That time of year again

A quick post here about short story contests. Specifically the Sunday Star Times Short Story Contest, here in New Zealand.

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Each year around this time, my site gets a lot of views because I’ve written over the last few years about this contest, and, I guess, people are looking for information about when it opens, what the prizes are, when it closes and so on. A google search brings my posts up on the first page when you search up the contest.

I have written about the contest because over those years, their rules have been egregious: their terms and conditions allow them to effectively publish any entry without having to pay the author.

I don’t think that they go ahead and use those rights – they seem to just publish the prize winners. The thing is that rights are all writers have, and we need to protect them.

I don’t know if they’ll retain that this  year. I did get in touch with the contest organisers about the issue, and had a positive to neutral response; to the effect that they would look at those conditions again for the next time they run the contest.

So, I’m hopeful that when they next run the competition, that the conditions will be more favourable to writers. Also hopeful that they will run it this year, and announce the details soon.

Sargeson Prize – competition for New Zealand writers

sargeson-small-fileOver the last few years I’ve railed against the terms and conditions of the Sunday Star Times short story contest – where they effectively retain the right to publish any entry without paying the author. I have been in touch directly with them, and had a positive response, indicating that they will look again at those terms and conditions should they run the contest again.

In the meantime, there’s another contest open for New Zealand writers – the  Sargeson Prize, run through the University of Waikato. The contest is named for celebrated New Zealand writer Frank Sargeson.

Under the terms of this contest, writers retain the rights to their story, win, lose or place. That’s fair. There is no entry fee (my advice, avoid contests that charge a fee: money flows to authors, not from).

There’s a nice prize too.

You can enter here. Entries are restricted to residents of New Zealand.

Entries close on June 30th, so there’s still a little time to get something in. You could write it tonight and send it in tomorrow, if you’re really keen.

 

Trusty old submissions tracking book.

trusty tracking booktrusty tracking book interior pageEver since I’ve been writing and submitting manuscripts to publishers, I’ve needed a way to keep track of those submissions. I’ve been around long enough that those first submissions went as a printed manuscript, inside a full-sized envelope, with postage on a slightly smaller envelope inside. To match the very physical nature of this, my tracking system also exploited the benefits of paper and ink. An accounting book, to be precise. And mostly pencil, since it lends itself to updates more readily than ink.

I’ve continued the practice into the present day. I’ve just come to the last page of my second book.

I do subscribe to Duotrope, which has a built-in tracking system for stories. That might be the way to go. But I do have another blank book all set. Starting next week, when my latest story will be ready to venture out into the wilds.

Q&A with me at Asimov’s From Earth to the Stars editor’s blog

asimovs march april 2018I neglected to give anything more than a passing mention that I got interviewed at the Asimov’s blog, specifically about my story in the March April 2018 issue.

The interview is here. I talk with the editors about my process for creating “The Billows of Sarto”, and my general writing process, and a few other things.

Check out the other interviews on the site too. You’ll build up a pretty good picture of authors writing for Asimov’s today.

 

Five years of writing every day.

keys.jpgFor a moment, I thought I’d wait until I hit 2000 consecutive days of writing every day, but I still feel like five years (1826 days) is a good round figure.

So, last December 31st, 2016 I made it through five years of writing every day. I counted the words written each day as I went (heading for annual targets). Some days I wrote a little (156 words for my lowest count), some days a whole lot more (over 8000 on my best day), most days around 1500.

Each year my total wordcount has crept up. From just over a half million in 2012 to well over 600,000 last year.

What did I learn?

Well, I hope I learned to be a better storyteller. Raymond Chandler is supposed to have said that every writer has “a million words of crap” in them before they start writing readable fiction. My five years has produced over 2.5 million. With the years before, I suspect I’m up well over three million words. I’m not convinced that I’m not still writing crap.

Dean Wesley Smith would say that a writer is the worst judge of his or her own writing. I’d agree there. Some of my stories I think are duds sell, and some I think are wonderful circulate and circulate without finding a home.

(Chandler also said “A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled” – I like that one).

Along with learning about writing, I’m learning about the business of writing. How to manage my time more effectively and how to worry less often. I guess another thing I’m learning is patience. Whether that be waiting for the response from a publisher, or waiting for my readership to grow. Getting there.

Sir Julius Vogel Award nominations open.

smFront-v5The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are New Zealand’s science fiction awards. Presented annually at the convention in June.

The ceremony brings out the cream of the New Zealand science fiction scene – too many to list here, but I’d include Lee Murray and Octavia Cade, both of whom won awards in categories for which I was a finalist last year.

I am eligible once again, though this time just in the short story category.

I had the a few stories published during 2015 which are eligible and some of which are available as free reads.

Scour in New Myths (click to read for free)
Penny of Tharsis Montes in Amazing Stories (click to read for free)
The Bubbcat in Cirsova Issue 4
The Root Bridges of Haemae in Aurealis
Wakers in Asimov’s
Go For The Dome in Perihelion (click to read for free)
Ink for a Verbal Contract in Ad Astra (click to read for free)

I’d also like to do a shout out for a couple of others here – Lee Murray for her novel Into The Mist, and Octavia Cade for her novella Eating Science with Ghosts – Asimov’s October/November 2016. If I am fortunate enough to be nominated this year, at least it it won’t be up against these two, since they’re different categories (then again, they may have placed stories I haven’t spotted yet).

Previous winner AJ Fitwater also has some eligible stories, listed on her website there – a nice tale in Shimmer – “An Atlas in Sgraffito Style”.

Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray deserve an editors’ nomination for At The Edge, their Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror anthology. This also includes AC Buchanan’s story And Still the Forests Grow though we are Gone.

Nominations are open at the SFFANZ site, through until March 31st. Good luck to everyone.

My current story in Asimov’s – “Crimson Birds of Small Miracles” is not eligible, since it’s in the January issue. The story will be eligible for the 2018 awards.

Why I didn’t enter the Sunday Star Times Short Story contest this year.

2019 update – I note that they haven’t changed the rules, so the below still applies. Disappointing. Not even bothering to write a new post this year.

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sst-logoThe Sunday Star Short Story Contest is an established New Zealand contest. For the most part it’s run annually. With the disappearance of The Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award, the Sunday Star is now, as far as I can tell, the major New Zealand short story contest. And one of few that does not ask entrants for an entry fee.

The prize is substantial. $1000. For a 3000 word (maximum) story. That’s about thirty-three cents a word. Getting into the non-fiction per word payment range. Pro-fiction rates get up around ten cents a word, mostly around six to eight cents.

That tells me I should enter.

I’ve been long-listed for the contest in the past. My writing’s getting better. I’m losing eligibility for other contests because of my pro/almost-pro status.

So I wrote a story. I’m pretty pleased with it. I got it proofed and ready to go.

I went to the site to enter. That’s easy. Fill out the form, attach the document, click the ‘enter’ button. By entering I agree to the rules.

You know those sites we sign up for and we tick the box to accept the terms and conditions? Some of those documents are massive. We put our trust in them. Mostly that’s just fine.

Anyway, I decided I should read the rules. Really there were only eighteen. A little more than a page. Compared to some of those ‘terms and conditions’ documents, nothing more than an eye blink.

In the past the Sunday Star Times Short Story Contest. offered prizes to the first, second and third place-getters. Now, it’s just one prize. That’s okay. Things change.

– Open to permanent residents only. Check.

– Maximum of 3000 words. Check.

– Maximum of one entry per category. Check.

– Original work. Check.

– The finalists’ names, entry details, biographical information and photographs will be required by Fairfax Media and will be used for promotional purposes without compensation. You consent to this use of your details by entering the competition and agree to your name being published without notification or prior approval.

Uh. Hold on. “Without compensation”? Oh well, I suppose that’s all good promotion. Name and photo in the paper, if I happen to be a finalist. Nice for the ego and so on.

Okay. On with the rules.

– All entries submitted remain the property of the entrant. However (my italics), Fairfax Media and Penguin Random House New Zealand have the right to publish the winning and highly commended manuscripts of the Open Division, Secondary School Division and Non-Fiction Essay entered without fee. (my bolding).

What? “Without fee”? Really? So that amounts to: If I enter they’ll be able to publish my story without paying me.

It does say ‘winning and highly commended’, but it doesn’t say what constitutes highly commended. From my point of view anyone who gets it together to write a story and send it off should be highly commended. It takes courage and effort. Well done. If that’s the criteria, then any and every entry could qualify for publication ‘without fee’. Oh, except for the winning entry.

While I’m having a rant; right now there’s a New Zealand magazine that publishes a short story each month. As I understand it they take a vote or something at the end of the year and choose a winning story from those twelve and give that writer a prize. The other eleven do not receive anything save publication. I’m not even clear that they get copies of the issue in which they were published. Effectively those stories appear ‘without fee’.

This is why I didn’t enter. Writers get paid. The journalists in the paper and magazine who write the articles about the treaty and the housing crisis and climate change all get paid.

And that’s why I didn’t enter. That story I wrote? I’ll be sending that off to a paying market.