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The 2014 Winners/Honourable Mentions: One Stands Alone

It took us a fair bit longer than it has in past years to choose a winner for this contest. Couple of different reasons for that, all of which are largely internal, so we’ll not be sharing them here. Though we do apologize for making everyone wait so long (especially the finalists) after the promised deadline to see the results of this year’s contest.

So, without further ado, we present to you the first place winner of the 2014 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest:

First Place ($500.00 CDN):

Scott Shank (Unnamed)

And we have two honourable mentions to award, respectively, to the following shortlisted writers:

Honourable Mention ($50.00 CDN):

Star Spider (The One in Green)

Honourable Mention ($50.00 CDN):

Barry King (The Politics of Bird Flight)

We’re again this year not purchasing the winning stories. Though there has been some debate about going back to doing so, which we’ll talk more about once we’ve come to a decision on that. But in the meantime, we also need to mention who the remaining finalists (or, technically, finalist) were, and attribute the remaining story to its rightful author, who we will once more congratulate for making it to the shortlist. So:

Charlotte D’Arcy (The Walk)

Now, ordinarily, the remaining shortlist attributions would have three names. But we had a, well, an interesting year, and we’ll go into more about that with the forthcoming numbers breakdown post.

In fact, we’ll have updates aplenty to follow on forthcoming changes to the contest in advance of next year (based on what worked and what didn’t this year we’re changing things up again), along with the promised numerical breakdown and additional information that we provide every year.

But, for now, we’re going to give everyone some space before we do that. It’s taken us this long to decide on a winner, and for the moment we’d like to just let all the winning parties/recipients of their honourable mentions revel in their victories, and give us a breather so we can get in touch with everyone and get them their prize monies.

In the meantime, we would like to, once again, take the opportunity to thank everyone who has helped with, participated in, otherwise aided or supported the contest this year. We’d also like to take a moment to again congratulate this year’s winner, honourable mentions, and shortlisted writers, and very much hope you will take the opportunity to do likewise.

As always, if anyone has any questions, or needs to get in touch with us for whatever reason, you can do so by e-mailing me, Michael Matheson, at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or you can find us on Twitter @fomcontest.

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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).

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!

One Journey Ends, The Next Begins – The 2012 Winning Stories Are Now Available To Read

You can now read the three winning stories from the 2011-2012 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest. They will be available here on the website for ninety days, from April 5, 2012 – July 4, 2012.

And with the posting of these stories we now put to rest the inaugural year of the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest. Thanks to all of you who have helped through various means – everything from sending submissions on down – we’ve managed to make an extraordinary success of the contest.

In light of that success, we begin the work of preparing the way for the 2012-2013 contest later this year. But, for now, we’re going to sit back, take a bit of a breather, and enjoy the fruits of our labours as we round out the last attendant details of the 2011-2012 contest (like making sure our winners get their limited edition booklets).

So, please join us in once again congratulating Sarah Ennals, Jason S. Ridler, and Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon on their winning entries, and enjoy the stories – which you can read from the Winning Stories (2012) page of the website. Going forward, the Winning Stories (2012) page is also where we’re housing the permanent record of the full finalist list for the 2011-2012 contest year.

If you would like to show your appreciation for the winning works you are more than welcome to do so in the Comments fields, either for the individual stories, or the Comments field of the Winning Stories (2012) page itself.

We also intend to post up some pictures of the finished limited edition booklets containing the winning stories once the artist crafting them has completed the booklets, but for the most part we’re going to ease into the next contest year. It’s been a long five months, and we’re looking forward to a little downtime around here.

And if you need anything in the meantime please don’t hesitate to either contact Michael Matheson at fomsscontest@gmail.com, or drop us a line on Twitter (@fomcontest).

And the Winners Are …

And now, friends, followers, entrants, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The declaration of our juried winners in the 2011-2012 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest:

First Place ($350.00 CDN) goes to:

Sarah Ennals (The Emmet)

Second Place ($100.00 CDN) goes to:

Jason S. Ridler (Rikidōzan and the San Diego Swerve Job)

Third Place ($50.00 CDN) goes to:

Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (Your First Real Rocket Ship)

The three winners of this, the inaugural contest year, will each be receiving, as part of their prize, a hand-crafted limited edition copy of the booklet being specially produced to house the winning stories. As previously discussed on the contest website two other copies will be produced, one of which will remain with the artist, and the last is to be added to the Merril Collection. We hope to post photos of the finished booklets once they’re ready.

The winning stories will also be published on the contest website as soon as everything is in place to make that possible. We’ll have them up and available to read by our stated deadline of May 1st without fail, but we hope to be able to post them a good deal sooner.

And, as promised, the remaining finalist stories, complete with name recognition for the authors, are listed below:

Colleen Anderson (The Ties That Bind)

James Bambury (The Mobius Garden)

Suzanne Church (Muffy and the Belfry)

Barbara Gordon (Climbing Boys)

Claire Humphrey (Weathermakers)

Kari Maaren (My Profit On’t Is)

We’ll be posting updates to this information and any attendant contest information in all the usual places, so you can keep an eye out for new information here or on the contest Twitter account (@fomcontest). And, as always, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to send them to Michael Matheson at fomsscontest@gmail.com.

The Last Three Stories Standing

The Final Judges Panel has held the proverbial cage match for the finalist stories, and we’ve come away with the last three stories standing.

Now that we’ve selected the winners of the inaugural Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest, we’re going to take a few days to get in touch with all the finalists. We’ll be announcing the winners once we’ve had a chance to get in touch with everyone, and then we’ll be displaying both the winners’ circle and the other six finalist stories with attendant author names.

We’re on track to have that list up by April 1st, at the latest, so you can expect that go up shortly. We’ll also be displaying the full text of the winning stories on the website beginning no later than May 1st, and hopefully a good deal sooner than that.

And, you know, being here in the home stretch of our first year, being able to look back on all the help offered, all the stories submitted, and, indeed, the vast diversity of stories we got a chance to read, we wanted to offer another thank you to everyone who has contributed to making this contest work. You’ve helped us spread the word, sent us your work, offered moral support, and generally helped us create another outlet for the international Spec Fic community to come together. That’s no small thing, and I’m not sure we’ll be able to show our appreciation loudly enough.

But one thing we absolutely have to do is give a special thank you to everyone who submitted but didn’t make the finalist cut. Contests are a brutal proving ground, and all of us on this end have been there. We know how terrifying it is to set your work adrift on that vast and terrifying ocean, waiting to see if it can weather the fierce seas and battering winds of that perilous sea to make safe harbour, or whether those fathomless depths will claim your work and drag it down to the cold and empty black of lightless deeps. Yes, I ran that metaphor straight into the ground, but, in all earnestness, thank you for showing the courage you did by submitting to the contest. We hope you are the better by it, and we wish you all luck, whatever path your writing may lead you down.

So, that being said, we suggest everyone stick around. We’ll have a fully attributed finalist list and winners’ circle up sooner than you think.