The following are the official contest entry rules for the 2012-2013 Friends of Merril Short Story Contest. If you still have questions, or require more information, after reading them, please see our FAQ page or send an e-mail to Michael Matheson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entry (Periods and Fees)
Contest Period: The reading period for the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is from November 15, 2012 to 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC-4) February 15, 2013. Any entries received after the contest closes will not be eligible for entry. If mailing a hard copy of your submission please send it at least one week before the contest closes so it has time to reach us. If hand delivering a hard copy to the Merril please do so before the Merril Collection closes for the day (6 p.m. weekdays, 5 p.m. on Saturdays). The submissions addresses (electronic and physical) are listed below in the Submissions section.
Entry Fee: All stories submitted to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest must be accompanied by a $5.00 (CDN) entry fee (this fee is used to fund the winners’ purse and all funds raised in excess of that amount are used by the Friends of the Merril Collection to support the Merril Collection). Please note we will not read a submitted story until we have received an entry fee for it. If you are submitting electronically, we recommend that you pay your entry fee first and then submit your story so that you can include your proof of payment in your submission cover letter. The entry fee can be paid in one of three ways:
- Via the PayPal button available on the Pay Entry Fee(s) page (the PayPal button will be available Nov. 15, 2012). If paying by PayPal please pay before you submit your story and include your Transaction ID (17 characters, letters and #s) in your cover letter as proof of payment. We will cross-reference this number with the contest PayPal account to corroborate payment of the entry fee.
- By cash, either on its own (enclosed in a sealed envelope with a note telling us your name and the name of your story, the package to be dropped off at the Merril Collection front desk) if you submitted electronically and do not wish to use PayPal, or enclosed with your manuscript submission if you submitted a hard copy.
- By cheque (if it’s absolutely necessary), either on it’s own (dropped off at the Merril Collection front desk) if you submitted electronically and do not wish to use PayPal, or enclosed with your manuscript submission if you submitted a hard copy. If you submitted multiple stories and are paying by cheque you may pay for them all with the same cheque, but please note the number of submissions the cheque is for in the memo line so we can track your submissions properly.
Content: All entries submitted to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest must have a speculative fiction element (see the FAQ page for our definition). As we are no longer posting the winning stories on the website, there are no restrictions on content or subject matter.
Eligibility: The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is open to all writers of all levels (published, unpublished, emerging, etc.), without restriction. The contest is international, so writers of any nation may enter. We do suggest that if you are not entering locally (in this case Toronto, Canada is our “local”) you should probably submit your entry electronically, but if you’re more comfortable sending a hard copy then please feel free to do so. However, we intend to treat all mailed manuscripts as disposable, so please do not include an IRC or SASE with hard copy submissions. No manuscripts will be returned. Do not send originals. We respond to all entries via e-mail (you must include an e-mail address in your submission package or your entry is considered invalid).
Number of Submissions: There is no longer any restriction on the number of entries you may submit to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest, but each entry must be accompanied by a separate entry fee.
Submission Type and Length: Your entries must be stories, and must be a maximum of 5,000 words in length. The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest does not accept poetry or creative non-fiction.
Submission Format (Electronic): Entries should be e-mailed to us at email@example.com with the words “Submission: Story Title” in the Subject line. All entries must use Standard Manuscript Format and be attached to your e-mail as a .doc, .docx or .rtf file (those are the only file types we can currently open). Include a brief cover letter in your e-mail with your Contact Info (name, address, telephone number and e-mail address), story title and word count. You can include a bio or publication history if you like, but it’s not necessary (and since adjudication at all levels is performed blind none of the judges will see it).
Submission Format (Hard Copy): Entries should be mailed to us at
The Friends of the Merril Collection Short Story Contest
c/o The Merril Collection, Toronto Public Library
239 College Street, 3rd floor, Toronto, ON, M5T 1R5
Entries may also be handed in at the Merril Collection itself. If physically dropping off your hard copy entry please hand it to a Merril librarian behind the Collection desk. Do not simply leave it on the desk and walk away. All entries must use Standard Manuscript Format. Include a brief cover letter with the hard copy of your story with Contact Info (name, address, telephone number and e-mail address), story title and word count. You can include a bio or publication history if you like, but it’s not necessary (and since adjudication at all levels is done blind none of the judges will see it).
Response Time for Submissions: We try to acknowledge all submissions within one week’s time of their arrival, but if you have not heard from us within two weeks of having submitted your entry please query us at the contest e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the words “Query: Receipt – Story Title” in the Subject line. Please provide the date sent and let us know whether your entry was filed electronically or as a hard copy through the post or dropped off at the Merril.
Adjudication of Entries
Preliminary Judging: All stories are judged blind (we will remove all identifying info from the entries so please include appropriate contact info in your submissions). During the three month reading period (November 15, 2012 – February 15, 2013) all stories will be read by a team of slush readers. Our team of slush readers will make their determination of the six finalist entries two weeks after the end of the reading period (March 1, 2013) to allow for the reading of entries submitted at the last possible moment. Once this two week period is over rejections and notification of progression to finalist status will be sent out via e-mail. Once there is a shortlist of six finalists those entries are handed over to the Final Panel Judges for consideration and voting. At that time the story titles of the six finalist entries will be posted to the contest website, and we ask that if your story if chosen for the shortlist that you please refrain from mentioning which story is yours anywhere online. You can absolutely feel free to mention that a story of yours is a finalist in the contest, we just don’t want to prejudice the judges by having them know who wrote which story on the shortlist.
Final Judging: The empanelled judges will each be allowed to vote for three of the six stories, and the story with the most votes wins, and so on down through third place. Final selections as to the winning stories will be made no later than March 31, 2013, at which time all the finalists will be notified via e-mail to inform them of the results.
Potential Conflicts: During the inaugural contest year two different stories on the shortlist had previously been rejected by two different judges (neither story ended up taking any of the top three prizes, though that actually was for entirely different reasons). This kind of thing happens because four of the five judges work with/run short fiction markets. There is a very real possibility that this will happen again. Also, given that several of the judges are engaged in writers’ groups or workshops there is also the chance that stories that have been workshopped or critiqued by some of the judges may end up on the shortlist. In this instance the judge(s) will be asked to recuse themselves from voting for that story. Any other conflicts of interest will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Prizes and Payment
Prizes (Shortlist): All of the shortlisted writers will have the opportunity to pitch a novel to ChiZine Publications. While CZP is currently closed to all submissions until July 2014, CZP has offered us the opportunity to award the six finalists in the 2012-2013 contest the right to pitch them one novel each. Please note that this is for novels only, and for those not familiar with a pitch the term refers to a query letter and a sample of your novel. Some pitches also contain summaries, project descriptions, or other material. It really depends on what the publisher uses to gauge their submissions. However, a pitch is not a guarantee of publication. We’ll instruct the finalists on the specifics CZP requires (since the information is not currently available on CZP’s website while they are closed to submissions) once the shortlist is decided upon.
Prizes (Winning Entries): The monetary prizes awarded to the winning entries are as follows:
First Place: $200.00 (CDN)
Second Place: $100.00 (CDN)
Third Place: $50.00 (CDN)
Prizes (First Place Winner Only): This year we are delighted to be able to offer an additional prize to the first place winner. Above and beyond the monetary prize awarded to the first place winner, said entrant will receive critical feedback and marketing advice on their winning story. The review and assessment of the winning story will be performed by Julie Czerneda, one of Canada’s foremost authors and editors.
All of the monetary prizes listed here are fixed amounts, funded by the contest entry fees. All monies raised in excess of the amount required to pay for the prizes will be used by the Friends of the Merril Collection in support of the Merril Collection, in accordance with their mandate as stated on the Friends of the Merril Collection website.
Posting of Names and Story Titles to the Contest Website: When the shortlist is decided on the titles of the stories are listed on the website without the names of the entrants they are tied to. This is done in order to prevent biasing the Final Panel Judges while they decide the winners. Once the final decisions are made as to the winning entries, the finalists and the winners are separated out on the website and both the names of the entrants and their story titles are listed on the website. This information is left online indefinitely to provide exposure to both current and past finalists and winners of the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest.
Payment and Prize Distribution: Monetary payment will be made to the winners once we have contacted them and received information as to their preferred method of payment. Non-monetary prizes will be awarded in the manner best suited to that prize, and aid will be given, as required, to help claim intangible prizes.
At no time do you relinquish any right, copyright, or ownership of your story to us, either during the reading period, during consideration for finalist status, or in the case of your story being selected as a winner.
All entries submitted to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest must be previously unpublished, original (plagiarism or fraudulent entries will result in disqualification) work. The exception to this rule is fiction not previously published in English: material previously published in another language and translated into English is acceptable.
We do not accept simultaneous submissions.
The Big Why (And How You Can Help Whether You Enter Or Not)
We know that for many writers the idea of entry fee based contests is a touchy subject, both because of the fraudulent practices that choke the field like the risen dead clawing their way free from rotting loam, and because of the idea of the fees themselves.
We, the Friends of the Merril Collection, would like to make very clear the fact that we are not charging “reading fees”. We are running a contest. We are charging an entry fee for each eligible submission because we are trying to raise funds to aid the Merril Collection, and to raise awareness of the Collection. We are potentially accepting donations toward the prize pool as well (query if interested), but as we are trying to refrain from drawing on the already accrued financial resources available to the Friends of the Merril in order to run this contest, we are charging entry fees.
However, our prize monies are guaranteed whether we hit our goal or not. Do not misunderstand us, we hope to do vastly more than simply raise the sum we need to meet the prize monies guaranteed. We are looking to engage good old fashioned barn-raising, put-on-a-show, shoot-for-the-moon fundraising. Some organizations run bake sales. We work with fiction. And what better way to work with fiction than by encouraging lovers and practitioners, amateurs and professionals, enthusiasts and connoisseurs of that craft to write and try for some cash prizes?
We hope you’ll help. You don’t even have to enter to do it. Help us spread the word. Tell a friend. Tell five. Tell ten. Blog about the contest. Tweet about it. Whatever you can and are willing to do to help, know that we appreciate it more than we can say. Because at its heart, the Merril Collection is about the love of fiction, be it science fiction, fantasy, horror, or any of the other less easily defined branches of speculative fiction, and the wide world of mainstream literature lying just beyond our doorstep. It is about discovery and change and imagination. It is about the power of the written word to motivate and move and foment and catalyze and crystallize and inspire.
It is about wonder.
And if that isn’t something to get behind we don’t know what is.