Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Picky Picky Picky Contest Guidelines

So this morning I mailed off my entry to a literary writing contest and I’m still reeling.

Contests like those sponsored by the Pretty Nervous Writing Aardvarks, or PNWA, are a valuable way for unpublished writers to get noticed, but I must say that the submission guidelines give a whole new meaning to the phrase “barriers to entry.”

First of all, I’m convinced that the guidelines are a product of years, if not decades, of pet peeves developed by literary writing contest judges, because let me tell you, they are not written with the writer in mind. And yes, I realize that these august personages are donating their time and expertise and any little thing we can do to smooth the path is in our own best interests.

And actually, I suspect that literary writing contests like convoluted rules and submission processes. First of all, they provide a wonderful excuse to reject obviously scrabbled-together, last-minute entries rife with spelling and grammar mistakes. (“Ah, I note this writer did NOT put his category number on the outside of the envelope! Out of the pool!”) Secondly, such guidelines weed out the mediocrities and through natural selection produce the most astute and sophisticated of contestants, those freaky brainiacs who never consider submitting a 5.24-inch by 8-inch SASE envelope when obviously only a 4.125-inch by 9.5-inch envelope is called for. Finally, such guidelines only increase the prestige of the writing contest, implying that due to the enormous volume of submissions, requiring tiny little boxes packed with information on each upper right-hand corner is the only way to preserve the honored judges’ sanity.

It is in this spirit that I offer my own Literary Writing Contest Guidelines. I myself am not sponsoring a literary writing contest (oh heavens no), but it’s fun to assemble those hoops. So I offer this template for any individuals or organizations eager to discover desperate, unpublished writers while garnering a little prestige for themselves, but unsure how to go about it.


CONGRATULATIONS for choosing to participate in the Picky Picky Picky Literary Writing Contest. We are thrilled to offer this opportunity for fabulous prizes to American authors. Unfortunately due to shipping schedules, we are unable to accept submissions from states that begin and end with the same letter, but we look forward to seeing our Ohioan friends’ work in next months Less Picky Picky Picky contest.

Participants may submit in one of 47 categories. Unproperly categorized submissions will be discarded. Once you choose your category number, put it on everything: your pages, your big envelope, your postcard, your SAS #10 envelope, your check, tattoo it on your forehead. Own your category.

Your submission must be 4 pages, no more, no less. Double-spaced. Writers submitting single-spaced copy will be shot. The Synopsis is page one. The outline is page two. The author’s bio is page three. The table of contents should take up at least half of page four. Of course that means only a half-page is left for your story, but for our expert judges, 125 words is more than enough.

All submissions must be received by Feb. 29, 2013. Submissions mailed after that date will only be accepted through the Space-Time Continuum and received on Feb. 29, 2013. We will not sign for submissions. REPEAT, we will not sign for submission. We are busy people and have no time to sign for submissions. Teach your envelopes to be self-reliant.

Questions? Comments? We do not welcome them. Sink or swim — that’s the literary world today.


Picky Picky Picky Literary Writing Contest Luminaries

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