Armed with curiosity and ignorance, I went to hear the winners of a prestigious short story competition reading their work. I know little about modern short stories, in fact, until I started reading the Stinging Fly I probably hadn't read many written by living authors. So I was intrigued by the possibility of hearing two outstanding examples.
The first prize was ten thousand dollars. The second five thousand.
So i listened attentively to the readings, having that odd experience you get when you don't see what makes a piece of writing "outstanding". I began wondering what constituted five thousand dollars worth of difference between the two stories.