We know how important it is to trust the people judging your work when you enter a competition like ours. With that in mind we thought we would spend a little time introducing you to our judges and getting their thoughts on The Elbow Room Prize.
For the second part of the series, here is Elbow Room guest judge Harry Denniston
I’d been an enormous fan of Elbow Room for a long time, so much so that I was too intimidated to send them anything until being able to submit anonymously to their inaugural prize left me with no excuse. Elbow Room was the first literary journal I ever bought, when I was an English undergraduate, and gave me the realisation that there’s always writing happening that deserves our equal love and attention. Elbow Room remains special because of its openness to cross-pollination, and it puts a huge amount of energy into structuring a beautifully handmade, physical space where work remains an individual form of effort not necessarily delineated by type. Encouraged by this welcoming Elbow-Room-ethos, I submitted a story this time last year, and was hugely honoured to be selected as one of the winners for their prize.
Being acknowledged by Elbow Room encouraged me to keep experimenting with my stories, keep them open to including various forms, tones, registers and styles within one piece; the anthology validated the idea that a literary journal can be one of the best spaces for colligating genre and housing disparate forms in the interest of creating a photograph of what the moment looks like. The prize night in London was an incredible evening where an entire gallery became a fully unfolded volume of Elbow Room, with visual art, short stories, music and poetry all joyfully up in each other’s grill. My overexcitement at being asked to join the judging panel for this year was immediately unprofessional.
I appreciate risk-taking and rule-breaking, which does not necessarily have to mean pyrotechnics in form or narrative – rather, that someone has struck out fully in their own vein and not tried too hard to write a poem that looks or sounds like one, or a short story that does what we’re told ‘short stories should do’. Through my experience with different forms of writing I’ve come to appreciate the important, but not definitive boundaries that we draw up around different types of work, and I’m always excited by a piece that isn’t content to be only what you think it should be.
I am aware that matching Rosie, Zelda and Lauren’s diligence and incisiveness last year will be no mean feat, but to be allowed to share in so many artists’ efforts is an exercise I feel very lucky to be taking, and I’m so excited to read your work.