Numbers Game, or “Why my American writer friends should enter more Canadian lit contests”

So, recently I entered a story in The Missouri Review‘s fiction contest. (I’ll spare you the suspense: I didn’t win.) Contests are the way I typically renew my subscriptions to literary magazines; most of the ones I enter offer each person a year’s subscription to their journal in exchange for their entry fee. I love writing and reading short stories, so it only makes sense for me to support the sorts of magazines that help keep this form plugging along.

It’s no secret to anyone who’s been paying attention that I’m managing the writing contests this year for PRISM international, which is a Canadian litmag based in Vancouver. The deadlines for the fiction and poetry contest are coming up on January 23, and apart from the fact that entering gets you a year of a pretty damn good magazine, the prize money isn’t too shabby either.

Here’s something a lot of people outside Canada (or even inside) might not know about Canadian literary magazines. Many of them get funding from a place called the Canada Council for the Arts. Think NEA but, well, Canadian. (As an aside, read about the hijinks that ensued when Gary Shteyngart put his foot in his mouth about CanLit and funding and was forced to eat crow. Or in this case, poutine. Which he did, hilariously.) The Canada Council is, quite rightly, responsible for promoting Canadian arts and thus expects much of the content in magazines funded by the Council to be, well, Canadian.

With contests, though? That pretty much gets thrown out the window. Whether you’re from B.C. or Nova Scotia or Burbank or Upper Volta, every entry is judged blind.

Here’s another thing you might want to consider: that Missouri Review contest I entered had more than 2,500 entries in their fiction contest. PRISM‘s fiction contest last year? Around 300 entries.

If I were eligible, I’d be entering.

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