Earlier this week, I found myself on the panel of judges for the Manx Litfest Short Story Slam.
The first thing that struck, when organiser John Quirk asked me to judge – initially for the heats and then for the final itself – was that I felt exceedingly unqualified for the task.
The contest involves contestants reading out their own short stories before an audience, with a six-minute time limit.
With a track record of one short story published and another about to be come out, I found myself asking: who am I to judge?
But, given that I enjoy reading and still find myself rating the performance of celebrities reading out the bedtime stories on CBeebies – Tom Hardy is a good actor, but he wasn’t there for the dads, was he? – I guess I’m as qualified as the next person.
So, after author Angela Roberts and I had selected the 10 finalists, we were joined for the final by retiring librarian in charge of the Mobile Family Library, Sandra Henderson, and Zeba Clarke, another author and English tutor at King William’s College.
Immediately, of course, this made me once more question my qualifications to be a judging panel!
But, it turned out, we all pretty much came to similar conclusions.
Our choice of Benjamin Hickey’s Endurance as the winner was a unanimous one. It was humorous and real, bridging the gap between Adrian Mole’s late adolescence and David Mitchell’s early paranoia.
In second place was a chilling tale, Saffy, by Kim Kneen, and Roz Stimpson was third with The Thief.
They were damned good, too.
As were the other entries and, perhaps the best part, all sounded better upon hearing them a second time around.
What it made me realise is that there is a wealth of talent in this island of ours.
A quick shout out, too, to all those involved in Manx Litfest. It is a fantastic event run by a dedicated team.
I take off my hat to them.
Visit Paul Speller’s main website.