Then decision time. And this is the most agonising bit of all. Because I know only too well what a boost winning a competition will give to a writer. I may have written about the importance of self-validation yesterday, but the truth is, a bit of outside validation doesn't hurt either.
It's not a decision to take lightly. Writing this now, before I've even looked at the stories, I can feel a cold chill in case I make the wrong decision. Did I say 'in case'? Let's face it, I know I'm going to make the wrong decision. Or rather, it's the right decision when I make it, but if I were to read the same stories in say two months time, I bet I'd make a different choice.
The truth is, reading is a personal thing, and our tastes change according to our circumstances. My dear dog has just died, and my old cat is also ill. If there's an animal story in the batch, I'm pretty certain I'm going to have a stronger reaction to it now than I will in a few months time. So should I try to adjust for this when I judge? Or simply say to myself, this is who I am now, and I'm judging now.
In my opinion, if you're looking for validation, then being on the short list is enough. Don't hold out for the win to make you feel good, because the winning choice may be decided by something you have no control over, like the death of the final judge's dog a month previously.
Hey ho. I shall be opening the envelope this weekend with a mixture of excited anticipation and anxiety. Good luck to all concerned.