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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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New Wonders to Unveil: Further Updates re the 2012-2013 Contest

In our last post, wherein we detailed the revised guidelines for the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest, we announced that there were two parts to the prize we were awarding to the first place winner of the coming contest: a monetary prize, and a critique of the winning work put together by one of Canada’s foremost authors and editors.

Since we had to make sure several things were in place before we could make the announcement as to who the luminary we’re working with is, we’ve had to hold off on doing that. Until now. Our apologies for keeping you waiting so long, and so I’ll make this brief.

The author, editor, and educator who has agreed to provide the critique to our first place winner?

Julie Czerneda

Julie Czerneda

Yes, Julie Czerneda. A gifted writer, a generous editor, and an educator possessed of a wonderfully keen mind, Julie is also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met (an opinion widely held, and with good reason).

And for those rare few of you who are unfamiliar with Julie’s work, in her own words:

Since 1997, Julie E. Czerneda has turned her love and knowledge of biology into science
fiction novels and short stories that have received international acclaim, multiple awards,
and best-selling status. A popular speaker on scientific literacy and SF, in 2009 Julie was
Guest of Honour for the national conventions of New Zealand and Australia, as well as
Master of Ceremonies for Anticipation, the Montreal Worldcon. She’s busy writing short
stories as well as her next novel, having finished her first really big fantasy, A Turn of
Light, to be published by DAW March 2013. Most recently, Julie was guest speaker at
the U. of South Florida’s symposium on Women Writers of SF, and co-edited Tesseracts
15: A Case of Quite Curious Tales with Susan MacGregor. (No matter how busy, she’ll
be out canoeing too.) For more about Julie’s work, visit http://www.czerneda.com or visit her
on Facebook or Goodreads.

We’re absolutely delighted to have Julie on board for this year’s contest. And given all the prizes available to be won it’s going to be a fantastic year. The reading period opens November 15th, and we’ll be posting about the kind of stories we want to see from entrants (and offering some advice) between now and then.

But, for now, here’s the short version:

Give us stories that show an inclusive approach to fiction. Give us three-dimensional characters. Give us characters, protagonist and/or secondary, who run the spectrum of the QUILTBAG. Give us unusual and/or experimental structures. Give us stories told through structures or ideas used a thousand times before, and tell them in new and fascinating ways. Give us the stories you want to tell but haven’t found a home for yet; consider this a testing ground where no one is going to tell you not to run too far or too fast. Show us work that blazes like a comet across heavens full to bursting with starlight and wonder.

We’ll be talking more about the contest in the days to come, but in the meantime please feel free to share this news. And if you have questions, or need to reach us for other concerns (I don’t know what that would be right now, I’m just putting it out there), you can either write to Michael Matheson at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or contact us via Twitter at @fomcontest.