You get the letter or the phone call. You’ve won a short story contest!
What happens next?
2. Call your spouse. “I knew you could!” they say. “This makes all those times I watched the kids while you wrote…almost worth it! Dinner’s on you tonight, Snoogums!” Get your freak on.
3. Call your non-literary friends. “Congratulations!” they say. Then, “I have to get back to work. I don’t hang around a home office, alone all day celebrating like some people I know.”
4. Call your literary friends. “Congratulations!” they say, through gritted teeth. Make encouraging sounds. Assure them they could have won in your place, but it’s a subjective business. (True, though you will never, can never, think of these small triumphs as mere luck. To continue as a writer, you must know you deserve it all. Otherwise you’ll come to your senses and start making money doing something more people value, like grouting.)
5. Call your parents. “Congratulations!” they say. “How much money did you win?” For most contests, when you buy the celebration dinner tonight, there goes at least half. (I won $1,000 for a short story once. I blew that on paying taxes. Whoo-hoo.)
6. Go out for a coffee. This is an obvious ploy to tell strangers. They don’t care. Tip the barista well.
7. Wait for the prize and or publication. The prize may come along quickly assuming it’s a legitimate contest. If publication is part of the prize, it will be a long wait.
8. Discover typos or tiny changes you’d love, nay, need to make to avoid immortalizing the coming ridicule. They won’t make the changes. The release you signed but did not read said so in a sub-paragraph. You’ll try to pester someone about it, but the happy people who called to say you won will now no longer return your calls. (This is also when you figure out you gave away more rights to the story than you would have if you weren’t so giddy when they called. Don’t blame yourself. When they called to inform, you were like the zittiest kid at junior prom asked to dance by the prettiest girl.)
9. Before you can tell them you’re pulling it, you shall receive rejections from other contests and magazines for the same story who apparently thought it sucked. (Don’t let the spark of your enthusiasm get drowned out.)
10. (a) Publication and then anonymity as history moves on.
(b) Publication on the net will result in comments (possibly even an awful blog post railing against you as happened after one of my tiny triumphs) from a bunch of bitter losers who can’t believe their genius went unrecognized. Oh, they’ll be mean. They’ll demand the judges quit and express disgust at your existence, you know-nothing poseur!
11. Reminisce about your past triumph, write something else, put something else in the mail and sublimate your rage with a passive-aggressive blog post.
- Two more contests, Dialogue, and more (motleyvision.org)
- Joyce Carol Oates’s ‘In the Absence of Mentors/Monsters’: Narrative Magazine (huffingtonpost.com)
- 9 (Arbitrary) Ways to Get Your Writing Rejected (psychologytoday.com)