I put my submission documents into the envelope, sealed it, and blew a little luck over the seam for good measure. I was entering my first literary prize competition and I was nervous and hopeful, riddled with self-doubt and thankful I’d been organized enough to get the submission in it to the judging committee before the deadline. My first short story was in that envelope. I had no idea if it was any good, despite the fact that I had laboured over it for weeks.
The world is full of literary prizes and if you are a writer who is ready to see if you have some skill in this field of endeavour, then I highly recommend you chase down a list of contests and start entering them. The entry fees are often quite reasonable, and entering a contest adds a tingle of anticipation to your life as you wait for the good judges to wade through the thousands of submissions they’ve received and send you either the letter that says “thank you for entering,” or the one that says “congratulations, you’ve made the short list!
If you want more information on these things, I have a few suggestions.
Canadian writing coach, Brian Henry, puts together an excellent listing of Canadian writing contests every year. The publication costs $25CAD and is available only in print. By the way, Brian offers a superb selection of writing and publishing workshops, and I completed a lot of my creative writing training to date sitting in his classrooms agonizing over the homework he assigned.
In the US, I can recommend the Literary Prize database offered by the award-winning magazine, Poets and Writers. This magazine is an excellent resource for anyone looking for information on US agents, literary presses, training and professional development, and much more.
And in the UK and elsewhere, you will want to check out the Christopher Fielden compendium of short story competitions. This site overall has a lot of excellent resources for writers and it’s well worth a gander.
Wading through these listings is a big job. There are thousands of opportunities to win a prize for your writing and finding the right fit for your genre takes diligence and organization, qualities not all writers have in abundance. The short story contest I was entering that exciting day some years ago was the John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award, and it looks as though last year was its last year of operation, unfortunately. This Award was originally created to honour Dr. Galbraith, a famous economist whose insights on economic issues earned him numerous awards, as well as the favour of several American presidents. He wrote dozens of books, and although most of them centered around The Economy, he also dabbled in fiction.
As it turns out, I was short-listed for the prize, which was thrilling and exciting. Around about the same time, my first novel was published, followed by my first collection of short stories and, frankly, I became so busy writing more books, running my businesses and looking after my family that I haven’t gotten around to more competitions. Yet. I’m thinking this would be a good way to motivate me to develop another collection of short stories—I could set myself the goal of entering one contest monthly and thereby set up a writing schedule to match. We’ll see.
Best of luck with your writing! And if you come across any other great resources for writers, please let me know!