Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bug Off: Gina Oschner & Jacob Appel

I received the following letter from "Miss Tiff," who desperately needs your wise opines of the anonymice, so please chime in:

WMD: I have a question for you. Last year I submitted my story, "Green Squid" to Narrative Magazine's contest, and Gina Ochsner won. She already had a big book deal.  I submitted the same story to Perigee this year, and I just got the following message (see below), which made me feel crummy. Not that I lost, but that yet another established writer won. I am sure their stories are as good as mine, or better, but what exactly is the point of writers like Ochsner and Appel competing in these small online contests, which really don't do them any good, but would be a big break for me and other peons? Is it all about the money?

In affectionate frustration,  
Miss Tiff

PS: If you have any good markets to suggest, I'll thank you in advance.

__________________________________________________________
Perigee is pleased to announce the winners of our 2009 Fiction Contest. Fiction Editor Duff Brenna, and our finalist judge James Brown, have selected three winners and two honorable mentions from a selection of 10 finalists.

First Place ($300): "Auscultating in the Fourth Dimension," by Jacob M. Appel.

Second Place ($200): "It Happened to River," by Rachel Allyson Stone.

Third Place ($100): "Camping," by Sarah Lynn Knowles.

Honorable Mentions: "Lessons in House Hunting," by Cynthia Drew; "Past Buckhorn Reservoir," by Elizabeth Kaufman.

Additional Finalists: "Color Me Normal," by Christine Benedict; "Thirty-Nine Minutes," by Sandra Jensen; "A Two-Chambered Heart," by Priyanka Joseph; "Shotgun Levine," by Hesh Kestin; "Population Me," by Kevin O'Neill.

The winning stories will be published in our 25th issue, due out on July 15th, 2009. Our congratulations to the finalists and winners, and our sincerest thanks to all who participated. Special thanks also to our guest judge James Brown. His insight and ear for the craft of storytelling helped make a difficult process easier, and we very much appreciate having had the opportunity to work with him. We invite you to read our note of special thanks by clicking here.

Your Friends in Art,
THE PERIGEE EDITORS

26 comments:

The Next said...

More significantly is why Jacob. M. Appel doesn't have a book deal, considering he has won every contest under the sun.

Writer, Rejected said...

Seriously! Listen, all you hungry literary agents and editors looking for wonderful writers with a built-in audience (LROD has a quarter of a million hits and a decent following; all of us would buy Jacob Appel's short story collections), why don't you contact the guy?

Here. We'll make it super easy for you:

Jacob M. Appel
140 Claremont Ave #3D
New York, NY 10027
phone: (212) 663-3643
email: jacobmappel@gmail.com

Make sure you tell him the anonymice on this site sent you.

kenny g said...

Miss Tiff answered her own question, retorically. Yes, of course it's about the money. Why do you think so many mid-list authors also teach? Most authors can't make a living from just books, and, if you've ever spent way too much time in academics, you'd also know that teaching won't pay the bills either. Contest winnings are a nice padding.

NM said...

Why do all the fast runners show up at track meets? How am I supposed to win?

Anonymous said...

Exactly, NM. Why is Michael Phelps going to compete in the next Olympics when it could really change someone else's life to win.

Plus, short stories seem to be Appel's thing--so that's what he does. It's not like he has a bunch of bestselling novels.

This, it seems to me, is a totally different issue than the whole contest is fixed at Narrative kind of an issue.

Writer, Rejected said...

Bad analogy, guys. It's more like Michael Phelps competing at a little league swim match and not letting the more beginner swimmers have a chance at a little (tiny) bit of glory.

Isn't that more to the point of Miss Tiff's question?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Writer, Rejected on the sports analogy being wrong.

Admittedly, literary writers don't make much money and I don't in any way begrudge them the right to make a living and further their career. So I do understand the motivation.

And I do understand the editors' motivation in that big name authors are more likely to sell copies of the journal than a nobody.

And, finally, I do realize that it's possible these same names keep popping up again and again because they truly are the best.

The logical side of my brain gets all that. But the emotional side gets sick of it.

As an aspiring author, it IS indeed frustrating to see these same names over and over again. Does Joyce Carol Oates REALLY need to place another short story in the "No One Reads This Journal but the Editor's Mother Quarterly" to keep the lights on?

If I'm in a band, I don't have to worry about Metallica or U2 playing the local dive bar in my neighborhood.

If I'm a basketball player on a rec league team, I don't have to worry about Kobe Bryant coming and taking my spot.

If I'm an actor in a community theater production, I don't have to worry about Meryl Streep taking my role in "Our Town."

But so many new writers struggle to get into the smallest, newest, tiniest journals because of the dominance of these few writers.

What it really comes down to is the narrow margins of success and profit. The hyperbolic examples provided above would never happen because U2 doesn't need the $500 my local dive bar pays bands. But this or that literary writer probably DOES need the $1,000 offered for the fiction contest.

So the bottom line is that I get it. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Anonymous said...

But Appel isn't Jhumpa Lahiri or Ha Jin. Honestly, sans your blog, I'd never have heard of him.

Anonymous said...

Winning a contest run by Narrative or Perigee isn't the same as Michael Phelps entering a junior league swim match. Gina Ochsner is hardly a household name, she's a writer who has worked hard grinding it out for lit mags like the rest of us. She's a moderately successful writer who entered and won a moderately well known magazine's contest. She's fighting her weight.

I assure you, when Miss Tiff gets the smattering of success that Ochsner has, she's not going to pull back so someone else can take her spot and go all the way.

NM said...

Does Perigree see itself as "a little league"? Probably not. Who knows, it may even see itself as a venue for readers! Thus they'd want the best stories they could get, and if $300 is enough to attract Appel, well goodie for them (and for readers who like that sort of thing).

Your analogy is the one that fails, W,R. Little leagues are designed for the child players. Perigree promises readers "cutting edge poetry, writing, and artwork from both new and established voices" ...who knows what "cutting edge" means these days, but there is no trace that Perigree is supposed to be a middle school literary magazine.

The Next said...

NM: Just wondering: Do you have these kinds of contests in fantasy and science fiction land? Or do you put on costumes and duke it out in your backyard like the Dungeons and Dragons kids I knew in high school? Is your sword called sub-Terrain or Per Contra? How's your memoir coming along? How's the woman with the nipples hard as bullets?

NM said...

The Next,

Actually, most short fiction venues for fantasy and science fiction simply pay their contributors and don't need to run contests. Indeed, the idea of paying to submit to a contest would likely upset most SF/F writers. A widely quoted aphorism in the field is "Money flows toward the writer."

But then I guess that SF/F/H can afford to pay writers because those magazines actually have readers.

Nippelonia McNippety Nip Nips said...

NM: Just wondering: Do you have these kinds of contests in fantasy and science fiction land? Or do you put on costumes and duke it out in your backyard like the Dungeons and Dragons kids I knew in high school? Is your sword called sub-Terrain or Per Contra? How's your memoir coming along? How's the woman with the nipples hard as bullets?

Okay, okay, it was funny for a while, now it's getting old. And why are hard nipples so appealing? I'm a chick, and my nips could only get "hard as bullets" if I froze. I've always found the surrounding boob to be the more attractive body part.

I like what Anony 4:50 said up there. I think that really hits the nipple on the head. Appel and Oschner are not famous. They are only moderately well known among short story submitters and journal readers. You get famous as a writer by writing novels and having them adapted into movies, or getting glanced at by Oprah. I don't get the animosity toward Appel for submitting to a contest and winning.

Anonymous said...

What part would Meryl Streep play in "Our Town"? She's too old to play Emily.

Anonymous said...

Having a "name" win a contest is not the same as having, say, Joyce Carol Oates appear in Dungsquat Quarterly. In the latter case, Oates is supporting the magazine with her name -- she's helping the magazine a lot more than they're helping her.

But having the same handful of names reappear over and over again as contest winners is very dispiriting to contestants. If I ran a contest, I'd ask that the entrants not have won a contest before -- or maybe that they haven't even published before.

Once I won a contest I quit entering them. What did I need to prove?

Hymen Vagistein said...

"But having the same handful of names reappear over and over again as contest winners is very dispiriting to contestants."

Well maybe when you run your own contests you can arrange it so that everybody gets to win at least once. That way no one has to admit that they aren't as good as someone else and no one will ever feel bad about anything.

Anonymous said...

The point is not about feelings; it's about people not getting excited about a contest or even entering because it's all sewn up.

NM said...

all sewn up, by the superior story.

That, presumably, the readers would actually want to read.

Anonymous said...

The contests are as good as their entries. If Appel enters and wins an honest, blind-judged contest, congrats to him. I bet he loses tons of them, too. If you don't want Appel or other repeat winners to win, then write a story that's better than theirs.

u_u said...

If you think contests are rigged, there are too many "names," among the past winners, then don't submit to contests with entry fees. I don't, and my blood pressure doesn't rise when I get my rejection slips.

Don't gamble more than you can afford, financially and emotionally. Or, you can ring up Jacob and Gina, ask them what contests they've submitted to recently, and then cross those off your list.


:)

Hymen Vagistein said...

"The point is not about feelings; it's about people not getting excited about a contest or even entering because it's all sewn up."

Being excited or not excited is, in fact, a feeling.

And it's only "sewn up" by virtue of the fact that those writers write the best stories. Fair competition pushes the best to the top. Those who would rather not enter than risk losing are just following natural selection and weeding themselves out.

Anonymous said...

"Those who would rather not enter than risk losing are just following natural selection and weeding themselves out." As anybody with any science background will tell you, this is not how natural selection works: it only explains things in reverse; it is not a forward-thinking methodology.

pete said...

Couple quick notes:

1) Appell's works are good enough to win.
2) Appell apparently spends an enormous chunk of time writing stories and submitting them to contests.

Until you do the same, no complaining.

Caveat: No one, and I mean no one, can win as much as Appell without something smelling rotten.

Anonymous said...

Bad analogy, guys. It's more like Michael Phelps competing at a little league swim match and not letting the more beginner swimmers have a chance at a little (tiny) bit of glory.


LOLwut?

I've never heard of Appel or the other woman, so I'm gonna call shennangians on the idea that they are equivalent to Micheal "most famous swimmer in the world" Phelps.

I agree that big time authors shouldn't enter small contests, but Narrative is not a small contest and these two people are not big time authors...

Writer, Rejected said...

Well, we were trying to work with the proposed metaphor. The debate is about whether established writers (or very, very winning writers) should continue to apply to contests, elbowing out the lesser-knowns/unpublished. Maybe, it would be more like the guy who won the bronze to MP's gold in swimming: no one knows his name. :)

Anonymous said...

Appel is a short story producing machine and has seemed to corner the small lit mag market--no idea why. Most are misses, imo. I would know because I read for a mag (to remain unnamed) and we got like three a month from the guy.