In June of 2017, I entered my first short story competition. I submitted Brother Thomas to The Masters Review Short Story Award For New Writers. I didn’t even make the short list.
I have mixed feelings about competitions. Prizes are great, but I care more about what placing could tell me about my writing. If I am placed on the short list or win, then I have some evidence that I may be a good writer. If I’m not placed on the short list, does that mean I suck? I default to a yes, but I would be doing theater if I had not received some positive reinforcement about my writing.
Failing to win did not give me much information about whether I suck a lot, a little, or not at all. There are several possible scenarios. For example, the judge read my first sentence and vomited all over his desk. In a more positive scenario, the judge had trouble deciding between my story and another for inclusion in the short list. My story may have been in the middle of a mediocre set of submissions, and the winners may have been the only good stories they got. Or my story may have been in the middle of the best set they have ever received, and the winners were only a reflection of the judge’s preferences.
I did enjoy several things about entering the competition. I enjoyed submitting a piece others thought was good enough to win. I enjoyed having something to look forward to and the hopes I had as I waited. Anything was possible until the short list was announced. These are things I can enjoy every time I enter a competitionregardless of the outcome.