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Magazine Contests

Contests run by literary magazines are somewhat controversial. I know people on both sides, those who enter and those who don't and I think I understand each position. Most prize competitions cost money, and some don't want to pay the fee, feeling that the situation is the equivalent of paying to have work published. Some just don't want to budget for it perhaps financially cramped already by the printing and postage costs associated with regular submissions. All of this is reasonable. Some go so far as to say that contests are essentially scams put together by journals to make money. I don't think that is reasonable. But I have heard more than one smart person express that opinion.

I'm in favor of entering contests although I must admit to bias as a result of having won the first one I entered. Why did I enter that first one? Because contests can be a relatively easy way to get into print. (Im living proof that they can be a way out of the slush and into the magazine.) The fiction editor of a mid-tier literary magazine had recently told me that he had received less than 50 submissions for an annual short story contest. He ended up extending the deadline in an attempt to get more entries, but didn't get much of a response. Now those are some damned fine odds, folks. I didn't enter that contest given my relationship with that editor, but I did start entering other ones. As I mentioned, I won the first I entered. That hasn't happened since, but I did get an honorable mention once. I've probably entered about 15 total. The win had a prize of $500. I've used that money to enter more contests.

Even without that enter more contests fund, I'd still enter them. The reason is this: with most competitions you get a subscription to a journal. Why you should be subscribing to lit mags is, perhaps, the topic for another blog entry, but the short of it is that subscriptions are an integral part of being a good member of the literary community. I believe strongly in subscribing to at least a couple of them every year, in order to support the world I want to enter. So why not get those subscriptions in connection with a contest?

Finally, there are some great free contests out there. Shenandoah runs the Bevel Summers Prize for Short Short Stories and the Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets. As I mention in another post, Camera Obscura periodically runs it's Bridge-the-Gap contest. Free contests are out there you just have to find them.

Posted in Newspaper Post Date 04/13/2018


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