Tag Archives: writing contests

The Dark Side of Writing for the Dark Crystal

Dark Crystal, writing contests, skeksis, film, books

“I’ve got a great idea,” says the Skeksis. “Let’s rip off unsuspecting writers.” Copyright, The Jim Henson Company.

Here’s another one in the giant ripoff department. I blogged recently about Prada’s writing contest, which turned out not to be such a deal. Now, what’s even worse is that publisher Penguin Group is in cahoots with The Jim Henson Company to have a contest, which is actually a thin veneer for highway robbery. The contest is to write a story in the Dark Crystal world. The original concepts were by Brian Froud and Jim Henson brought it to life.

Entrants will be judged on different components from originality, characterization, storytelling, and overall writing ability. Five entrants will be chosen for the second round, which involves rewriting with input and editing from the judges. The winner will have a contract for a YA (young adult) novel in the Dark Crystal world. http://darkcrystal.com/authorquest/

Sounds good so far, right? It is, until you read the fine print. One, the contract is for $10,000. Twenty years ago, a first-time author could expect to get between $7,000 and $10,000 for a book. Not much increase in rate for twenty years, is it? None at all. A sad state of publishing and the way authors are treated. Charles Dickens could live on what he made as a writer. Most writers these days are making the same amount.

While that is a sad statement on the world of writing and making a living, it’s not the major issue with this “contest.” Guess what? By entering this contest, just entering your story, you lose the right to it, whether you win or not. That means you can’t ever try to sell it elsewhere. Now the fact is that Dark Crystal characters are copyrighted so you wouldn’t be able to take those characters but if you had a good story you could change the characters and world and still go with it. But you lose the story to the sponsors and they have the right to take your ideas and make a film or a book or anything else they want. Here’s the offensive passage:

gelfling, writing contests, Dark Crystal, Jim Henson

Mourn the gelflings, for they’re losing this war. Copyright, The Jim Henson Company

Each entry will be the sole property of the Sponsors. By competing in the Contest and/or accepting a prize, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to edit, adapt, publish, copy, display, reproduce and otherwise use their entry in connection with this Contest and in any other way, in any and all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the world, in perpetuity, including publication on http://www.darkcrystal.com. Further, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to use each entry and the winner’s name, likeness, and biographical information in advertising, trade and promotional materials, without notice, review or approval, or further compensation or permission, except as set forth herein, and except where prohibited by law. Sponsors are not obligated to use, publish, display or reproduce any entry.

Buyer beware and always always read the fine print before you sell your soul. Somehow I’d expect this of the Hollywood or Henson end (though I feel that Jim Henson might be turning in his grave over this thievery), but for a publisher to be part of this is even worse. It’s bad enough that writers usually get the short end of the monetary stick, but downright greed and blindsiding is reprehensible. Shame on you, Penguin Group and The Jim Henson Company.

For those who remember the Dark Crystal the bad guys were the Skeksis, always out to get the cute Gelflings. Well, guess what, the Skesis are winning. If I could I’d post on the contest a big DO NOT ENTER sign. You’ve been warned.


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The Devil Reads Prada

Prada, fashion, writing contest, Prada fiction contest, taking moral rights, devil, satan

This is a tarot card, but maybe the devil is saying, if you don’t wear Prada, you wear nothing.

You know the movie, the one where sweet Anne Hathaway is sucked into the world of high snobbery and is Meryl Streep’s minion at a fashion magazine. The world where it’s backstabbing and anorexia but somewhere in amongst the fashionistas true wuv takes root? Yeah that one.

Well, besides making clothing and creating a fashion magazine, it seems Prada really does want to lash out with that forked tail and snare artists of all flavors. They don’t just do magazines and sunglasses and backpacks and clothing and fragrances and boat races. No, they want to capture the creative essence of other artists. “Prada, in keeping with the brand’s innovative spirit, launches a literary contest in cooperation with Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore.” They have something called the journal project which includes a writing contest. The crucial statement when considering what to write is: “What are the realities that our eyes give back to us? And how are these realities filtered through lenses?” Obviously they would like to tie it into to their sunglasses line.www.prada.com/journal

As I read the rather long and convoluted contest rules (the English translation is a bit off), I thought €5,000! Well, yes, I will definitely enter that. Oh but wait, should you win the contest then you give up all moral rights, which means your name will stay with the piece but they own it in all forms and media, can print it on clothing or put in books or chop up the sentences and stick them wherever, in perpetuity. You lose all rights to read your story, put it in a collection of your writing or do anything else with it.

writing, Canadian anthology, Steve Vernon, Colleen Anderson, Tesseracts 17, Edge Publications

Get writing but don’t sell your soul.

That’s not the true deal with the devil though it gets close. As I read on it turns out that while there would only be one monetary winner Prada reserves the right to create other categories and choose winners on the spot. But those winners receive no prize and lose all rights to their stories as well. This pretty much amounts to theft even if they have you acknowledge you’re selling your soul to the devil but don’t get anything out of it except perhaps some bit of elusive fame. Or perhaps we should just call this exploitation. It’s not like Prada is hurting for money.

To make sure it just wasn’t some misinterpretation that happened in the translation, I wrote to Prada.

Dear Madam,

The winners of the Contest, if any, will receive the amount of Euro 5.000, while the winner of the thematic prizes, if established by Prada and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (it is not sure that such thematic prizes will be established), will not receive this amount. But in both such events the authorship of the short stories will remain with the winners in accordance with the applicable law in the copyright field.

In fact, PRADA and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli shall have the right to use the short stories as per the provisions of the “T&C” of the Contest and on the basis of the rights granted by the winners to Prada and Feltrinelli  as specified in such “T&C “: “(the Winner) he/she grants exclusively to PRADA and Feltrinelli any and all right to use, reproduce, publish, edit, distribute and divulge the selected Short Story(ies), on its(their) own, in full or in part, or in a collection book, at PRADA and Feltrinelli’s discretion in perpetuity and at a worldwide level for any uses either commercial or promotional, in any language or version, and in any print and/or digital and/or multimedia materials and media, including Internet, now known or hereafter invented. Moreover, You acknowledge and agree that PRADA and Feltrinelli will be entitled to edit and to adapt the Short Story(ies) at its(their) sole discretion and to reproduce the very same in its(their) edited and/or adapted version in any print and/or digital material and/or multimedia materials and media, including Internet, and for whatsoever purposes to the extend permitted by law”.

Should you have any further query, please do not hesitate to contact us.

My advice would be to save your soul, and your writing and not enter the contest on the off chance you’ll get the grand prize. The devil, you know, is in the details.


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Writing Update: A New Frontier

This is the last week to get in nominations for the Aurora Award, one of Canada’s speculative fiction awards (also fan works and art). If you’re Canadian and want to nominate and vote you can go here to do so.

writing, publishing, self-publishing, anthologies, collection, Aurora Awards, poetry, fiction, speculative fiction

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr

I was also shortlisted for the Friends of Merril contest. The results will be posted in the next day or two and while I don’t know who won, alas, it was not me. Writing is always an evolution and I’m always writing better than I did before but I still have work to do. Sometimes my pacing is off. It’s the elusive golden ring for me and I’m trying new ways to master this. My story was off on pacing and thus is did not win. But it was one of 9 shortlisted out of over 100. That’s not so bad.

I actually have a few stories right now in what I call the bridesmaid stage. They’ve made it out of the slush pile and the editor has contacted me to say they’re holding them for further consideration…but they have not yet been picked. I also looked at the edits for “Gingerbread People” due out in Chilling Tales 2 from Edge Publications in 2013 now. They edits were light and mostly punctuation/spelling related. This story was a look at the nature of evil; is the person who does the crime more evil than the

person who masterminds and gets the other person to do it. The idea came out of the true tale of Paul Bernardo and Carla Homolka, convicted serial killers who did horrible things to several teenage girls.

Self-publishing requires using all the marketing tools. Creative Commons: Kristina B, flickr

I’m also considering a new venture. I wanted to have a collection of my stories published. This would be mostly a reprintcollection, with one or two new tales tossed in. With stories, they sometimes appear in a magazine or anthology somewhere, for a brief time and are never seen again. It would collect those works and make them available to a wider readership. I thought of sending these to several publishers, but truth be told I’m not enough of a name for most publishers to consider my collection. There are many indie publishers who would but I think for a reprint collection I’m going to go the route of self-publishing.

Many people take this route but don’t do well. There are several things to consider; writing skill, editing, proofreading, distribution and marketing. Since I’m an accomplished (as in published more than once) writer as well as a freelance copyeditor, my work is going to be cleaner than a lot of self-published works. Plus these stories have been published at least once before. If I go with Smashwords and CreateSpace it covers the ereaders and print publication as well as distribution. Marketing is something that people have to do themselves these days. This  means posting to Facebook, doing Twitter, using Goodreads and this blog.  And, when I go to conventions I’ll need to promote there as well.

I have the collection mostly together already though I’m going to review the titles in there. I was going to call it Transformations and Temptations of the Wayward Soul but I might just call it Transformations and Temptations. This will be an interesting process and my first venture into self-publishing so I’ll post how it goes.  Stay tuned.

March has been a productive month writing wise. I’ve done two rewrites, finished and written three stories, started a fourth and worked a bit on the novel. I’ve also tentatively started a series of poems that will go under the title of A Compendium of Witches. Of course I hope to have 13 poems in that series.  And that’s the writing world to date for me.

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Writing: Friends of Merril Contest Finalist

writing, writing contests, short fiction, stories, competitions, horror, SF

To write or not to write; there is no question. Creative Commons: http://freshink.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html

I don’t often enter contests. There are several reasons: most writing contests cost $20-$30 for an entry and you only have one to three chances of being chosen. The odds of submitting to a magazine are much better. However, I will once in a while enter a contest if the price is right and if it’s for a good cause. I also understand that many magazines do a yearly contest, which fuels their production budget and that it’s a necessity but I certainly couldn’t afford to enter every contest to every magazine. I have in recent years entered and placed in the Rannu Fund poetry and short story competition. It’s smaller and Canadian but takes submissions in English from anywhere in the world. And the price isn’t high.

Likewise the Friends of Merril decided to hold an inaugural short story contest. The Merril is a branch of the Toronto public library and the foremost collection of speculative fiction and poetry in North America. There are over 72,000 works stored there and it continues to grow. Judith Merril, an American by birth, was one of the grand dames of science fiction. She was more background and while she wrote and published in the early years, she was also an editor.

So I thought, why not, the contest is cheap ($5), it’s the first time and supports a good cause, it’s Canadian, and I write. All good reasons. I entered one story though I think you can enter up to three and then forgot about it. Yesterday I was informed that I’d made the shortlist. Of the 102 entries they received for the first year of the contest, nine finalists are chosen. I cannot say which title is mine but here is the list:

Climbing Boys

Muffy and the Belfry

My Profit On’t Is

Rikidōzan and the San Diego Swerve Job

The Emmet

The Mobius Garden

The Ties That Bind


Your First Real Rocket Ship

Even if I don’t win, it’s nice to know a story or poem are rising to the top. I’ll find out in the next month. But as I’ve found with honorable mentions or even winning, there are no guarantee of getting the piece published so it can work in reverse as well. The Rannu Fund competition has just opened to entries from March 1 to May 31. I’ll probably enter this again as I’ve been shortlisted, won second place and been judge. Now it’s time to win first place, should the gods and the judges (who might be the same) so decide. 😀

And I have finally worked out the kinks and finished the story “Nightingale.” Now I need to shunt that into the feeding tubes of the submission engine and see what comes out.

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Writing: Of Poetry Slams and Deathmatches

vitriol, writing, writing contest, flame wars, bad attitude, literary snobs

Dodge quickly. Creative Commons: queereka.com

Back in the good ole days, I used to attend poetry slams. A slam then was two people being pitted against each other, where they would read the poem, the audience would cheer and the one with the most cheers would advance to the next round. I eventually stopped going to them for the following reasons:

  • the slam had little to do with the merit of the poem
  • people brought their friends who would just cheer for their friends: my friends refused to come to poetry events
  • a bad poem read with upward inflections at the end of every line would wow the crowd
  • writing is hard; everyone should be applauded just for going to the effort to do it well

While slams did give every Tomasina, Dick or writer to read their works, the slams weren’t always great. I hear they’re better now but I haven’t visited one in a long time. The part I always disliked about a slam and which drove me away, was that a very good poet, who might not be experienced at reading well, would be raked and scraped over the coals by the nasty, mad dog crowd.

Years later, I presume those slams go on but we now have a dearth of social media so there are websites and webzines and all sorts of places to showcase your work. One such magazine, Broken Pencil, has fiction, poetry and nonfiction. It’s trendy, it’s Canadian and it’s trying to generate more page views. One way of doing this is to make sure part of your site isn’t static, that it’s ever changing, and the best way to do this is to get viewers with new content. Broken Pencil is sponsoring a Deathmatch on their site where two stories and their authors are pitted against each other. The audience weighs in with comments and can vote once per hour. The winner goes on to be pitted against another writer. There is a $20 fee to enter this contest, thus generating money for the magazine. The editors choose the top eight stories to be torn apart in the Deathmatch.

A noble enough endeavor and magazines have tried various ways to fundraise for a while. I was familiar with Broken Pencil but not the Deathmatch. A friend has a friend in the contest so I popped in to read both stories, make a comment and vote. It turns out you can vote once an hour. What stunned me was the level of some of the commenters. Presumably a lot of these people are the literati but the language  and juvenile attitude left me wondering. After all, we’re talking literary, right?  Broken Pencil touts themselves as indie and audacious. One newspaper reported that “This is definitely not a contest for sensitive writer types. If you can’t handle the thought of your short story being smacked down by online voters, then you’ll want to stay well clear of this one. Think Literary Survivor. On an island. Surrounded by a sea of sharks.”
– Jennifer Moss, The Vancouver Sun

Hmm, a Literary Survivor show; it almost seems an oxymoron. In Broken Pencil’s own words:

Since 2008, Broken Pencil: the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts, has been running one of the world’s most audacious short story contests. In the Deathmatch short story contest, the top eight entrants as selected by Broken Pencil are pitted against each other two by two. The winning story is decided by Broken Pencil readers themselves, through a vote on the official magazine website. Each week, two stories will be pitted against each other in the online arena, where anyone and everyone can read them and vote on which one deserves to reign supreme. The authors will be in constant communication with their audience through a blog which they can use to hype up their own story, or trash-talk their opponent’s writing.

Trash -talk? Really? That’s what we come to, obnoxious reality TV shows and pumped up melodrama for the sake of feeding the hyenas in the coliseum? Is the lowest common denominator really the way to go? I once did a poetry slam in a fake boxing ring, but there were judges and we didn’t verbally bludgeon the other entrants. Here are some samples of Canada’s great(?) writing minds voicing their comments, or at their friends’ and enemies’ comments.

  • Samantha, you absolutely suck at writing.
  • She means her bowels. His words move her bowels.
  • Claire didn’t complain when your piece of shit story was winning.
  • didn’t sammie have slanty enough eyes to get into U of T
  • Turd smear.

There is more and there is more that is intelligent and thoughtful, talking about what works or doesn’t in each story. There are a couple of literary trolls, full of themselves and big on seeing their words constantly on the page. They can of course ruin it for everyone. Sure it’s a contest, even slam style, and not everyone wins, but mud flinging and puerile attitudes doesn’t make me think literary. It’s not cutting edge; it’s overdone. Reading some of the Deathmatch comments has convinced me that like those poetry slams of old, I won’t be entering any time soon. It’s a neat idea but it’s too bad some people think it has to be like reality TV. Broken Pencil deserves some kudos for trying something new and as this creature evolves, it will either crawl from the chrysalis beautiful and dynamic, or roll in in the filth, a distorted and deformed thing. If you plan to enter this contest in the future then there are only two types of spines to have: either change yours for one of steel or rip it out.


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Writing: Contest Receives No Entries

Here are a couple of contests from the UK. The first, in honor of H.G. Wells received no entries by the July deadline because of the rules, most likely. Although the prize was for one thousand pounds (that’s about $2,000 in US/Canadian currency) no one entered. One reason was that the 1,000 to 5,000 word stories were to be handwritten and entries limited to people 25 and under. The contest organizer, Reg Turnill, sponsored this as part of the honoring of H.G. Wells who spent 13 years living in Folkstone, England. The Wells festival takes place from Sept. 17-19

Turnill, 94, who once interviewed Wells said that the rules for no SF, depicting contemporary life in Kent, and having the stories handwritten probably contributed to no entries.  The deadline has been extended to Aug. 15 and stories will get points if handwritten but it’s no longer required. I must say I would be hard-pressed to handwrite a story because the use of keyboard and a mouse have contributed to tendonitis and I can’t write that much anymore. Moreso, anyone under 25 is probably so used to keyboards that handwriting is a bit foreign to them. It’s true that long ago, handwriting was taught in schools and penmanship was encouraged but that stopped so long ago I’m not even sure if my mother was ever taught penmanship. Turnill wanted the stories handwritten “to address the low standard of literacy and handwriting these days.” Although handwriting is indeed less than it was literacy doesn’t really have much to do with handwriting.

Turnill also said, “It’s an important art in itself and many of our most famous authors find that’s the best way to do creative writing,” but I wonder in fact how he knows this as most writers I know use computers these days and maybe a few use typewriters. I do sketch out stories sometimes n paper, especially if I’m out, and I keep paper in my purse for this but I don’t write out a story anymore, though I once did. If you think you have a story that fits, and you’re of the age group, you can still enter. There is an over 25 category but I believe the other rules apply.

HG Wells entry form

Kent News article on the festival and contest

More accessible and with a bigger prize is the Terry Pratchett Prize being offered by Terry Pratchet and Transworld Publishers. Open to anyone in the UK or other British Commonwealth countries, it is for a novel. The prize is a twenty thousand pound advance and publishing contract. It needs to take place on Earth, any Earth, any when and anywhere but here and now. This leaves a broad category for people to write within. And though Pratchett is known for his humor there is no caveat that the manuscripts must be funny.

Dec. 31st is the deadline, which gives many people a chance to finish a novel or clean one up. I may just have one that could fall into the category. We’ll see. For more information, check out Terry Pratchett’s site at: http://terrypratchett.co.uk/news%5Ctermsandconditions.html Good luck for those who wish to enter. And neither of these contests charge an entry fee.

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Writing: Nominations and Shortlists

On one of my writers’ lists we’ve been discussing when you should list that you’ve been nominated, shortlisted, longlisted or noted in various writing awards and venues. There are many different types of writing awards/honors. For some, the publisher or the writer might send in a copy of their story/novel/poem to be considered for an award. Sometimes there is a submission/registration fee.

Most literary magazines have contests and most of those have an entry fee. An author might win first, second or third place or receive an honorable mention. An award might call for nominations from a select membership or from readers (or publishers) and this could be quite open. Therefore I could list that my book had been nominated for an Aurora award (one of Canada’s speculative fiction awards voted on by readers) and it would mean that someone, including me, may have nominated the book. However, the pieces need so many nominations to make it to the shortlist. If I was shortlisted, in this case, I could say I was shortlisted or nominated for an Aurora.

In another case, my story might be shortlisted but in that version I may have submitted my story for consideration. A panel of judges or readers would then sort through and narrow the selection to a few. It might be the same judges or different ones, or the readership/members who then vote on a select few pieces and the winner is then decide. Stories and fiction for the World Fantasy Awards go through a selection process that uses jury and members. Past or current members of the World Fantasy convention (there is a set number of years that you can vote if you don’t currently attend) can nominate works. There are five spots in the final selection process. Two are selected from the member nominations and three from the jury. The judges, a panel of professional writers and editors, then make their selection. Whether they arm wrestle, discuss or just vote, I’m not sure.

The point is that there are numerous types of awards but an author who lists themselves as being shortlisted or nominated when all they did was submit their work for consideration certainly does not count as an accolade. It was pointed out that one person had listed him/herself as being nominated for a Pulitzer when in fact all that they’d done was submit copies of the book with the registration fee. That’s not only lying but puts a poor light on those who are actually shortlisted if every two-penny author feels they can say the same thing. It’s the same as if a massage therapist claimed to be a neurologist. Not the same thing at all.

There are a few awards out there or “Best of” collections where the editors tend to scan everything published. If there are small or obscure presses it behooves the publisher and the author to let the editors know. Recognition of award winners and nominees can be helpful to a writer’s career and to the publisher.

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