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The 2013 Winners and a Look at Where We Go From Here

Announcing This Year’s Winners

After much deliberation, we are now ready to announce the winners of the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest:

First Place ($200.00 CDN + critical commentary from Julie Czerneda) goes to:

Ada Hoffmann (The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library)

Second Place ($100.00 CDN) goes to:

Matt Moore (The Binding)

Third Place ($50.00 CDN) goes to:

Ursula Pflug (A Room of His Own)

As discussed previously, we are not purchasing the winning stories this year, merely awarding prize funding (in the belief that winning money for a story, and then still being able to sell its first rights at a later time – and effectively having two primary paydays out of it – is an ideal outcome), so these stories will not be appearing on the website as was the case for the winning stories last year.

And, as promised, the other three stories that made it to the finalist round this year are attributed to their authors below:

Sarah Ennals (Open the Doors, and See All the People)

Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Snow)

Christina Vasilevski (One Thousand and One Cuts)

Congratulations to everyone who hit the finalist round, and a huge thank you to everyone who sent in work to this year’s contest. We appreciate all the support, monetary and otherwise.

We’ll be getting in touch with all of the finalists over the next couple of days to discuss the other non-monetary prize that was up for grabs: the option for any of this year’s finalists interested in doing so to pitch a novel to ChiZine Publications while ChiZine is otherwise closed to submissions.

And with that settled, we now move on to a discussion of what’s coming up down the line.

A Discussion of the Coming Contest Year

With each year of the contest we have been trying something a little different. Effectively, we’ve been seeing what kind of model works best for this kind of contest, in combination with what best serves our entrants, and, of course, our end goal: fundraising in support of the Merril Collection itself.

Interestingly, this year we, again, came a few dollars shy of breaking even (by about $6.25 CDN as I recall). We kind of thought that might happen again when we lowered the prize funding, even with the additional non-monetary prizes on offer. Still, it was worth seeing what this model produced.

And now that we’ve seen what worked and didn’t work with the last two years’ worth of running the contest, we’re going to reconfigure the contest again in advance of the coming contest, the reading period for which will open November 15, 2013.

Also, just a note that (mostly for collective sanity’s sake) going forward we’re going to be referring to the contests by the year in which the winners are declared and prizes are awarded. So, the coming contest will just be the 2014 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest, or 2014 FoMSSC.

The plans for the 2014 contest (already being discussed in some quarters but not yet finalized until we can get everything in order) are to move to a model closer to what we did in the first year, while reorganizing several other things from the ground up and offering a higher total prize than we’ve previously managed. Specifically, we’re looking at the following (bear in mind that everything listed under the “What’s Changing” section is still under discussion, so it’s not fixed yet) in order to produce a more competitive environment, while still trying to fundraise effectively:

What’s Staying the Same: The entry fee will remain $5.00. The reading period will again be three months (November 15th, 2013, through February 15th, 2014).

What’s Changing: We’re trying to figure out the financing for offering a single winner a cash prize of $500.00 (CDN). We will not be having a finalists’ pool, and will instead be awarding two (2) Honourable Mentions (we’re looking at $50.00 each right now) in addition to the winning purse. We’re reorganizing some of the internal workings of the contest as well, and seeing about getting some additional non-monetary prizes to offer. There will be more information coming down the road, as we clarify exactly what we’re doing for the next contest.

Ideally, we’re looking to make this contest a truly competitive environment for submitted fiction. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re looking to exclude anyone working early or mid-career. Instead, it means that we want everyone to try to raise the bar on their own work and send their very best in order to have a shot at that purse. Speaking as an editor, ideas are seldom the issue with any story: it’s almost always the execution where things fall apart. Some ideas, too, end up underutilized or not fully enough explored. But, the point is that revision is a writer’s best friend. I, personally, am a strong proponent of the theory that with revision and careful crafting a story at any level can progress to a more advanced state (work that might only be appropriate for a token market can, with the effort, become appropriate for a semi-pro market, and semi-pro work can, with the input of the required effort, be made good enough for a pro market).

And because we want to foster the pursuit of excellent work we’re trying to put a high enough monetary incentive in place to reward it. Quid pro quo, if you will.

This year also saw the first tentative steps toward a more inclusive vein of fiction in the kind of work we were receiving: we had our first few entries featuring or utilising QUILTBAG characters, and some work that also played with or explored gender identity. We’re looking forward to seeing more of that next year.

In any case, things are on the move, as it were, and good things are coming down the pipeline.

Once again, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who participated in, aided, or supported the contest this time round. We also want to once more congratulate our winners and finalists, and hope you will do likewise. And if you have any questions, or need to get in touch with us for any reason, you can do so either by e-mailing me, Michael Matheson, at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or you can hit us up on Twitter (@fomcontest).

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And … We’re Back: The Guidelines for the 2012-2013 Contest

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 (fomsscontest@gmail.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.

Prizes

Finalists

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 fomsscontest@gmail.com, or you can ask your questions via Twitter (@fomcontest).

Victory Celebrations! (And You’re All Invited)

It’s been a little while since our last post, but what better way to get back into the flow than with the announcement that we’re having a party!

Well, participating in one while someone else throws the party, but that shouldn’t stop us (or you) from having a good time.

It’s been a long road pulling together the inaugural year of the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest, and laying the foundations for the next. So to celebrate the truly exceptional results and turnout of the contest’s first outing we’re going to fete the winners and finalists from the 2011-2012 year. Specifically, Sarah Ennals, James Bambury, Suzanne Church, Claire Humphrey, and Kari Maaren are all going to be reading from their contest stories at the July 11th edition of the Chiaroscuro Reading Series here in Toronto. Sandra Kasturi, one of our 2011-2012 contest judges and the co-publisher of ChiZine Publications, who also co-organizes the CRS, has put together a Facebook events page with full details here: http://www.facebook.com/events/397394833658249/.

Several of the judges will be in attendance – possibly all of us if schedulin allows, and Mike Bryant is also slated to put in an appearance, so the evening should be a blast.

If you’re local or feel like coming in to Toronto (or are already going to be in the city on the 11th), you’re cordially invited to drop by and spend an evening in some thoroughly awesome company.

Also, by the time the 11th rolls around, the Chiaroscuro Reading Series will be the only place you’ll be able to read (or, in this case, listen to) Sarah Ennals’ winning story “The Emmet” since the story will no longer be available on the website after July 4th.

Yes, it’s true, all of the the 2011-2012 winning stories are coming off the website EoD July4th (approximately Midnight, UTC -05:00, July 4th). So if you haven’t already read them, now is the time to do so.

We look forward to seeing all of you who can make it out for the celebrations!