October 2022 contests

Here are the writing competitions I might enter with deadlines in October. 

  • The American Literary Review wants stories up to a generous 8,000 words. Entry is $15 and the top prize is $1,000. Deadline 1 October.
  • The Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival has a word limit which is only slightly lower at 7,000, and their deadline is the same.. Besides $1,500, the top prize includes a pass to the festival with accommodation and air fare within the USA. Entry is $25.
  • Dillydoun will also accept up to 8,000 words, and entry is again $25, but their top prize is a full $5,000. The contest closes on 2 October.
  • With Zoetrope we’re down to the still-generous limit of 5,000 words. Entry is $30, top prize $1,000 and the deadline is 3 October.
  • You have a bit more time to polish your entry for the Calvino prize, for stories in the magic realist spirit of Italo Calvino (and if you haven’t read him, you really should). Entries can be up to 25 pages long, it’s $25 to enter and you could win $3,000. Oh, and the deadline is 15 October.
  • At last a British competition, from Galley Beggar Press, with a maximum word count of 6,000, an entry fee of £10, and first prize of £2,500. Deadline 16 October.
  • Omnidawn want longer pieces: between 7,500 and 17,500 words: they must be fabulist in character. Entry is $18 and the top prize is $1,000: the deadline is 17 October.
  • The Eyelands prize has several categories, including collections of prose or poetry up to 250 pages long. Winners get a week in Athens and a specially-made ceramic. Entry is €22 and the deadline is 20 October.
  • Creative Mind is an organisation that has apparently been around since the seventies, but this is its first writing competition (its website still has some rough edges too, with posts labelled ‘example blog post’ and bits of lorem ipsum style boilerplate text). Stories of up to 1,500 words must be on the theme ‘travel’: entry is £3 and the prize £50. Deadline 26 October.
  • Writefluence offers only publication, but then the entry fee is only INR 150 (currently about £1.66). There’s a 3,000 word maximum and the deadline is 30 October.

The rest of the list have a deadline of 31 October (but see below).

  • The Bedford competition has a limit of 3,000 words, an entry fee of £7.50 and a prize of £1,000.
  • SaveAs (which always sounds like a discount store to me) wants stories on the theme ‘Myth’. Up to 3,500 words, entry £3, prize £200.
  • Letter Review wants up to 2,000 words: entry $20, prize $650.
  • Fiction Factory is back, asking for maximum 3,000 words, with a fee of £7 and a prize of £500.
  • Sheila-Na-Gig wants literary pieces (A Sheila Na Gig is an obscene carving of a woman, often found on early medieval churches. Probably not a clue to what you should write about, though.), up to 5,000 words, entry $3, prize $100
  • Southport Writer’s Circle want up to 2,000 words, entry £3, prize £200

Finally a special mention for Globe Soup’s Historical Fiction Challenge.. To enter you buy a ticket of your chosen colour – this determines the period in which your story must be set (it doesn’t need to be historical in any stronger sense). You can try more than one colour and some hardy souls have bought them all. 4,000 words, entry fee £12 (£2.50 or £15 if early or late): prize £1,000, deadline 28 October. I single it out because Globe Soup is constantly running writing challenges and contests, many free, on its two Facebook sites (one completely free, the other for those who have entered a paid competition). They have a lively and supportive community going where you can always get feedback and advice, and it’s well worth checking out.

If you get somewhere with any of the contests above, do let me know!

Ian McEwan

We went to see Ian McEwan talk about his new book ‘Lessons’. Quite interesting. At one point, talking about the appeal of music he spoke of ’the relief from meaning’ – unexpected from a novelist! Just need to read the book now.

The Books of Jacob

Jacob Frank

The main problem with this book is obvious at first sight: it is just too big! Olga Tokarczuk is a great writer and no doubt deserved her Nobel Prize. I was looking forward to reading this one because I enjoyed her book Flights, a strange, fragmentary, but very readable and amusing meditation on travel and curiosity. The Books of Jacob also has an interesting subject: it tells the historical story of Jacob Frank, the eighteenth century leader of a Jewish cult that picked up on the legacy of Rabbi Sabbatai Tzvi. Tzvi (as Tokarczuk spells him – ‘Zevi’ is a more pronounceable version) was a self-proclaimed Messiah who converted to Islam under duress. Many of his followers, rather than giving up on him, assumed that they were to follow his lead, converting either sincerely or just outwardly. Frank’s followers, somewhat similarly, were instructed to reject the Talmud and undergo Christian baptism, though it seems, according to this account, that they secretly practised scandalous rituals of their own devoted to the principle of purification through sin. The book relates their struggles with the authorities in several countries and with unconverted Jews, the help and indulgence they sometimes got from Christians impressed by the possibility of bringing hundreds of Jews into the church; Jacob’s imprisonment in Częstochowa, his release and last years living like an aristocrat in Offenbach. It seems to be a largely accurate historical account, the main exception being the character Yente. Yente, a sick old woman, is given a charm to wear which will keep her alive until a family wedding is complete, but she swallows it, becoming an immortal spirit who watches the lives of her family thereafter. She could have been a handy way of telling the story, but in fact only gets an occasional mention.

The book is well written, but it tells the story in immense detail, never cutting out episodes or characters that seem relatively peripheral or inconsequential. Many letters are given in full, long letters between minor characters discussing, for example, whether it is better to write in Latin or the vernacular. The letters are highly plausible in terms of characterisation and history, and they were probably enjoyable to write, but they add even more length to a text which is already radically oversized (I think it should have been no more than about a quarter of its actual length). Finishing the book, I’m afraid, honestly becomes a bit of a slog.

The thing is, long books can be easily readable if they are really interesting. What I wanted to know here was what on Earth motivated these serious, thoughtful Jews to accept Jacob as divinely inspired, rejecting their own heritage and ethical standards? Some of the things they do – deliberately triggering a pogrom against their Jewish enemies by accusing them of murdering Christian children for their blood, for example – seem unforgivable. Alas, that core issue remained a mystery to me while more and more detail of events piled up.

I can’t therefore recommend the book – but have a go at Flights if you want to know what’s so great about Tokarczuk.

Generations

Here’s a picture I came across recently that shows four generations: me, my father, grandfather and great-grandfather (who lived a few years more, so that I have some memories of him). At the time, we could have done a female equivalent, ie my sister, our mother, our grandmother and great-grandmother, but I don’t think that happened. When I was a little older than I am in the picture, I suggested with childish logic that my father’s father’s father could marry my mother’s mother’s mother. ‘Well, tell her I’m ready’ he said.

Critique

While we were eating dinner, a fox came in through the kitchen and stood in the hall. I think it must have been looking at my nine-tailed fox spirit picture, but Katharine shooed it out before it could give a detailed opinion.

(The picture is actually one that looked in through the sliding doors several years ago. Probably Grandad to the current one.)

Cranked Anvil

I’m longlisted in the latest Cranked Anvil competition! (Update: I was eventually shortlisted but not placed)

I’ve also had a slightly puzzling email from the Moth, telling me my entry has not been successful. The only thing about that is, I entered twice, on different dates. Does that mean the other one is still in the running (and which was it?). Probably not, but it’s hard not to over-interpret. (Update: of course neither had progressed). There’s a certain competition that keeps sending me messages that look like rejections at first sight, but turn out to be about some other trivial thing. Ah well.

September ‘22 Competitions

Here’s my regular look at writing competitions I might enter during the coming month. This time the majority have deadlines right at the end of the month. 

  • Among the early ones is On the Premises magazine, which wants stories of 1-5,000 words by 2 September. It’s free to enter and first prize is $250. The theme is ‘Objects in Motion’: the main characters must be in constant motion (being on Earth, which is orbiting the Sun, is not enough).
  • City Academy is again running its unique competition. The deadline is 5 September, but they issue a series of prompts and exercises, making the whole thing almost like a mini writing course. This probably makes the £15 entry fee rather good value, and you can win £1,500 and a voucher worth £300. The maximum word count is 4,000.
  • Terrain wants stories up to 5,000 words: entry is $20, the top prize $1,000, and the deadline is again 5 September.
  • The Jean Golding Institute wants stories up to 4,000 words on ‘The Secret Life of Data: entry is free, but you could win £1,000. The deadline is 12 September.
  • The annual contest in memory of Dinesh Allirajah is on the theme ‘Music’ this year. It’s free, the top prize is £500 and length must be 2-7,500 words. The competition closes on 22 September.
  • Juxtaprose wants stories up to 7,000 words: entry is $15, first prize $1,000, and the deadline is 26 September.

All the rest have a deadline of 30 September.

  • Creative Writing Ink want stories up to 3,000 words: entry is £9 and top prize £1,000
  • Ovacome is a charity providing support to sufferers from ovarian cancer: your story, of up to 1,500 words, does not have to be about cancer or health, but should be on the theme ‘Perspective’. Your £5 entry fee will help fund the charity’s good work, though with a first prize of £250 I suppose they’ll need at least fifty entries before they get into profit.
  • Those nice people up in Norwich are once again running the Olga Sinclair competition. 2,000 words, £9 entry, with a £500 top prize. This year there is no theme.
  • A little further north, those other nice people at Hammond House, in Grimsby, offer £1,000 for stories up to 5,000 words on the theme ‘changes’. The entry fee is £10.
  • Louise Walters is again running her unique ‘Page 100’ contest, which requires, well, just page 100 from your novel or novella (which must be at least 20,000 words long). It’ll cost you £6.50 and you could win a mentoring deal (I think to be honest I should prefer money and/or publication, but no doubt Louise, who made herself into both a writer and a publisher, would be a great mentor).
  • Ghost Story is again calling for, guess what, ghost stories, though anything supernatural or magic realist is acceptable: they like stuff that expands the boundaries of the form. Up to 10,000 words, $20 to enter and $1,500 for the winner.
  • If you thought Grimsby was in the North, what about the good folk of Crowvus, right up at the top end of Scotland? Once again they would like a Christmas ghost story in the good old tradition. Up to 4,000 words, just £3 to enter, and a prize of £100.
  • Blue Mesa will allow up to 6,000 words: entry is $15 and the prize $500.
  • Seven Hills only wants 3,000 words but will charge you $35 to enter for a prize of $300. (Is an entry fee which is more than 10% of the prize a bit much?)
  • Last but very much not least are those old stalwarts at Henshaw Press with their regular competition. 2,000 words, £6 to enter, and £200 prize.Good luck if you enter any of these, and do let us know if you get anywhere!