Writing: Rannu Competition and Update

I’m working away on several things and of course we’ve hit the busy social season, but I’m hoping to get my cyber-feypunk novel rewritten before the end of the year. Which means my steampunk story, all but laid out in my mind, is on hold until this is out of the way.

I’m still reading slush for CZP but it’s slowed down with all the other stuff. I still have about ten submissions to get through and have requested the full manuscript from one person. I’ve also forwarded about three on to Sandra and Brett. There are several readers for the manuscripts so it’s hard to say how many submissions we have at once or how many are forwarded, unless you’re Sandra.

And today it’s been confirmed that Steve Vernon and I will be judges for the poetry end of the Rannu competition. We are both horror/dark fiction writers, in one of our guises and live on opposite coasts. We are of course not the only writers in Canada of that ilk. And the poems entered do not need to be dark fiction/horror; they just have to be speculative. Steve won last year’s poetry competition and I was one of two runners up.

Barbara Gordon and Francine Lewis will be the judges for the prose competition.Barbara won last year’s competition and Francine was one of two runners up in both categories. The competition gives a $500 first prize in each category, open to anyone in any country and the deadline is January 15, 2011. Full information and the past two years’ winners can be seen here: http://rannu.webs.com/ The award was created by Sandra Kasturi of Chizine.

I’ve not been a judge before; just a writer, competitor, copyeditor, editor so this will be fun and something new. I have no idea how many poems we’ll have to judge but I suspect we’ll be busy. Editing poetry is quite a different pony from editing prose. Whereas you can start with the basics of grammar for prose, it doesn’t necessarily hold true for a poem that can have a different style from the next one. Grammar doesn’t work the same way if at all. But some hints on how to write good poems is to stay away from cliche images and sayings. Things like sunsets, moons and suns have been described so many ways that making them unique becomes harder. Also these days rhyming poems aren’t really in fashion. I wouldn’t dismiss a poem for it rhyming, but there are few people who can do it really well. It better not be trite and simplistic. Google Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” for an example of simplistic and bad.

If a poem is using specific imagery, then that image/simile should follow through or be completed, not left hanging to go on to another image. Sandra’s amusing and acerbic guidelines for Chizine can apply to any poem. I’m copying the relevant parts here:

  1. Note on Goth poems. BEFORE YOU SUBMIT, go to the Goth-o-Matic Poetry Generator and create a poem:
    http://www.deadlounge.com/poetry/poems.html
    If the poem you want to send me even remotely resembles the one you just created with the Generator, DO NOT submit your own poem.
  2. Unless you have had poems published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly or a similar calibre of magazine, DO NOT SUBMIT:
    1. formal verse of any kind whatsoever
    2. vampire poetry
    3. any poem with the word “blood” in it
    4. any poem with the word “womb” in it
    5. anything remotely related to J.R.R. Tolkien
    6. any werewolf poem. We know you think your werewolf poems are good. We don’t. We’re tired of the howling and the biting. You give us mange.
    7. any poem entitled “Underworld.” The movies weren’t THAT awesome. Also, it’s the name of the knicker factory on Coronation Street, so it elicits immediate snickers from the editors.

A poem should say something new, in a unique way. It shouldn’t be a story. That’s what prose is for. A poem should be succinct with strong imagery, atmosphere or feeling. It shouldn’t all be angst or broken hearts. God forbid that’s what we get. Judges are people so there will be things we prefer or don’t prefer but I’m pretty good in separating my personal opinion from judging something on the strength of execution and style. If I wasn’t judging I’d be entering again. We’ll be blind judging so there is no chance of favoritism.

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