You snooze, you…gain, apparently. At least if you want to enter a literary contest.

My apologies for not corresponding with you as extensively as usual over the last few months, campers: I could plead deadlines stacked up like cordwood; I could whine about health setbacks that would have made Asclepius turn pale; I could frighten you by references to a workload that would cause Heracles to glance up from his labors and say, “No kidding?” But I’m not going to get away with kidding a fellow writer, right? The fact is, I just kept finding that there weren’t enough hours in the day to write all I wanted to share with the world.

Since I’m relatively certain most of you fine people have some personal experience with that particular dilemma, I’m hoping you shall find it in your collective heart to forgive me. At least, that is, those of you in the market for what we here at Author! Author! like to call Eye-Catching Query Letter Candy.

Or ECQLC, for short. You know, the kind of literary credentials aspiring writers so often worry about not having handy to pop into their queries.

Why might ECQLC-seekers regard me with a kinder eye right about now? Because in recognition of the sad fact that I’m not the only writer in the English-speaking world to know what it is to scramble to find time to write, I’m shoving with all of my force against the imminent deadline for The Sensual Surfeit Literary Competition of 2012, this year’s edition of the Author! Author! Awards for Expressive Excellence from the now-imminent Tuesday, October 30, 2012 — and pushing it all the way to Monday, December 3, 2012, at midnight in your time zone.

Shall I pause while all of you habitual last-minute huggers dance in the streets? Or was that mass of scurrying I just heard half of you scrolling frantically through the archive list, trying to find a link to that handy post in which I showed precisely what a winning entry for this contest might look like on the page?

No, but seriously, folks, I know that you’re busy people, and that many of you struggle as it is to find time to write your books and short stories, much less contest entries. That’s why, in case you’d been wondering, Author! Author!’s contests — the fruit of which look mighty decorative on query letters, incidentally — so seldom ask you hardworking folks to write anything new: as is our little community’s wont, what the judges want to do here is reward you for scenes you have already written.

Yes, really. This year, we’re going to be awarding prizes to writers who can write a darned good scene for adult readers of fiction, narrative nonfiction, and/or memoir. And since I’m a big fan of helping writers earn some nice, shiny ECQLC without having to spend a fortune on entry fees, this one is gratis — and provides the broadest array of entry categories in Author! Author! history.

I see those of you who entered by the original deadline frowning, and who could blame you? “But Anne!” you point out with some vim. “I’m every bit as busy as everyone else, yet I managed to scrabble my entry together before not only this coming Tuesday, but the original deadline over Labor Day weekend. I am, in short, outstandingly virtuous, and while I certainly have sympathy for my compatriots who might even as I type this be rending their garments, trying to polish an entry before Halloween, I wouldn’t like to think my non-procrastinating ways had gone unnoticed.”

Indeed they have not, Johnnies-on-the-spot: those of us on the entry-processing end have been placing metaphorical gold stars on your entries. I’m not saying that there will necessarily be a special prize awarded for the best early entry, but just between you and me, the judges have already been leaning so far in that direction that I suspect it would take only a slight breeze to topple ‘em right over. Also, they — and I — are quite open to judging the more recent of two entries by the same writer, should any of you desire to make a tweak or two and reenter.

I just mention. Writers who beat deadlines by comfortable margins are such a rarity in the literary world that I’m inclined to do all I can to cultivate their good behavior.

So let’s take another gander at the rules, shall we?

The Sensual Surfeit Literary Competition of 2012

Although the last time any of us here at Author! Author! checked, human beings experience the known world through their sensory organs, the overwhelming majority of manuscripts seem to rely mostly upon just two: sight and sound. That’s understandable, of course, since the world is stuffed to the gills with television, online, and movie storylines that must depend upon only those two senses to convey meaning.

On the printed page, however, there’s seldom a reason for a narrative to limit itself to only what could be observed on a screen — or heard on a radio. (Ask your grandparents about the latter, kids.) In order to encourage aspiring writers to incorporate more senses — and more specific sense-oriented detail — in their manuscripts, the Sensual Surfeit Literary Competition of 2012 is calling upon you to wow the judges with just how thoroughly you can make them feel that they are there with your character for one scene in your book.

The catch: we’re calling only for scenes that utilize a range of senses in interesting and unexpected ways. It cannot be a scene that contains overtly sexual activity.

Find other ways to engage the senses. In a scene of 8 pages or less.

So if your novel has a fabulous scene in which the heroine is slowly consumed by a not-particularly ravenous tiger, your memoir features a strong five pages during which you are floating on an inner tube down the Xingu whilst pursued by a school of piranha, and/or your history of Northern Californian gold panning presents the reader with the best description of dishpan hand acquisition ever seen by human eye, well, this is the time to pull it out. The Author! Author! Awards for Expressive Excellence have always rewarded entries featuring strong, sense-based detail and imagery, but this year, how well those specifics leap off the page will be the primary judging criterion. Please wow us with your close observation, descriptive detail, and one-of-a-kind worldview — and we’ll be overjoyed if you show us something we’ve never seen before. Just make sure that it’s all PG-rated enough to publish on this all-ages-of-writer-encouraged website.

On the remote chance that I’m being too subtle here: we will not be accepting sex scenes, period. Nor will we accept an entry containing profanity. Not that there isn’t some great sensual writing dealing with that arena of human experience, as well as some magnificent swearing, but this is a blog committed to making it possible for writers of all ages and varieties of Internet access to participate. Many library and home computers are protected by blocking programs, you see. And I would hate for any members of our community not to be able to view the winning entries in each category — which will be published here.

Winners will not only receive fabulous prizes (hold your horses; we’re getting to those), but may have their scenes and accompanying synopses both published and critiqued in a post here at Author! Author! for all the world to see and admire. To be specific:

The grand prize winner in each category will receive a half-hour Mini Consult on a query, synopsis, and first 10 pages of the manuscript from which the winning scene was excerpted, as well as having the winning entry, bio, and an author photo posted on Author! Author!

First and second place winners will have their entries posted and critiqued on this blog.

Third place winners will receive copies of Tulip Season: A Mitra Basu Mystery.

Because winners will also be awarded life-long bragging rights and coveted ECQLC, the judges reserve the right to award as many (or as few) prizes as the quality and quantity of the entry pool in any given category warrants. Awards are purely up to the discretion of the judging panel.

Entrants may enter more than one category. Please select your category by the type of book from which the scene is taken, rather than the content of the scene itself. The categories are as follows:

Category I: Literary fiction, women’s fiction, and mainstream fiction

Category II: Science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal

Category III: All other genre fiction, including romance and mystery

Category IV: Humor (either fiction or nonfiction, but please do tell the judges which)

Category V: Memoir

Category VI: Narrative nonfiction, cookbooks, and academic books

All entries must be submitted via e-mail to contest(at)annemini(dot)com by Monday, December 3, 2012, at midnight in your time zone. Late entries will not be considered. Please submit each entry in a separate e-mail, in accordance with the rules below.

Those are the general rules. Here are the specific steps required to win. Do read them all carefully. Please be aware that entries that do not follow the rules will be disqualified.

1. Select a scene of no more than eight pages in length from your manuscript or manuscript-in-progress that best demonstrates the use of sense-oriented description and/or imagery.
Scenes may be excerpted from any point in the book, but do be aware that the judges will be assessing the writing by only this scene and your synopsis (see Step #5).

Pages must be in standard format for book manuscripts, in 12-point Times, Times New Roman, or Courier. Work that is not double-spaced, contains shrunken margins, or otherwise differs from standard format will be disqualified.

(For those in whom that last requirement induced deep despair: fear not. You will find step-by-step directions about how to apply the rules of standard format to entries to this contest here. I’m not out to trick anyone!)

All entries must be in English. Whether you choose to write in American English, Canadian English, or U.K. English, however, is entirely up to you. Just make sure it’s spelled correctly.

2. Make sure that the scene in question does not include any overtly sexual act or profanity.
The goal here is sensual description that is specifically non-sexual. Remember, too, that the judges will be looking for a variety of senses to be addressed in the scene.

3. Polish your scene to a high gloss and save it as a Word document, as a .doc file
Only .doc entries in Word will be accepted — not TextEdit, PDF, or any other formats, please. Please title the Word file containing your synopsis as YOUR LAST NAME + SYNOPSIS.

Please name the Word file containing the scene with your name and the abbreviated title of your book (Austen Pride & Prejudice), not just as contest entry or the ever-popular Anne Mini contest. The last time I ran a contest like this, I received 42 entries with one or the other of these two titles.

4. In a separate Word document, list your name, address, e-mail address, and telephone number, as well as the category you are entering. On that same page, please include a 1-paragraph explanation of how the scene fits into the overall story of the book.
This is the only chance you’re going to get to set up the scene for the judges, so make it count!

5. On the second page of the document described in #4, include a synopsis of no more than 1 page, giving the judges an overview of the book’s premise, its main characters, and its central conflict.
Again, this synopsis must be in standard format. If you are unfamiliar with either standard format or how to write a 1-page synopsis, you will find explanations (along with examples) under the HOW TO FORMAT A BOOK MANUSCRIPT and HOW TO WRITE A 1-PAGE SYNOPSIS categories on the archive list located on the right-hand side of this page.

6. Make sure that both documents are properly formatted: precisely as they would appear in a manuscript submission.
Please be aware that correct formatting is a prerequisite to entry in this contest, not merely a judging criterion. If it is not double-spaced, in 12-point type, and featuring a slug line (Author’s last name/book title/page #) in each page’s header, the judges will not consider the entry.

7. Attach both Word documents to an e-mail.
Please include SSLC ENTRY and the category number in the subject line. Please also mention the category in the body of the e-mail. (It makes it easier to process the entries.) Again, the categories are:

Category I: Literary fiction, women’s fiction, and mainstream fiction

Category II: Science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal

Category III: All other genre fiction, including romance and mystery

Category IV: Humor

Category V: Memoir

Category VI: Narrative nonfiction, cookbooks, and academic books

Make sure to say who you are, too, so we don’t get entries mixed up. It’s also a nice touch to say something pleasant (like “Howdy, Anne!”) in the e-mail itself. I just mention.

8. Make sure to mention which category you are entering.
Seriously, we need to know this.

9. E-mail the whole shebang to contest(at)annemini(dot)com by Tuesday, October 30, 2012 Monday, December 3, 2012, at midnight in your time zone. If you are entering more than one category, please submit each entry in a separate e-mail.

Those are the rules! Please follow them closely. If you would like to see a step-by-step guide to how to apply these rules to the entry page, click here.

If you should have any lingering questions about the rules — like, say, what constitutes a scene, something several potential entrants have already asked, feel free to post them in the comments here. Please do not, however, e-mail them; part of the point of a blog is public discussion. If you’ve been having trouble finding where to post comments, as many readers seem to have been experiencing lately, the link is at the end of the post, at the end of the paragraph of categories to which the post belongs. Click on the words # COMMENTS, and you’re home free!

Not seeing it? On today’s post, the relevant line looks like this:

The Sensual Surfeit Literary Competition of 2012 / Comments >>

Use your extra month wisely, campers; I’m looking forward to seeing the results. Keep up the good work!

4 Replies to “You snooze, you…gain, apparently. At least if you want to enter a literary contest.”

  1. The sequence I have in mind to excerpt begins with the attempted rape of a twelve-year girl in Golden Gate Park. The particular bit doesn’t run but a few sentences, but it leads to an important context.

    It’s not a sex scene, more a scene of violence. For the purposes of the contest, I can clean it up without a problem, but would the very notion of an attempted rape disqualify the entry?

    1. Thanks so much for being considerate enough to ask, Michael, and to ask it in the comments on a post where others thinking about entering the contest will see it. As you’ve described it, and as long as it does not contain profanity, I would be inclined to say that it would be acceptable for the contest.

      What the judges are hoping to avoid here is twofold: language that could cause content filters to prevent young readers — and writers younger than twelve do read this blog — or adult readers browsing the Internet in a public library not to have access to the post featuring the winning entry, and to encourage writing about the senses in a non-sexual context. Watching the phrasing should be sufficient prevention for the first (and I’d be happy to run a note on a winning entry, saying that the manuscript itself contained more adult language, if the winning writer liked), and a heavier descriptive focus in other parts of the scene should address the second.

      1. Okay, well, you’ve by now should have received my entry. The attempted rape is a quick flashback, just a few sentences that enable a link to a deeper context. The selected scene itself deals with entirely different matters. Thanks for the clarification.

        1. That should not be too much of a problem, Michael — if the judges deem the flashback inappropriate for posting (again, the real concern here) but it is one of the winners, you could always do a bit of judicious trimming before it was posted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *