Based on true facts: Oxford Brooks International Poetry Competition

I presently have brain-bubbles grade excitement due to the fact that my poem “Gerrymanderings of the mind” got to second place in the ESL (English as a Second Language) category of the inaugural Oxford Brooks International Poetry Competition.

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It’s about my new home town, Nantes and it “explores immigrant arrival to a new city in a wonderfully irreverent style“, according to competition judge Hannah Lowe. I wrote it not very long after moving back to France from Ireland last year.

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[Pix of my ‘hood]

 

Writing competition deadlines – a quick round-up

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Here are a few writing competitions with deadlines coming up, should you have a few spare bucks or quid or rupees and a brilliant story or poem in your drawer. I kept it simple here, so follow the links for details, but all of them have pretty good prizes!

-May 31st: Bridport prize – short stories (under 5000 words) £9, flash fiction £7 (under 250 words – phew!), poems £8

-May 31st: Fiction Desk Flash Fiction Competition – £5 pounds for a story between 250 and 1000 words (in case you went overboard with your Bridport entry…)

-May 31st: Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition – €25 for 16 to 24 pages of poems

-June 30th: The Moth International Short Story Prize – €12 entry fee for a story under 6000 words (judged by Donal Ryan)

-July 1st: iYeats Poetry Competition – €5 for a poem (judges: Jane Clarke and Dave Lordan)

-July 7th: Brighton Prize: £6 for a story between 1000 and 2000 words (judge: Peter James)

-July 15th: Ambit Summer Writing Competition – £5 for a poem (judge: Dan O’Brien), £7 for a story (judge: Alison Moore)

-July 15th: Rattle Poetry Prize – $20 for up to four poems (AND you get a subscription to the magazine, ie 4 issues / 3 issues for non-US entrants to cover postage. Interesting system, makes it worth it even if you poems don’t get anywhere in the competition – it’s a damn fine mag!)

-July 17th: Bare Fiction Debut Poetry Collection Competition: £20 (judge: Andrew McMillan)

-July 24th: Wasafiri New Writing Prize – Fiction and Life Writing under 3000 words, and poems – £6 for entry in one category, £10 in two, £15 in three. (judges: Toby Litt, Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Roger Robinson)

-July 31st: The Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition – €15 for a story under 3000 words (judge: Danielle McLaughlin)

-August: competitions? writing? Get’out’o’here! Go to the BEACH, fool!

-September 30th: The Penny Dreadful Novella Prize – €10 for a novella between 15,000 and 35,000 words (judged by the following brilliants: Colin Barrett, Sara Baume and Paul McVeigh)

[oh, and by the way, the magazines behind some of these competitions are all well worth checking out, and submitting to outside of competitions too… Actually, why not buy one of them now?]

Writing competitions and obscene amounts of money

earn-money-writingI’ve been thinking recently about writing prizes with huge money prizes. The one that really blew my mind was the Cesar Egido Serrano Foundation / Museo de la Palabra Flash Fiction competition (100 words or under), with its prize of $20,000. Yes, that is $200 a word. Or more. Stories are accepted in English, Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic. There were 22,571 entrants last year. 22,571. I find both the prize and number difficult to grasp. How do you judge 22,571 hundred-word stories in four languages? Entering it must feel a bit like the lottery. Not to say that the winner won’t have deserved his prize – but I think the huge prize make it more likely for losers to be sore losers.

Which is something they really don’t need. I remember talking to a writer at the Cork Short Story festival a few years ago, when I was volunteering with the Munster Literature Centre. I had missed the start of the reading by the winner of the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize (€2,000 plus a residency, a very nice and graspable prize), coming in a few minutes late, and had had trouble getting into the story (my mind was elsewhere, my ankle was itchy, something). At the end of the evening, I started a conversation with this writer, who started telling me how she thought the winning entry was not that good, not good at all actually, and how the story she’d entered was more deserving. She asked me if I had entered a story, and when I said I had, she tried to make me say my story was better than the winning one. I suppose in her mind if I said my story was better, it validated her opinion that her story was better and she could go home feeling good about herself and thinking she should have won the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize. When I refused to say what she expected of me, she told me my excuse (that I couldn’t judge a story I had only half heard) was just over-the-top politeness.

My point, I suppose, is that writers are cranky, sometimes spiteful creatures, who spend most of their time in their caves, stroking the pages of their notebooks and whispering to themselves. And seeing someone earn more with 100 little words than the majority of published novelists are likely to make selling one (or two? Or three? I’m not quite sure) book will just increase their spite and let it squirt out in mean little comment to their cats.

 

Another thing about huge prizes is that it must be a real b*tch for judges. You often hear writing competition judges say that it’s easy to select a longlist, for instance, to eliminate what’s clearly not good enough, but that from then on it can hard to place a poem or story over another. Tough then, in a competition like the Ballymaloe International Poetry prize, to decide this poem gets €10,000, and this one, coming fourth, nearly nearly nearly as good, nuts.

As a writer, a loser of competitions, there’s only one thing you can do really. Be a good sport and be happy for the lucky one. Do not talk ill of her. Do not spike the celebratory wine with laxatives.

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