Thursday, January 8, 2009

Appel Words of Wisdom: Part II

Here's a continuation from yesterday's post, in which I ran some highlights from Jacob Appel's article in Poets & Writers entitled "The Case for Contests."  (More highlights just for you, little rodents):  

"Of course, multiple submissions can be costly. While a single contest fee is not going to drive even the poorest writer into bankruptcy, once one starts sending out ten- and twenty-dollar checks by the handful, the sacrifices entailed may seem prohibitive. Yet I urge my students to submit their fees anyway.  Find a way!  If they were studying to be physicians or attorneys, I remind them, they would pay far greater sums for multiple years of schooling--banking on a future payoff.  To my mind, creative writing is as much a career as medicine or law, even if the odds of meaningful financial gain are considerably lower (especially if you are a poet)....
...
"What appeal to me most about writing contests, on a personal level, is that somebody has to win.  Well, I should qualify that.  Occasionally, a final judge declines to declare a victor and the sponsor pockets the entry fees anyway.  But for the most part, somebody walks away with a garland and a large check and an entree into the literary limelight.  At a time when more and more structural barriers and layers of protection prevent obscure and emerging writers from having their work considered by major publishing houses, or published in glossy magazines--and ultimately landing on bookstore and library shelves--the literary competition is the unknown author's best friend.  A good contest opens doors to anybody with a ten- or fifteen-dollar check and a brilliant work of original literature..."

Oh, wait, one more part of Appel's article for a little hair-raising fun!  I thought it was interesting:  "Several years ago," writes Appel, "I entered the St. Louis Short Story Competition, a contest with a five-dollar entry fee and a five-thousand-dollar grand prize.  To my delight, my story "Counting" was declared the grand-prize winner on the competition's Web site.  Alas, the swindlers administering the contest never paid up.  (I do not take such matters lightly, as bad actors of this sort tarnish the reputation of contests more generally.  In fact I pursued the matter with law enforcement authorities in Missouri--up to and including the state's attorney general--and the FBI. The investigation is ongoing; the mills of justice grind finely, but slowly.)  Even under these exasperating circumstances, a contest victory succeeded in garnering me multiple inquires from reputable agents who had read my "winning" story on the Internet."

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

So, um, if he's winning all these contests and getting all these inquiries from agents, then why is he still teaching creative writing? Shouldn't he be raking in royalties from his great novel(s) (Pizza Hut Rules, for instance?) and going on book tours? Instead he's writing pieces on how great it is to enter contests!

This is the Rich Dad, Poor Dad path to wealth. Don't be rich, just pitch your books, articles, videos and CDs on how to get rich!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting about the comp not paying up. Shocking even. I'm shocked. I heart Jacob Appel.

gimme said...

"If they were studying to be physicians or attorneys, I remind them, they would pay far greater sums for multiple years of schooling--banking on a future payoff. To my mind, creative writing is as much a career as medicine or law"

And we have a winner for idiotic comment of the week!:)

Yikes, this guy is truly unbearable...

kenny g said...

the pay off for a career in medicine, law, or even academia is much greater than the pay off for contest submitters. For one thing, those other professions have some job security.

this guy will say anything to justify his contest addiction. why can't he just come out and say that (a) he's a better writer, or (b) he knows how to write 'contest fiction', or (c) he's lucky. probably all 3. his arguments are stupid, especially coming from someone with his level of education.