April 30, 2010

Contest Update

We are supposed to announce the winners today. Maybe some of you out there entered our contest and are wondering why we haven't call you yet. It is because we haven't called anyone. The judges have narrowed it down to 6 or 7 and are at a total impasse. They asked me to read them. I read them. I laughed, I sighed, I nodded my head. But I refuse to have any part in judging this year. It is too hard. On one level, judging is easy, you ask yourself, "Is this a winner? or do I just wish it was?" But when you come down to top ten, they are all winners. But you have to chose 3. So then you have to start going through and analyzing each one based on a set of criteria that is partially established, but still all subjective. And you can't listen to those voices in your head, that are really the voices of disgruntled non-winners, that say things like: "I guess only women can win your contest" or "I guess only funny stories can win your contest," or "how many of your winners have been Canadian?"

The truth is, I don't know and I don't care. I want to pick the best, and most well-written stories. But judges tastes and methods vary wildly. When I have been a judge in the past, this is what I remember doing. I read the top stories probably 10 times each. I read them aloud to people I knew. I dreamt about them. I agonized. Eventually, I would give up and in a moment of existentialism I would decide to throw them up in the air, or down the stairs, and note which one landed first. When I did this, I would look at the "winner" and then argue myself out of it. Then one day, I would just know, and never look back.

It will be interesting to see what the judges decide this year. I hope they don't take much longer or I'm sure my email will blow up. So be patient, writers. That call may be coming.

April 23, 2010

Writing Anywhere

I picked up our mail a few days ago and was happy to note that we are already be getting entries to our August Contest. What was more surprising, though was that one of the entries came from the California State Prison. Now, we have received entries from all over the world, but this is our first entry from prison. And why not? It would seem that one has a lot of time to read and write in there. Rilke once told a young poet this:

"If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the poet there is not poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world's sounds--wouldn't you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attention to it...."

I haven't opened this piece of mail. That is Jill's job, because if I happen to be a judge of the upcoming contest, I can't know who any of the authors are.

Oh, but the curiosity is killing me.