Mogford Prize
Mogford Prize Mariah Whelan - What Are We Looking For - News Inner 1670x1260px


Oct 29, 2021

There is a scenario I often encounter amongst my students and even my most experienced writer colleagues. An author spends weeks, if not months, polishing their story. They invent richly alive characters, develop a riveting plot and hone every sentence until each word shines with elegance and flair. Then, they send off their perfect story and wait. Six months later a rejection arrives, and they are devastated. This story was their very best writing. If their best is not good enough, what is the point?  


Every writer has been in this situation, and it can really hurt. When it comes to writing, for every ‘Yes’ there are at least 10 more ‘Nos’. In part, this kind of disappointment comes with the territory of being a writer but there are a few things we can do to up our success rate when it comes to submissions, and this is particularly true for The Mogford Prize.

No matter how brilliant your story is, no matter how thrilling the plot and no matter how electric the writing, if your story does not adhere to the prize’s theme and rules, it is highly unlikely it will place. At The Mogford Prize, every year we receive brilliant stories that are not related, in some way, to food and drink. Sadly, we have to let them go. It is the same for stories that are too long or have already been published. No matter how brilliant a piece is, if it does not adhere to the rules it cannot progress.


Then there are questions of taste and style. It is always, always worth reading two or three winning stories from previous years before submitting a story to a competition. Most prizes have different judges every year but there are still definite trends in the sorts of stories that make it through to long- and shortlists that are specific to a competition. At The Mogford Prize, we are looking for stories that can be picked up and read by one of the guests who stay at The Oxford Collection hotels here in Oxford. As such, we would be more interested in conventionally written fiction than experimental texts, for example. You can read the sorts of stories we are interested in over on the previous winners section of our website.

In conclusion then, there are a couple of things a writer can do to maximise their chance with any writing competition:

1. Check the prize competition rules to make sure your story is eligible

2. Make sure your piece adheres to any guidelines on theme/subject. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) are usually a valuable resource.

3. Read the winning and shortlisted stories from previous years to see if your writing might be a good fit.

Rejection is a big part of writing life but with a bit of strategic thinking it is possible to maximise your chances. If you are interested in submitting to The Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing, remember that we are looking for short stories that have food or drink at their heart. So send us your stories about food-related crimes or intrigues; chance meetings over drinks; life-changing conversations over dinner; or perhaps the details of a relationship explored through food. Take a look at the excerpt below to get a taste of how our 2017 winner Nicky Winder handled the challenge:

“And so, having decided that the death of her only daughter was both necessary and desirable, Madame de Roubigné had made certain plans, painstakingly, over a number of years, and now she stationed herself in her shady kitchen … she assembled on her well-scrubbed table: a jar of chutney, home-made, the freshly-baked biscuits (packed in a small, decorated tin), a shining red apple, and a pot of raspberry jam. To these items she added a soft round cheese … No gestures of last-minute rescue or redemption would be allowed to interfere with what she had in mind; the trap was set, and it was foolproof.”

Written by: Dr Mariah Whelan, Writer, Editor and Teacher