As referenced in last week’s blog (1-20-23) …
Department Of Here We Go Again
Sub-Department Of Preview Of Coming Grievances Attractions
Sub- Department explanation: the next three blogs will deal with various aspects of The Writing Life As Moiself Sees It ®) …
This is part one of a three-part series. Parts one and two feature essays I wrote several years ago. The essays have the following commonality:
(a) I was satirizing a certain aspect of the writing/publishing life;
(b) More than one editor to whose journal(s) I submitted these essays wrote, in their kind and complimentary rejection letters, that although they personally liked the article they could not publish it and, added that they felt it incumbent to warn me that that the article might be unpublishable due to my making fun of the process – i.e.; gnawing at the hand that was supposedly feeding me – despite the essays being clearly intended as satirical (“You realize that many people in this world  do not have a sense of humor about what they do….”)
The first amusing (to moiself ) if flattering rejection letter confirmed what I had suspected. “I really, *really* like your essay,” the editor wrote, “… but do you know this is essentially unpublishable?”
Do I know that literary journals and magazines are not known for having a sense of humor about themselves? Dude, trust me, I’ve figured that out.
The subject for the essay had been bouncing round my devious mind for some time. I’d been taking mental notes for years about the proliferation of writing awards, but the impetus for putting it down was reading an announcement, by someone, moiself didn’t know well, on social media, about how a poem they’d written had won the prize for Desiccated Ego Quarterly Review’s Contest For Best Emo-Themed Lyric Soliloquy By An Emerging Writer Under Age Thirty. 
Instead of feeling happy for them or sending congratulations, I found moiself cringing on their behalf, as I found it rather…amateurish.
Sure, do a humble brag when you win a Pulitzer, but Desiccated Ego Quarterly Review’s Contest For Best Emo-Themed Lyric Soliloquy By An Emerging Writer Under Age Thirty sounds like something your mother dreamed up. Except, of course, it wasn’t the writer’s mother – it was an editor…and a publisher, and another and another – such contests and awards were madly multiplying. And they continue to do so. Even more than they years ago when I was still actively submitting work, more and more literary journals list this change in requirements on their writers guidelines:
“Submissions currently excepted only through our contests.”
There is a fee, of course, for submitting, which the journal justifies clarifies with a circular explanation along these lines: the journal’s prize/contest entry fees help fund the journal as well as the prizes the journal awards for said contests.
Which means that contest “winners”– in perhaps a momentarily/financially insignificant way, but in an ultimately significantly unethical (IMO) way – have been a party to purchasing their own prize.
And so, on with the show. 
* * *
YOU CAN BE (OR ALREADY ARE)
AN AWARD-WINNING WRITER!
Calling all non-award-winning writers (you know who you are): It’s time to add a trophy title to your nom de plume. It imparts that certain je ne sais quoi, literary cachet; besides, with all the opportunities out there, what’s your excuse for *not* having one?
Admit it, you’ve had an experience similar to the following. Scanning the bio notes of an article in a writer’s magazine, you discovered that the article’s author had received a literary award, the title of which you had to practice saying several times before you could utter it in one breath:
“The Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellweather Prize For Fiction
in Support of a Literature For Social Change.”
Pulitzer, schmulitzer; *there’s* an award you don’t see every day. Although if present trends continue, you probably will.
No disrespect intended towards the esteemed (and multiple award-winning) Ms. Kingsolver, whose once-eponymous award now goes by the more succinct, “The Bellweather Prize.” As awkwardly extensive as I found the earlier title, it was nice to come across any award named after a living woman instead of a member of the Dead Literary Guys Club. Still, I’ve never been able to get that erstwhile, très specific award title out of my mind. It reminds me of, well, of other très specific or obscure literary award titles I’ve seen in the classifieds ads, the Grants and Awards announcements, and the Member News sections of writer’s publications.
Computer literate literati are just a Google away from discovering the astounding number of writing awards, contests, grants and fellowships available to actual or aspiring authors. Award titles and descriptions can be quite entertaining, and so once upon a keyboard I decided to keep a file of literary awards’ names, categories and sponsors. In a few months that decision was followed by another one: to delete the file, whose page count had surpassed that of the first draft of my first novel. I feared for the storage space on my hard disk; I feared for my attitude even more.
I hold a hopeful snobbery about writing, and am ambivalent about the proliferation of literary prizes. I want writers to eschew the self-celebration and celebriti-zation that infests popular culture. Moreover, the proliferation of Something, even Something with good intentions, can ultimately demean its significance or value. There’s the Oscars, Cannes, Sundance…and then there’s the Toledo People’s Choice Film Festival.
At the risking of sounding like the George C. Scott of author-dom, I’m leery of prizes for art in general and literature in specific. I reject the notion that, intentionally or otherwise, writers should compete with one another, or that there are universally accepted or objective criteria for judging the “best” of works that are written – and read – by gloriously subjective beings. Then again, I can understand the motivations for award-giving in any field of endeavor, including writing (“Our work must be important — see how many awards we have?!”). And who wouldn’t enjoy having Pulitzer Prize-winning author attached to their byline?
An award, any award, can bestow a certain distinction. Thousands of novels and poetry collections are published yearly, most fading quickly into obscurity. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll give the impression you’re Someone To Watch ® if your back-listed-so-fast-it-left-skidmarks chapbook receives “The Award for Southwestern Pangendered Speculative Flash Prose-Poems.”
Relax, take a cleansing breath, and stop composing your bio notes for the entry form. There’s no such award. Yet.
To get an idea of the number and variety of literary prizes, flip through the classified ads section of any writer’s magazine, or check out their on-line versions. One prominent writer’s website has over *nine hundred* Awards & Contests listings, a number added to weekly if not daily. Whatever your personal traits or writing genre, there’s a prize or contest – and, of course, an entry fee – waiting for you.
Anything in particular for which you’d like recognition? If it’s for religion or spirituality, among the hundreds of awards are the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards, the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book in the History of Religions, and the Utmost Christian Poetry Contest. If you’re inspired by regional affiliation, try the Saskatchewan Book Of The Year Award or The Boardman Tasker Award For Mountain Literature.
You might impress potential publishers (or failing that, the crowned heads of Europe) with a majestic title: The Royal Society Of Literature Award Under The W.H. Heinemann Bequest. If you’d like woo corporate America, seek the General Mill’s The Cheerios® New Author Contest. Are you between the ages of eleven and 111? Go for The Geoffrey Bilson Award For Historical Fiction For Young People, or the The Solas Awards Elder Travel: The best story from a traveler 65 years of age or older. And there’s no lack of prizes vis-à-vis gender, ethnic, and sexual identity, including the Women’s Empowerment Awards Writing Competition, The Association Of Italian-Canadian Writers Literary Contest, and the Emerging Lesbian Writers Fund Award.
Perhaps you’d rather be esteemed for subject matter. If you cover the timeless concerns of war and peace, the Michael Shaara Award For Excellence In Civil War Fiction, or Japan’s Goi Peace Foundation International Essay Contest may be for you. And let us wave our olive branches in tribute to one of the more interestingly named awards in this or any category, in hopes that, with perhaps a little nudging, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will reinstate their now-retired Swackhamer Peace Essay Contest (it took a serious peacenik to wield a Swackhamer).
Don’t worry if your themes are comparatively prosaic; writing awards are not limited to life’s essentials. From sailors (the U.S. Maritime Literature Awards) to horses (the Thoroughbred Times Fiction Contest) to zombies (Dark Moon Anthology Short Story Writing Contests for Horror Writers), if there’s a topic, there’s a prize.
Awards even pay tribute to literary length. Writers in it for the long haul have the Reva Shiner Full-Length Play Award, while those pressed for time may try the Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers. Not to be out-shorted is Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award; covering the remaining short bases is the Fineline Competition For Prose Poems, Short Shorts, And Anything In Between. And for literature with a discernable shelf life, behold the Perishable Theatre’s Women’s Playwriting Festival prize.
My excuse for not having even one measly award title escorting my nom de plume is likely related to the fact that I don’t enter contests (perhaps one day I’ll discover that I’ve won “The Chinook Prize for the Pacific Northwest’s Un-entered Fiction Contests“). My nonparticipation notwithstanding, the number of literary awards continues to expand, and they’ve got to be conferred upon somebody. Chances are greater than ever that almost all writers will have their fifteen minutes to don some sort of authorial laurel wreath. Yes, dear writer, *you* could be an award-winning author. There’s probably something wrong with you if you’re not.
My favorite prize name strains credibility, yet is listed as a writing award. And so, fellow writer, considering the abundance of awards, in your quest for recognition and cool author’s bio notes, please save this one for me: the Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest. If my entry prevails I will receive a monetary prize and publication of my poem, plus that accolade for which no value can be calculated:
The right to henceforth refer to myself, in author’s credits and future contest entry forms, as a Wergle Flomp award-winning writer.
about the author
A long, long time ago a sixth grader named Robyn Parnell won some kind of Isn’t America Groovy?! essay contest. Since 1975, when she acquired a trophy resembling a garden trowel (High School Journalism Day, Orange County, CA), Parnell has remained an award-free writer. She hopes to one day be the deserving recipient of The Robyn Parnell Prize in Support of Imaginative and Distinguished Prose in Support of Robyn Parnell.
* * *
Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week 
“Although I’m an atheist, I don’t fear death more than, say, sharing a room in a detox center with a sobbing Rush Limbaugh.”
( Berkeley Breathed, Pulitzer-Prize-winning (ahem!) American cartoonist, creator of Bloom County and Outland,
as quoted in The Quotable Atheist, by Jack Huberman )
* * *
May you judiciously choose which humble brags to share;
May you never win an award which bears your name;
May your concepts of afterlives not include boorish talk radio hosts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Which moiself took to be the editorial/publishing side of the “world.”
 In the now-indefinitely-on-hiatus, dislocate magazine: a Minnesota journal of writing and art, 6-11-20.
 Not the award’s exact title, but you get the idea.
 All award names listed were actual, active awards, at the time the essay was written; some may have been discontinued or had their names changed.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, http://www.ffrf.org