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G&A: The Contest Blog

Writer's Digest has announced that it will now accept entries for its Short Short Story Contest until December 10. The competition is accepting fiction entries of no more than fifteen hundred words, which can be submitted online or via postal mail. The winner will receive three thousand dollars, and the second-place finalist fifteen hundred dollars, and both of their winning stories will be published in the 10th Annual Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection.

Last year's winner was Lee Hubbard for his story "We Sat in the Darkness," and Richard Cass received the second-place nod for "A Fisherman's Wife." J. A. Konrath, Debby Mayne, and Gina Ochsner were the judges.

The 2009 honorees will be announced in the May/June 2010 issue of Writer's Digest after winners are notified in February.

The Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York City has launched its annual Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize for a 750-word piece, this year on the theme of "Apartments and Neighbors." Nathan Englander will choose the winning story, which will be read in the Selected Shorts series at Symphony Space, a program featuring stage and screen actors performing literary fiction. The winner will also receive one thousand dollars and tickets to the staged reading of his or her story on April 7, 2010.

All stories must be titled, and a twenty-five dollar entry fee should accompany each submission. The deadline is January 29, 2010 (the organization emphasizes that this is not a postmark deadline, but that entries must be received by this date). The contest is also open to online entries. Additional submission information is available on the Selected Shorts Web site.

The winner of the 2009 contest is Daniela Maristany for "Swimmers." Her winning story, read by actress Mary Stuart Masterson, aired in November on New York City's public radio station, WNYC—as well as a number of other National Public Radio stations across the country—as part of the station's partnership with Symphony Space, appearing alongside pieces by Amy Hempel and Edna O'Brien.

The Cervantes Prize, considered the most prestigious honor among Spanish-language writers, was awarded this year to José Emilio Pacheco of Mexico. The seventy-year-old poet, fiction writer, and essayist received 125,000 euros (approximately $188,000).

Pacheco's works translated into English include City of Memory and Other Poems (City Lights, 1997),  translated by Cynthia Steele and David Lauer; Battles in the Desert and Other Stories (New Directions, 1987), translated by Katherine Silver; and Don’t Ask Me How the Time Goes By: Poems 1964−1968 (Columbia University Press, 1978), translated by Alastair Reid. He has received a Guggenheim fellowship and numerous awards for Spanish-language literature including the Mexican Literature Prize.

The Cervantes Prize, established in 1976 and given annually by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, has generally been awarded in alternating years to Spanish and Latin American writers. Among the previous recipients are Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, and Mario Vargas Llosa. 

As part of this blog’s mission to offer you the perspectives of writers who have found success in entering writing contests, we recently caught up with Tricia Springstubb, a fiction writer from Ohio whose name has lately come up as a winner of contests that we list in our Grants & Awards pages. This year Springstubb won the Howard Frank Mosher Short Story Award from Hunger Mountain (she also earned an honorable mention in their young adult writing competition) and the Iowa Review Award in fiction. “It's only very recently that my literary fairy godmother has begun to ROCK,” Springstubb told us, adding that she just found out that her story is among the top twenty-five entries in Glimmer Train’s September Fiction Open. We asked her to share a bit about her experiences as a competition entrant and winner.

How many contests do you estimate you have entered? How many did you enter before winning your first award?
I've probably entered less than ten contests. The Iowa Review Award came on my third or fourth try. The other ones have followed in succession.

What do you look for in a contest?
I try to enter contests where the judge is someone I recognize and respect. I know too well how subjective and even arbitrary these prizes are, so I like the idea that if I should actually win something, a person whose judgment I value made the choice.

How do you select a piece to submit to a competition?
This sounds moronic, but I tend to write long short stories.  So I try to pick one that most closely fits the contest's guidelines, so I have to cut as little as possible.

Do you have an organizational strategy for tracking award deadlines, submissions, and honors received?

I have a folder full of paper with journals and dates scribbled and circled and crossed out. But I plan to initiate a coherent filing system within this lifetime. Just recently a writer friend made me aware of your Grants & Awards Database and I now have it bookmarked. What a useful tool and generous service!

What is the most rewarding aspect of receiving an award? What award has been of the most value to you?

The affirmation of winning an award fires me up. Also, it's nice to no longer have to leave the “awards” section blank when I apply for fellowships or grants. And of course being published and read is always the main thing.

I had a recent weak-in-the-knees experience when Ann Patchett, who judged the Iowa Review Award, read here in Cleveland. Afterwards I spoke with her and she remembered the story and talked about it with me.  It was cool to be a member of her club, even if only for an afternoon.

What piece of advice do you have for writers looking to contests as a way to get their work into the world?

Awards can earn you some traction, but I don't know that I'd recommend them over just plain old submitting. Fifteen minutes of fame! And then you're back to work.

The shortlist for the 2009 Costa Book Awards, given for books published in the current year by writers living in the United Kingdom, was announced earlier today. Among the finalists are Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel and poet Ruth Padel, nominated for a collection centered on her great great grandfather, Charles Darwin. The prizes, formerly the Whitbread Literary Awards (they now take the name of their sponsor, a popular U.K. coffee chain), recognize the year's "most enjoyable books" in the categories of poetry, novel, and first novel.

The finalists are, in poetry:
Clive James for Angels Over Elsinore (Picador Poetry)
Katharine Kilalea for One Eye’d Leigh (Carcanet)
Ruth Padel for Darwin: A Life in Poems (Chatto & Windus)
Christopher Reid for A Scattering (Arete Books)

In the novel:
Penelope Lively for Family Album (Fig Tree)
Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate)
Christopher Nicholson for The Elephant Keeper (Fourth Estate)
Colm Tóibίn for Brooklyn (Viking)

In first novel:
Rachel Heath for The Finest Type of English Womanhood (Hutchinson)
Peter Murphy for John the Revelator (Faber and Faber)
Raphael Selbourne for Beauty (Tindal Street Press)
Ali Shaw for The Girl with Glass Feet (Atlantic Books)

The winner in each category, announced on January 5, will receive five thousand pounds (approximately eight thousand dollars). A "Book of the Year" selected from among the works of the genre winners will be awarded twenty-five thousand pounds (approximately forty thousand dollars). The overall honoree will be revealed on January 26.

Missouri Review is offering a prize of fifteen hundred dollars for what it calls "voice-only literature"—a poem, story, or work of creative nonfiction recorded with no other sound but the author's voice reciting the work. The journal says in the award guidelines that the audio submissions "will be judged on literary merit and technical proficiency."

Entries, which should ideally "make creative use of recording technology as a means of furthering...literary craft" are limited to ten minutes. Writers are asked to record on a CD labeled with writer, producer, title, and duration of play, and to submit a twenty-four-dollar fee per entry (this also entitles entrants to a one-year subscription to the journal). The deadline is January 2, 2010.

The journal is also running a contest for a video documentary short, not to exceed ten minutes. The DVD recording may either present a nonfiction narrative, a documentary play, or an interview (on "any topic of interest to a general literary audience"). The prize is fifteen hundred dollars and a screening of the winning work at Columbia, Missouri's, True/False Film Festival.

Last year's voice-only literature winners, who received five hundred dollars each, are Douglas Collura in poetry for “Living the Life of the Great Buster Keaton" and Ann Rosenquist Fee in fiction for “Annunciation of the Baby Jesus One Block North of Riverfront Dr." Rachel Hanel won in creative nonfiction for "Smoke Rings." In 2007, Todd Boss won in poetry for “To Wind a Mechanical Toy”; Josh McDonald won in flash fiction for “Lost”; and Albert Haley won in creative nonfiction for “The Cough.” A list of the runners-up and the documentary honorees is on the Missouri Review Web site.

Poems, stories, and essays from a free audio issue of Missouri Review, published in 2007 and featuring work by writers such as Paul Guest and Stephen O'Connor, are available for download from the journal Web site.

In the video below, Boss, who wrote a story for Poets & Writers Magazine on how writers can build an audio platform, recites another of his poems titled "Constellations."

 

River Styx, the thirty-five-year-old literary and arts journal, is running its fourth annual short short story contest with a prize of fifteen hundred dollars and a case of Schlafly beer. The Saint Louis–based microbrewery is cosponsoring the competition, which invites fiction writers to submit up to three stories of no more than five hundred words each. The winning work will be published in River Styx.

The 2009 winner, selected from more than five hundred submissions, is Amina Gautier for her story "Minnow." The second- and third-place winners, respectively, are Rose Bunch for "Season" and Gerry Canavan for "When We're Gone." Honorable mentions went to Avni Vyas for "Cartography," Lisa Nikolidakis for "Misplaced,"
 Fred Venturini for "Punches," and 
Gary Leising for "Enter Fortinbras."

This year's deadline for entries is December 31, and all entrants will receive a one-year subscription to the journal.

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