Costa Book Awards always cause much excitement, and the short story category is particularly interesting as the shortlisted stories are voted for by the public. I voted for Clare Chandler's The Gun Shearer. The winner was Angela Readman with her story The Keeper of the Jackalopes. (This was my least favourite actually, but what do I know?!)
The stories are shortlisted and voted for anonymously, but once voting has closed, the names of the shortlisted authors are revealed in advance of the final result. This year, the announcement caused an extra stir because TWO of the authors (including the eventual winner) - selected anonymously, remember - were also shortlisted last year. There were more than 1400 stories submitted this year, and I imagine a similar number last year. To be shortlisted both years is an amazing achievement. I think if I was shortlisted once I'd be tempted to think I'd got lucky. Twice, and you know you're a pretty special short story writer.
So, does talent always tell? I don't suppose there's a successful writer - however we count success - in the world who doesn't know it takes a healthy dose of luck/blessing to achieve that success. There must be many writers who never get the big publishing deal, top-class agent or prestigious prize they deserve, as well some less talented writers who get the break they needed. BUT I know a lot of people believe that, in the end, talent will prove itself. If you are a good writer, then you will have some confirmation of it - even if it's not the confirmation you most wanted. You might want a three-book publishing deal and only get second-prize in a short story competition - but that is at least some acknowledgement that you're not wasting your time.
I think I agree, though I also think it can take time and wisdom. You can be a really good short story writer, but if you only ever enter Costa and Bridport you might never get any recognition. Whereas, if you enter a slightly smaller, but still quality competition, you might win a prize. I know some writers I think are talented, but who wrote for years before getting that first shortlisting or full manuscript request. It took perseverence but they got there and continue to get there - after all, we are all hopefully improving as writers all the time.
It seems tough to suggest that somebody who has been writing for years without any positive acknowledgement and with loads of rejections just isn't a good writer. But, in the end, I do believe talent will tell. The only question is: when is "the end"? If you are a good writer - subjectively, not on the word of the friend who bought your self-published book - you will find out somehow. You might not find out you are the next John Steinbeck, but you may be a decent flash fiction writer or column writer. What do you think?