In Post #6, I mentioned how I submitted a short story to the Virginia Writers Club‘s 2017 Golden Nib Writing Contest. I didn’t mention the results. Each chapter sends one entry in the three categories (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) on to the state level. The judges reviewing the Northern Virginia chapter entries could not decide between my story “May Science Be With You” and an entry by Michelle McBeth, so the chapter sent both our stories on to the state level in the fiction category. Co-representative! Unfortunately, neither of our stories placed.
The president of the Northern Virginia chapter announced the selection of my story to co-represent the chapter at the very first meeting I attended last year. That was a huge ego boost. To have even that little amount of validation so early in my writing career also was a great motivator. I attribute at least part of my productivity last year to that achievement.
Then I got to thinking about what it would have meant to win the Golden Nib, and I didn’t like it. Placing in the top three, first, means a small cash prize, but I’m not in this for the money. And we’re essentially talking about a couple of dollars.
Winning also means possibly having your story “published” by the Virginia Writers Club. That sounds great! But… it isn’t. At most that means having your story put in a “Virtual Anthology” (i.e. a PDF with the other winners) that the club posts on its website. Maybe not even that. The last Virtual Anthology on the club’s website is from 2015. The website doesn’t even list the 2017 winners.
What winning actually means is you no longer can submit your winning entry to markets for publication, unless those markets accept reprints. Most markets want the rights to your story’s first publication. By winning this contest, you’ve ruined what might be a good chance of getting a story published in a professional market.
This may not be true for all writing contests. Some may pay more, making it more worthwhile. Some may produce an actual anthology available for sale or download. Maybe you only want (or need!) the validation that goes with having your work selected as a winner. If that is the case, go for it. But my goal is to make three sales to SFWA-qualifying markets. If the Virginia Writers Club had selected my story as a winner, that would be one less work I have available to achieve my goal.
Will I submit to future Golden Nib Writing Contests? Probably. But they will not be stories hot off the presses. The works I submit likely will have been rejected by most or all of the SFWA-qualifying markets. (That’s not a depressing thought at all.) In other words, it’s a strong candidate to be a trunk story. And maybe I would sound less jaded if the Virginia Writers Club actually published the winning stories even if only on their website. If I won, then I could say I was both a published and award winning author. It just wouldn’t be a notch towards my writing goal.
To give the Virginia Writers Club some credit, it is producing a 100th Anniversary Anthology that actually will be in print. Unfortunately, the selection process was in 2016, about a year before I joined.