling into place. The future looks rosy. You are already thinking about the next novel. Until you are comprehensively dumped. This doesn't do you any good at all. You are now damaged goods. The very next publisher you try will wonder what the hell went wrong the first time round.
The Dundee Book Prize is promoting itself as 'the UK’s premier prize for emerging novelists.' It may well be all of that, but here's an interesting fact. So far, and excluding this year's winner who may, God and Polygon willing, fare better, there have been three winners of the main prize . They are Andrew Murray Scott, Claire Marie Watson, and Malcolm Archibald. There is also myself, and Claire Collison, who were runners up, a couple of years ago, when the competition itself took a very strange turn and Polygon kindly decided to publish our novels as well. (Of which more later)
Have any of these novelists had anything else published by Polygon?
Don't think so, though am willing to be proved wrong.
Mind you, I have. My book about Gigha, God's Islanders, was published by Birlinn, the main body of which Polygon is the literary arm. But that was non fiction, commissioned well before the competition, took years to research and write, and was only published last November.
Have any of them (or maybe I mean us) been nurtured by this publisher in particular and Scottish publishing in general, as the 'emerging novelists' proudly promoted by the competition? Not on your life. Five writers, five completely different novels, and none of us worth cultivating? Not what people want these days?
I wonder.


malcolm said…
Hi Catherine
It's Malcolm here, from the 2004/5 book prize.
As you say, we were used, milked and dumped.
Hope all is well with you.
Very best
Hello Malcolm, lovely to hear from you, and hope all is well with you too! I'm fine, but still somewhat smarting from our treatment and I don't think things have been any better for anyone else!
lido ada said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hello Claire! I don't know what has happened to the interim winner - haven't heard anything about her either. But I know this year's winner quite well and she's lovely and an excellent writer, so I sincerely hope she has a better experience! I have a feeling she will, since Polygon have finally found themselves a good writer of crime fiction, which was what they were looking for. Just a pity that there were so many sacrifices (us!) along the way!