Behind the curtain


February 12, 2008 by Tracey S. Rosenberg

Submitting manuscripts, whether for publication or for competitions, rather feels like the literal meaning of ‘over the transom’: you put everything lovingly in an envelope, seal it with a kiss, and then hurl it through a window above your head. If you’re lucky, you hear the PLOP-sssssssslide as the envelope hits the top of the mound consisting of all the other envelopes and then sinks to the floor. Sometimes you can hear the spiders laughing. You know, the spiders who have spun eighteen zillion webs since the last time anyone kicked the pile of envelopes and said, “sure are a lot of envelopes here.”

I don’t normally discuss submissions-in-progress because, well, it jinxes things! Yeah. But back in December I submitted DNP to the Freedom in Fiction prize. My dad, bless him, not only insisted on paying for the postage, but sent it priority mail even though regular would have been fine (and even though I’d already put it in an envelope which we then had to pay for, rather than the priority mail envelope which would have been free).

This is an unusual prize – in fact, I don’t know of anything else like it, though that isn’t to say nothing similar has ever existed. Basically, they are looking for novels which are (to use shorthand) libertarian in outlook: free market and personal liberties good, government oppression and two legs bad. The first stage is submitting a two-page outline (that bugbear!) and two sample chapters. No entry fee, neither! Then they’ll announce that none of the entries is gooder writing select ten finalists.

Those finalists each get 1 kilodollar, which would certainly be appreciated round these parts. Everyone has a year to get their complete manuscripts in. The winner gets 10 grand and, if the novel sells more than 10,000 copies in the first year after publication, a further $90,000. (And before you ask: ixnay on the vanity press route.)

Because I have the patience of Thundercat, i.e. zero, I dropped an e-mail to the contest administrator in mid-January politely asking whether they had in fact received the envelope, so I could cross off “lost by US Mail” from my interminable list of things to worry about. (I didn’t say that part.) Received back a polite e-mail saying yes. A few days ago, I got the official acknowledgement letter, which suggested we entrants could get in touch if we had any further questions.

I couldn’t resist asking: how many entrants?

The contest was advertised around on plenty of blogs, and I found three other people who talked about entering – Taran Jordan (who seems to have taken down her ‘I submitted it!’ entry [yes, indeed; see comments]), Daniel J. Davis, and, blast, I know there was a third one! – ah, Eric M. Shear. But obviously, four entrants do not a competition make.

I was also curious because generally, everything about a competition is cloaked in secrecy. How is the judging actually done? Who judges it? If you submit two copies, does that mean only two people read the entries? (Or maybe only one, and the other gets thrown down the stairs in the old ‘the one on the bottom gets an A‘ grading scheme?) Do the judges mark every entry ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and then draw up individual shortlists? Do they hold an interminable coffee-fueled meeting at which they sit at a table piled with manuscripts, arguing over merit, occasionally pulling something out of the pile, getting paper cuts, and brandishing a chapter while shouting “this one goes through or I never speak to you again!”? Is there any cake at these meetings, and if so, is any of it lemon poppy seed?

(I am very fond of lemon poppy seed cake.)

Well, I don’t know any of those answers. But the administrator kindly wrote back to say they’d received just over a hundred entries. Which he (and I) feel is a healthy start.

Regardless of whether I place, I think it’s a fantastic competition, and I hope it continues. Best of luck to all my fellow competitors!


3 thoughts on “Behind the curtain

  1. Taran Jordan says:

    Howdy and thanks for the mention and link. πŸ™‚ Best of luck to you as well and – wow! – the other 100+ competitors! I’d been thinking about asking how many of us there were too…thanks for having the chutzpah.

    Yes, I did take down the excerpts I’d posted from my entry, on the advice of a fiction instructor who said it’s bad juju to publish novel excerpts even on a blog if you want a contract with a serious publishing house. Sigh. Justin okayed it from his perspective, but I figured better to be safe than sorry down the line.

    Oh, and by the way, I’m a she. πŸ˜‰ Freedom chicks rule!

  2. tsrosenberg says:

    AUGH! Sorry! I’ve spent enough time in libertarian circles to assume everyone is male unless I know otherwise. *rushes off to correct my error*

  3. Dittos on link-gratitude. It’s always nice to know that there are other creatively inclined people out there who aren’t rabid pinkos.

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Tiny bio

I live, work, and write in Edinburgh. I travel to other places as much as I can. To contact me, email writingmostly at gmail dot com.


CURRENTLY READING: The Ginseng Hunter by Jeff Talarigo.

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