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Why Enter a Contest?

Why would anyone enter an artistic contest?

For me:

1.) Cash. I was paid a $1000 for a story a few years ago, in a contest. (This will never happen again, I assure you.) That was the best month of beer I’d had in a really long while.

2.) Job. I am in a tenure-track line as a professor. My university loves rankings and any type of award. They gobble this stuff up. So I enter a few lit contests every year and throw the results on my university Promotion and Tenure document. I sure do.

3.) It helps magazines I enjoy. I usually get a subscription with my fee, and the magazine certainly gets my cash. I’m not sending money to any organization I don’t already read.



14 thoughts on “Why Enter a Contest?

  1. Ha, Sean. I was going to post something about contests this morning but opted for something else instead. It seems like you’re talking about magazine/journal contests, which I’m not a huge fan of. Congrats to you for winning one, but they seem impossible to me. Also, paying someone to read your short story just doesn’t seem fair.

    Press contests, however, are an entirely different story. I’m all about those. Just entered one yesterday, in fact.

    How does everyone else feel about contests? Good thing/bad thing?

  2. For the most part, the only contests I pay attention to/participate in are the ones that demand new/specific material (well, material I do not have I guess). I like the random desire for creation.

    For example, a few months ago, I quickly created a visual piece to submit to “What do babies dream about”. It would be nice to win, sure, but at least I have something to show for it.

    can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blpawelek/3685686775/

    Big Other examples: the fake bios and tag line contests!!

  3. Contests can be a kind of interesting diversion, something that can run in counterpoint to ongoing personal projects that are good to take breaks from from time to time. I like contests best when there is some kind of constraint (word-length, subject, etc.), a collaborative element (like the Scorch Atlas remix from Featherpress), and/or they have some kind of communal aspect to them, hence Big Other’s two contests:

  4. It’s also a great way to lock up concrete evidence of your abilities as a writer. It’s nice to know that you are a better writer than every other writer who entered the contest. Or at least the you wrote a better story than every other one submitted. I’d imagine that’s a great feeling.

    1. i have sort of the opposite problem with contests. when i enter them i always have this amazing feeling of optomism and self-confidence and then i don’t win and i am filled with doubt and loathing. (ok, so maybe it’s not that extreme, but you know)

    2. winning contests and prizes is like getting book publications. you get your momentary high and then it goes away. then, you realize you’re still the same dope you were before you won. (for every “you,” insert an “i” or a “me” or a “lily.”)

      also: please note that i’m actually saying this from experience. it’s not just bs, though it may as well be.

      or: maybe it is all bs & i’m discouraging you all from entering contests & prizes so i can win them all. *cue sinister music*

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