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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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One Week Left to Enter – Don’t Be Left on the Outside Looking In

Well, there’s now one week remaining to submit your entries to the 2012-2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest.

If you’re not already familiar with the guidelines or other specifics of the contest, you should visit either the Contest Rules page, or you can see the last post on the website, “It’s Time: The 2012-2013 FoMSSC Reading Period Opens at Midnight“, for a breakdown of the basic information and some more in-depth information on what kind of work we hope to see for this year’s contest.

We’ve seen a fair number of entries thus far, but we are well short of our goal for this year. Now, admittedly, that will have no impact on the prize monies to be disbursed to the three winners (though the entry fees do go toward the prize monies, the total value of that pool is guaranteed regardless). Nor will it affect any of the other prizes we’re awarding/providing this year (see the Prizes page for more information). But, as the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is a fundraising initiative designed to aid the Merril Collection of the Toronto Public Library system,  we obviously hope, every year the contest runs, to do better than break even.

As we’ve mentioned in prior posts, we lowered the total value of the monetary prize pool offered this year, and opted to offer a set of non-monetary prizes in addition to the cash winnings, because the amount we offered in the first year turned to be a good, if not yet, entirely feasible pool. The Friends of the Merril Collection is a volunteer organization whose activities are funded by memberships and donations, so there’s a delicate balance to be maintained. While we certainly do want to offer larger monetary prizes, in addition to being able to offer interesting and useful non-monetary prizes as well, we’re still looking into ways to make that work.

Now, in the first year of the contest, we talked about the idea of sponsors. And we do actually on the Sponsors page mention that we’re open to direct contributions to help fund the prize pool, and/or have that money accrue toward the fundraising efforts once the value of the prize pool is met. We never really did get off the ground with doing that, but I think this might not be a bad thing to come back to.

We initially talked about offering space on the Sponsors page for a link to the website of contributing organizations, but there’s certainly also the possibility of doing individual posts on the website highlighting sponsors as a form of thank you.

It’s all worth looking into at this point, and we’d love to have your input (whether you would be considering contributing or not). Any and all can get in touch with me, Michael Matheson, at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or you can get in touch with us on Twitter (@fomcontest).

Anyone who has any other questions relating to the contest should also feel free to use that contact information.

And to those of you who are still considering entering the contest, but haven’t done so yet, please note that there is a base entry fee of $5.00 (CDN) per story, with no limit on the number of stories you can enter in the contest this year, and that the deadline for entries in the 2012-2013 contest is midnight (UTC -5), February 15th, 2013. Also, though you can enter either electronically or by hard copy submission, your hard copy entries need to be postmarked no later than February 15th.

Many thanks to all of you who have submitted your entries so far this year, and we look forward to seeing whatever else comes our way in this year’s contest.

A New Addition to the Prize Pool

As you may have noticed from the general theme around here, and the fact that the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is about writing, we absolutely love books. So, you can imagine how ecstatic we were when the Merril Collection staff offered us a very special prize to be added to the 2011-2012 contest prize pool:

The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest is adding a very limited edition (5 copies) hand crafted booklet, containing the stories of the 2011-2012 winning authors, to the prize pool. One copy will remain in the Merril Collection as part of the permanent archives. One copy will be retained by the artist producing the booklets, and the others will be distributed, one booklet each, among the winning authors. The details for the production of the booklet are not yet fixed as the design specifics are dependent on the length of the winning works, among other factors.

However, we think you’ll agree that the limited edition booklets are a fantastic addition to the already excellent prize pool. And, of course, once the booklets themselves have been produced (sometime after the conclusion of the 2011-2012 contest) we’ll post photographs of them to the website.

We’ll be updating the information on the contest website to reflect the new prize listing over the next few days as part of the runup to the official opening of the 2011-2012 reading period.

In the meantime, if you have any questions relating to this, or anything else about the contest, you can get in touch with us at fomsscontest@gmail.com.

Keep an eye out for more updates to the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest relating to our Judges and other aspects of the contest. Also, if you’d rather we came to you with our updates, you can follow the contest blog (using the Subscribe widget to the right) to stay on top of updates and news items.

And remember, the 2011-2012 contest officially opens on November 15, 2011. So get writing.