Kate Wilson – Edge Hill Short Story Prize Intern 2020

In this post, Kate Wilson one of our BA (Hons) Creative Writing students shares her experience of interning on the 2020 Edge Hill Short Story Prize:

When I applied for the internship of the Edge Hill Short Story Prize back in February 2020, to be mentored by playwright and creative writing lecturer Billy Cowan, neither of us could have predicted a global pandemic. The internship was advertised as liaising with agents, authors and publishers during the competition and helping to organise the winning ceremony which, up until this year, had taken place annually in London.

As I was studying a Creative Writing degree, an opportunity like this could only enhance my employability after graduation and provide me with experience of running such an event. I attended the ceremony in 2019 and was amazed by the opportunities it presented for student writers. We were able to meet literary professionals, watch the announcement of the winning writers, followed by an informal gathering where we were able to showcase ourselves over a glass of fizz. The whole event was an eye opener and I found the trip beneficial not only for my education but also for my future as a writer. When the opportunity to take part in the 2020 competition arose, I didn’t think twice about applying.

Taken at the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2019 at Waterstone’s, Piccadilly, London on 25 October 2019. David Szalay – the winner of the prize in 2019.

Following my application, interview and being accepted onto the internship, the country went into lockdown and the obstacles of organising a competition at such a time began to appear. By September, we knew the likelihood of restrictions being lifted in time were slim and so we weren’t going to be able to host a live event in London. The 2020 prize was going to have to be celebrated in a different way. Billy decided that the best course of action was to host an online event and so plans began to host a large zoom conference. I was daunted by the challenges an online event created but equally relieved that we were in a position where an event could still take place.

Billy and I put a lot of work into planning and organising something that could recognise the incredible writing of all the shortlisted writers and have the work of the winner celebrated. As well as many email correspondences with agents, publishers and writers, I was also tasked with designing the digital invitations. This aspect of the 2020 prize is something that I wouldn’t have had experienced in previous years. Even though I was representing the university with every electronic signature and had to ensure I was professional at all times, I was able to be creative with the wording of the invitation; an invitation that we would be sending out to colleagues and friends of those who had been shortlisted.

Taken at the 2018 Edge Hill Short Story prize event, Sarah Hall reading her story.

Another obstacle we faced was ensuring we had enough time so that the short stories could be read, alongside speeches from Billy, Ailsa, and the judges, followed by a Q&A that I would host. To ensure the event ran smoothly whilst keeping to time, we decided that the best course of action was to have the stories pre-recorded. This would allow us to plan the timings and have the assurance that the audience could hear the readings irrespective of internet strength.

On the day of the event, Billy and I were able to have an informal chat with the judges before the event began. My nerves began to settle as we realised that many of us were new to zoom and that all we could do was our best. Surprisingly once the event began, I allowed myself to be lost within the excitement of the prize.

When the winner was announced as Shelley Day with her collection What Are You Like, I like to think that everyone let out a cheer. Watching Shelley celebrate from within her home was something completely new to the prize. Not only did we get an insight into her writerly practices but also a glimpse into her life; the moment was made all the more personal and special for it.

After successfully holding the Q&A, I hit the ‘exit meeting’ button and felt a rush of achievement. I did not think that I was going to be able to handle an online event and not only did I succeed in aiding the Edge Hill Prize, I came away feeling as though I could host my own online events; Obviously nothing as impressive as this literary prize, but in a world that is now shifting towards digital, I have acquired more transferable skills than were originally advertised for the role of The Edge Hill Prize internship.

As a Creative Writing student at Edge Hill, there are lots of opportunities for you to get involved in. Find out more about studying Creative Writing at Edge Hill University.

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