Writing Contests: To Enter or Not Enter?
By Catina Noble
Writers seem split down the middle on this issue. Some don’t believe in submitting work into contests to be judged anonymously. Some writers like entering contests because if you submit work, there is a chance it will be listed as an honourable mention or even win first place! I am from the latter group. While I don’t scour online constantly for writing contests to enter, I do take notice of the ones in my region.
Whether you have been published several times or are just starting to submit work, entering contests might just be worth the time and effort. About two years ago I decided to enter a writing contest for my region. I entered in both categories, for poetry and for short fiction. I sent off my entries with my contact info, submission fee and didn’t give it much thought. A few months later I got an email with the short list for both categories for the contest I had entered. I had to read it three times! I couldn’t believe it. One of my poems “You Can’t See Me” had been short-listed for the contest. The short list contained six names for each category.
Friends and family of the people who were short-listed were all invited to the awards night. In front of everyone, three runner ups and three places would be announced. I was still in a bit of shock. I didn’t tell anyone except my partner. As we sat and waited for the ceremony to begin, I kept thinking, even if I didn’t place, my work had been short-listed. Of course it wasn’t the same as actually winning, but it would look good on my resume when submitting my other writing pieces. It also gave me a bit of confidence in my writing, which I definitely needed.
Finally it was time for the poetry runner ups to be announced. Afterward the winners would be named. Nervously I held my partners hand. I could handle just being a runner-up, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t overreact. Three runner-ups were listed. My name was not called. My partner and I looked at each other. I was confused. What had just happened? If I was not a runner up, that meant I had placed. I couldn’t believe this was happening—to me!
Third place was announced—my name was not called. Second place was announced—my name was not called. First place was announced—it was me! I was so shocked it took a couple of minutes for it to sink in that I was to make my way to the stage and accept my award and read my winning poem.
This night was a writing game changer for me. I got a fancy certificate, a cheque for a couple hundred dollars, lots of advice but most of all, I got bragging rights. I occasionally enter contests once in awhile; there are always lots to enter. It’s important to choose which ones to enter carefully. A few things to consider:
- Is there a fee to enter the contest?
- Do you need to have membership to the place in order to be eligible to enter?
- What provinces/regions are eligible to enter? (if its regional vs. provincial etc)
- What payment methods are accepted? (never send cash)
- How long has this contest been running? (established contests have more credit)
- Is my work suitable for submission? (if the topic is something you are not interested in, it might not be worth it)
Entering your writing in a contest is personal—it’s between you and the words. Only you can decide if it something you might want to pursue. Besides if you do decide to enter your work, no one has to know!