Personal Slush Piles

Interesting thing about writing: The more I uncover fascinating contests and markets through my research for Caffeinated Press’s Community site, the more I realize that most writers enjoy a handy excuse for not participating.

“Oh, that sounds so cool, maybe I should write something for it,” people say. “If only I had the time!”

Yes. Maybe you should write something. Maybe you should find the time.

Or, maybe, you should have been writing all along, crafting various short stories, poems, essays and other creative works — and even, dare I say it, editing them in advance, so that when an opportunity arises, you’ve got something ready to submit. A writer should want to write for the joy of it, after all, and not just for the thrill of chasing the next deadline.

Editors bemoan the depth and the unevenness of their slush piles. Perhaps much of that problem would be ameliorated if authors built their own well-curated, well-edited slush piles.

I say this, of course, as a bit of a hypocrite. I keep finding cool stuff to submit to, and then I keep making notes to write something to send. Although, in my defense, I’ve been keeping up the late-night writing trend; just this past weekend, for example, I polished the first 50 pages of the manuscript and developed the detailed synopsis of Aiden’s Wager, then I submitted it to the James Jones First Novel Fellowship. With a top prize of $10k and two runners-up at $1k each, but only 600 or so annual submissions, I like those odds. And I’m on track, tonight, to submit to the 2016 Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Prize. $1k award, plus publication.

(It also helps that I’m in the middle of an unpleasant cold, so I’ve been more quiet and focused thanks to the pseudoephedrine and also too tired and ill to trudge consistently to the CafPress office to work.)

Will I win the James Jones thing? Almost surely not. Will I win the Steinberg Essay Prize? Again, probably not. But such reality is beside the point. When it’s all over, I’ll be that much closer to finishing Aiden’s Wager, and I’ll have a ready-made creative nonfiction essay I can repurpose later. For the next opportunity. Heck, maybe I’ll even edit it again, or get a beta reader or two — just to be safe.

Slush piles: They’re not just for editors.

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