Well, all things considered, figuring out exactly how we were going to restructure the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest took slightly longer than anticipated. However, the hiatus has given us time to pull together a fantastic slate of prizes, as well as time to streamline the process and work out what we’re actually able to do, and how we’re going to go about doing it this year.
The first thing I want to mention is that all of our excellent final panel judges from the 2011-2012 contest year are returning for the 2012-2013 contest. For those who don’t already know, that means the work of those who reach the finalist stage of the contest will be judged by Leah Bobet, Sandra Kasturi, Michael Kelly, Chris Szego, and myself (Michael Matheson). We should have updated bios up for everyone on the Judges page by the end of the day.
So, we’ll talking about the changes to the contest by doing a quick breakdown of the new guidelines (I’m going to update the Contest Rules page to cover everything in more depth, so this is just some quick information to get your started), then go into what prizes are up for grabs this year.
The Quick Breakdown of the 2012-2013 Guidelines
The reading period will be open from November 15th, 2012 through February 15th, 2013. As with last year, you can get your entries to us either via e-mail (email@example.com), snail mail (see the Contest Rules page for the mailing address), or if you’re in Toronto you’re welcome to drop off your entries in person at the Merril Collection.
The entry fee is still $5.00 (CDN) per story, and we’ve removed the restriction on the number of stories you can enter so there is no limit on the number of entries per person. Now, that being said, the best option for a lot of entrants is still going to be picking one piece to submit and polishing it until it shines. However, for those of you who have a small body of polished work that you’d like to submit you’re more than welcome to; we’re still kind of hoping to be able to offer some kind of feedback on entries that don’t hit the finalist stage of the contest, but that may or may not be feasible due to time constraints and how many entries we get. We’ll have to see what’s possible once things get going.
As announced back at the end of July we are bumping the maximum allowable word count on submissions up to 5,000 words (firm limit) per story. We are still taking only fiction, so no creative non-fiction or poetry please. Also, we’re still taking speculative fiction (SF/F/H, magic realism, fabulism, slipstream, etc.) only so your story must have a fantastical element.
We’re going down to six finalists this year, and while that’s going to make the selection process post reading period somewhat more difficult we’re doing it for a couple of different reasons, one of which has to do with the revised prize structure (finalists now also get a prize for hitting the finalist stage of the contest: see the Finalists section of Prizes below). And from that shortlist we will pick three winners. The prize structure is discussed below.
We are no longer going to publish the winning stories. Though we published the winning 2011-2012 stories on the website, we just can’t offer people the kind of traffic (from this platform, anyway) that their stories deserve. And, frankly, we’d much rather you get your prize money from us and then still be able to sell first publication rights for your story elsewhere for another large (or, hey, larger) payout, and get it some real exposure. Though we’re not abandoning the opportunity to help you get published: see the Finalists section of Prizes below for more on that.
While we do highlight all the finalists here on the website (through listing your names and stories) and we did get a chance to host many of the local finalists at the Chiaroscuro Reading Series earlier in the year, that’s really all we’ve been able to do in the past for those finalists whose stories didn’t win the contest. This year, through the generosity of ChiZine Publications, all the finalists will get the opportunity to pitch a novel to CZP. Now, this may or may not seem as awesome to everyone who hits the finalist stage, but since CZP is otherwise closed to all submissions until July 2014, that’s a hell of an opportunity. Please note, this is for novels only, and this is a chance to wow CZP with your amazing query skills and a sample of your work. It is not a guarantee of publication.
First, Second, and Third Place Winners
As with last year there will be monetary prizes awarded to the first, second, and third place winners of the contest. We’ve reduced the monetary award for first place (turns out we set the bar slightly too high last year) but we’ve added an additional prize to be awarded to the first place winner to make up for that. The prize structure for this year is as follows:
Third Place: $50.00 (CDN)
Second Place: $100.00 (CDN)
First Place: $200.00 (CDN)
First Place Winner Only
In addition to the monetary award for first place, this year we have a very special additional prize to award to our first place winner. One of Canada’s foremost authors and editors (you can think I’m engaging hyperbole all you want, but wait until you see who it is) has agreed to review the winning story and offer critical feedback and marketing advice to the first place winner. This is decidedly worthy of its own post (and I’m perfectly happy to be a tease right now) so we’ll be talking about this in detail not too far down the road.
There’s a great deal more to cover in terms of the specifics of submissions, including what we’d like to see in the coming year, and other concerns related to the contest. But we’ll be covering everything in the runup to the opening of the reading period (and probably talking more about these things once this year’s contest gets underway as well). I’ll be updating the rest of the site to reflect the changes we’re making to the contest over the next day or two. In the meantime, if you have any questions, you can feel free to me e-mail them to me, Michael Matheson, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can ask your questions via Twitter (@fomcontest).