Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Competitions

I've been wondering whether I should enter a few more writing competitions. I have to say I have a love/hate relationship with the idea and up to now have entered only a handful, one of which was the Bridport Prize (well I can dream, can't I?).

I think for me a competition needs to have a prize element which might enhance my writing CV, eg publication in a reputable magazine or in an anthology published by a good indie publisher, or simply be a 'big name' competition. Entry fees to competitions can mount up, particularly important in our current difficult financial circumstances, and for me entering lots of smaller competitions would just be a financial lottery. You might be lucky enough to win a small cash prize, but would you ever recoup the total outgoings?

Sally Quilford is the queen of all things to do with competitions in the UK and I regularly take a look at her useful competitions calendar. I was also interested to see that she is the judge in the current Slingink Prize competition and to read her views on what might catch her eye as a judge. I'm not sure whether I felt encouraged or put off by reading so much detail, including her dislikes (sorry, Sally).

Personally, I think that trying to tailor an entry for a named judge can be quite difficult and take away from a writer's natural style. After all, a judge doesn't want to see a clone of their own writing and may enjoy reading many other types of story, a point made here by Tania Hershman a judge on the Bristol Short Story Prize this year and by Sally Quilford herself.

I have to admit that all my own competition entries so far have been either work rushed out at the last minute, just before the deadline, or pieces already written during my Open University creative writing courses. I've not put too much agonised thought into them. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not, but I have had some success. So if I carry on entering competitions, I suspect I will continue in the same haphazard way...

8 comments:

Queenie said...

I feel exactly the same about comps. Plus, even with Sally's excellent calendar, finding and entering comps where my writing might 'fit' takes a fair amount of time. I've entered a few in the past, and like you I sometimes wonder whether I should enter more, but I haven't entered one for a year or so and I can't see me getting round to entering another any time soon.

SueG said...

I've wondered about this myself (I even blogged about it a year or so ago, I think).I know I can't dash something off for a competition. I don't tend to use "writing prompts" like that, although I know many successfully do. I don't actually like entering to be honest, but I do have to admit that the fact that I was a finalist in the North American Review's Hearst Poetry Prize one year probably went a long way towards getting my poetry play published. Even getting long-listed on some of these things definitely does help. So all in all, I guess I do what you do - haphazardly apply when I have something to submit, but only to those with "big names" and lots of clout. In other words -- I don't ever expect to win one!

Cathy said...

Queenie - I think comps could take over our time if we let them and we do have bigger things to work on too :)

Sue - 'I don't ever expect to win one'. Love that quote, so true!

Sylvia Phoenix said...

I'm also thinking of taking the plunge and entering some competitions. I don't really know where to begin though. I suppose I should start small and work my way up. Or just stay small, if that's my destiny.

Good luck with your submissions.

Cathy said...

Sylvia Phoenix - thank you. Good luck with the comps and starting small sounds like an excellent strategy. Sadly we can't all win the Bridport!

Karen said...

I must admit if I do enter competitions they tend to be smallish ones where I have more chance of winning as the biggies attract so many entrants!

Cathy said...

Karen, it just shows we all have different motives where comps are concerned!

Cathy said...

I just read that Helen Dunmore, who has just won the National Poetry Competition, entered her poem at the last minute on impulse. So even the best do it :)