October 7, 2011

Contests a Collaborative Effort

Since we’ve extended our Editors’ Prize deadline until October 8th, we’re still very much in contest mode here at The Missouri Review. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll await the final count of entries, and soon the entire staff will be pitching in to make sure every submission gets considered before we all leave for the holidays. Before I was ever involved in a literary contest from the inside, I always assumed that contests were fairly simple affairs, the work of a few judges sitting around a table reading entries. It never occurred to me that a contest would be such a collaborative effort. At TMR that effort involves not only all of our editorial staff, but nearly all of our office staff as well, and we are entirely dependent on good folks outside of our organization—and I am talking about dozens of people–to let writers know about the contest in the first place.

Before any of our readers ever lays their hands on an entry, it has to be recorded and processed by our office staff. If the payment doesn’t go through, or if the payment goes through and the entry doesn’t, or the entry is missing information (so that, for instance, we can’t deliver the entrant’s subscription), the office staff has to handle that before passing the entry on—a time-consuming and often tedious task. I am deeply thankful these folks, on whose organizational skills the entire contest depends—especially to Dedra Earl, who has so competently run the administrative aspects of the contest since it began 21 years ago. We also depend a great deal on Maura Lammers, our contest assistant, who keeps very busy August through October answering contest-related inquiries and corresponding with entrants.

Once the entries are processed, they are read and re-read by a team of trained readers. Eventually, the whole editorial staff pitches in to help us get through the entries and sort out the finalists, but in the beginning, while the early submissions are trickling in, the screening is the work of a dedicated few who do nothing else.

And all the while, while the readers are reading and the office staff is sorting and the entries are coming in, the web editor, the social media editor, the managing editor, and I do everything we can to get the word out so that people know the contest is happening. We contact former TMR contributors, and writers’ guilds, and creative writing programs around the country and are grateful for the folks who promise to pass on the news to the members of their organizations. And while there are a number of venues where we pay to advertise, I wanted to especially recognize all of the websites and blogs who share our information for free, simply because they are run by kind people who believe in supporting the literary arts. Many thanks!:

Just a Contest: http://www.justacontest.com/modules/xforms/

Emerging Writers’ Network: http://www.emergingwriters.typepad.com/

Proof Positive: http://www.proofpositive.com/contests/writecontests.htm

Kudos Writing Competitions: http://www.kudoswritingcompetitions.com/?page_id=39

Poetry Kit: http://www.poetrykit.org/

Writing Contests: http://writingcontests.wordpress.com/

The Infinite Writer: http://mysite.verizon.net/resockeb/e-zine/

The Creative Writing Opportunities listserv at Topica.com

As I mentioned, the effort is a much more collaborative one than I’d ever imagined. In the end, say, late November, yes, the final work of selecting our winners is the work of a few judges: our Editor, Speer Morgan—and our Managing Editor, Poetry Editor, and Nonfiction Editor, who act as his advisors. But the journey to get there is a long and often challenging one, one whose results we are always excited to celebrate with our winning entrants at the Editors’ Prize gala each spring.

 

 

About Claire

Claire McQuerry is the Contest Editor for The Missouri Review and a Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Missouri. Her poetry collection, Lacemakers, was recipient of the 2010 Crab Orchard First Book Award.

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