Secrets of a litmag contest manager

prism_buttonOne thing I’ve been trying to do this year is send out more stories to magazines, literary journals, and contests. I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m contest manager for a literary magazine called PRISM international. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re probably not from Canada. It’s been published by the Creative Writing Program of the University of British Columbia for more than 50 years. Every year the magazine has writing contests in non-fiction, fiction, and poetry, and the prize money totals $6,000.

Not exactly chump change, is it?

The magazine’s got an admirable track record of publishing well-known writers or people who went on to become well-known: Margaret Atwood, Seamus Heaney, Charles Bukowski, Ted Hughes, Raymond Carver, Jorge Luis Borges, Carol Shields, and Michael Ondaatje have all made appearances in its pages.

So why am I bringing this up, you might ask (especially if you’re in the United States or abroad—basically, somewhere other than Canada)? Because not a lot of people from outside Canada seem to enter the contests, and if you have some strong literary writing, you would probably stand a good chance if you entered. You’ll often hear of litmags in the U.S. that get thousands of submissions and entries for their contests. The pool is much smaller in Canada. (Which makes sense—Canada’s population is about one-tenth the size of the United States, after all.) But one thing Canada has going for it over the U.S. is a strong national appreciation for their literary stars, which I don’t see Stateside. Do they broadcast the announcements of literary award winners live in the U.S.? I didn’t think so.

So there does also tend to be a good deal of quality competition for these awards.

Anyway, if like me you’ve been thinking about and entering contests lately, check it out.

(I would be remiss in pointing out that if you don’t want to enter the contest, they accept regular submissions all the time, too.)