Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My final plea

I'm going to try and be as sincere as I can today. With less than a week left to enter our Notes From Underground contest, there are far less writers interested than I would have imagined. So, I wanted to take one more opportunity to try and convey my excitement for this project.

When I first proposed the idea of giving writers pages in an anthology to write whatever they wanted, I think all three of us--Scott, Michelle, and I--were very hopeful. We saw this as an opportunity for writers to feel secure in knowing that they could say anything, an opportunity for writers to free themselves from the "rules" and attempts to please others that may have been holding them back. I figured this would intimidate some writers, and probably bore others, but I really thought a significant portion of people would find this to be a unique and fun opportunity to try something new.

With the writers who aren't interested, there's not much I can say to that. But, with the writers who may be too scared, I hope you'll take that leap and answer the ever-important question: What would I come up with if I could write anything at all?

Maybe the contest seems too complicated. After all, there are two steps. Well, with the low number of entries we've gotten so far, the nice thing is that the first step may be completely irrelevant. If you want the pages, chances are you're going to get those pages. Just let us know you want them! After that, all you have to do is let yourself go. And, if you want our help with the final stories, we'll be here as your personal 3-in-1 advisory board.

Because we don't have winners for the contest beyond the 25 writers who will be selected, we didn't offer prizes like we did last year. But, what we are offering is a publishing opportunity in an anthology that we put a lot of work into producing. This year, I plan to spend more energy promoting the book. After publishing Cinders, Michelle is now an expert at formatting and publication. This book will be special, and I want readers to see how special it is.

interjection by Michelle: This new anthology will also be available on Amazon.com. That means your work will be for sale and distributed on Amazon.com in the US and the UK (the Kindle version). It will also be for sale on Smashwords as an ebook, and also as a beautiful paperback. The price will possibly be lower than last year, but that will depend on the page count. How can you pass that up!? Really published, and not just on an online journal, but in print. :)

You'll also be doing something charitable. Like last year, we're going to be donating the proceeds of the anthology to a writer's non-profit organization. From our first anthology, we were able to donate hundreds of dollars to WriteGirl, and this year we're planning to give to the Writers Emergency Assistance Fund, a group that got a lot of support in our earlier poll.

So, I hope you will all give the contest one more consideration. There is still plenty of time to enter, though there's not a lot of time to waste. I also hope you see this as the unique opportunity that it was intended to be! Have fun, and be brave!

67 comments:

  1. Okay, It's true--I'm a big chicken! When I first read about 'Notes From The Underground' I thought it was such a cool idea, but competitions makes my stomach flip-flop...but, oh, what the heck...what's a little stomach flip-flop amongst writers...
    I will come up with something and at least it will convey my gratitude for all you do on the Literary Lab and support all your efforts, come what may...

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  2. I had originally planned to enter but the deadline has approached and I'd given up trying to put something together. But now....yes, you've rekindled my interest and it sounds like an opportunity that a writer should grab by the horns. I will grab ahold of some words and try to rearrange them into sentences worth reading.

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  3. I think I might give it a go..

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  4. Awesome to hear you guys are interested and will possibly be participating!

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  5. One question though.. I might have missed it. Is there a certain theme or genre we need to stick with?

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  6. Sugar: Nope, it's all up to you, whatever you want. I know that's frightening to many. :)

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  7. Oh, I feel so much better hearing that some of you still want to do it. Thank you!

    jbchicoine, thanks for supporting us. Honestly, I'm glad it's making you a little scared. That's the exciting part!

    Yvonne, do give it a go! There is still time left to throw something together definitely.

    Sugar, try it out! I don't think this first part needs to take up too much time, so you don't have that much to lose. You can choose any genre or theme. You can choose ANYTHING.

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  8. It's great that more writers are taking advantage of such an awesome opportunity.

    I'm rather excited about the whole shebang...ahem.

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  9. Oooh, I completely forgot about this and did mean to enter. First deadline is the free form pages that describe what the actualy short story will encompass, correct? And then if we're selected what will be published will be the actual short story, right? Or am I not getting that right?

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  10. Summertime schedules are not amenable to extra projects, but I have an idea for a short story so I may give it a shot. It could be an interesting challenge; I'm considering first person POV and present tense. Sort of stream-of-consciousness but I want it to maintain readability. If I have time to complete it (and think I am close to pulling it off) I'll submit it...

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  11. I haven't been able to wrap my mind around something to submit. I've been thinking and thinking. I guess I'll have to think some more.

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  12. Mayowa, I'm excited you're excited! I'm very interested to take a look at some of your writing!

    Jennifer, you're absolutely getting it right. And, the freeform pages can be a rough draft of your actual story if you like. Well, it can be anything.

    Rick, it's cool to see you being experimental. Don't forget that you can just show us a partial in the beginning if you like.

    Anne, yes, think some more and come up with something! :P

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  13. I seriously haven't had the time to do my 'resume' for the contest, let alone try and figure out what to write. I seriously intended to enter. How much time do I have left?

    S

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  14. EEEK! Only a week left? I AM interested but Life Obligations have overwhelmed me so this slipped down my priority list! Let me go and re-check the requirements...
    Judy

    Visit my blog for the Free Autographed Book Giveaway to celebrate Southern African Women Writers

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  15. Scott, the deadline for the contest is August 15th, so you've got a few days left. I'd love to see what you come up with!

    Judy, I hope you give it a shot. Thanks for retweeting this as well!

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  16. If I hadn't already entered, I'd do so now. Hmmm, there's always the old pseudonym ploy. Let's see, E. Hemmingway? F. S. Fitzgerald? Isaac Asimov? R. A. Heinlein? Alfred E. Neuman?

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  17. Ok! Have just sent of my submission. :)

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  18. Chuck and Judy, Thanks so much for entering. I hope you are excited about it!

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  19. I just sent an e-mail to my crit group urging them to enter. Don't know if they will but it couldn't hurt.

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  20. People might be making too much of the "audition" portion. It's like this: if you want to write about yourself as a writer and dazzle us that way, go ahead. If you have a piece of fiction that you think is dazzling, use it as your audition piece. Really, we're just looking for cool writing more than anything mind-blowing in the way of an "application" or whatever. Submit the story or stories you'd like us to publish, if you want. Don't go making this more complicated or difficult than it is. We didn't think it would be so off-putting when we came up with the idea, honest!

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  21. Another question for you: will the final story entered have a page limit or word count limit?

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  22. Jennifer, you'll have 10 pages in the anthology, which is roughly 10 pages double-spaced in a regular Word document.

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  23. Davin,

    I will Tweet and later Retweet- this is such an amazing opportunity, your post is a shock! I thought you'd be buried in submissions by now.

    I'll admit was almost too afraid to send in my entry. Know why? Because this opportunity meant SO much to me that I didn't know if I could deal with not making it into the anthology! Seriously I am shocked that there haven't been a flood of entries- it has got to be fear holding people back.

    Well I want to add my voice to the chorus and say C'mon, people, there is nothing to be afraid of!

    You all know that you've got something filed away, something you truly love, that you hide because you don't think that it fits the 'rules'. Since you can include artwork, poetry, anything, it is NOT difficult to fill five pages in the entry (in fact in the end I had at least three more pages in another flash piece I could have added to mine and had to choose!)

    I have a very gifted friend who wanted to send in an entry but didn't because his university schedule got away from him. I'm really going to encourage him to send in something he's already done if he can't send anything else.

    People should be beating down your doors, guys, the only thing I can think is that they are paralyzed by the fear (as I was for a LONG time) that if they don't have limits then they won't know if what they're submitting is any 'good'. In the end I took the leap to let you guys be the judge of that.

    I also have to say that I think if more people read Genre Wars- then also they would be doing whatever they could to get a space in a future Literary Lab anthology. The stories are fantastic. I've read only a handful so far (starting with people whose names I recognize from the site here- Simon, Anne, and Anne and I want to go back and read the rest) and they're all amazing.

    I would LOVE to have my work in a book alongside such talent.

    I would love to have something I'd written in any anthology by The Literary Lab. This is such a special place. You and Michelle and Scott give so much of yourselves here, to us, every day.

    So before I get down from my soapbox (and look out below, I'm a klutz so the landing may not be graceful!) I'll just say: People- just DO it. Five pages. Anything you want. Embrace the freedom and do it!

    Sorry this is so long. I am passionate about this!

    bru

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  24. Scott, I think you're right. I think I made it too complicated. Hopefully people will overlook that.

    Jennifer, we set a 10 page limit for the final stories because we were worried about space. But, I think we can be at least a little flexible on that, especially if not that many people want to play.

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  25. Wow, Bru, Thank you so much for being so supportive. Everyone, listen to Bru!!

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  26. And, Chuck, thanks for passing this along. I've been mentioning it to some other groups as well!

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  27. "Well, with the low number of entries we've gotten so far, the nice thing is that the first step may be completely irrelevant. If you want the pages, chances are you're going to get those pages."

    I wish you hadn't put it like that - now I feel like there won't be any kind of honor in being in it. I want to be in the book because I was chosen - not because hardly anyone entered. COME ON PEOPLE, GIVE ME SOME COMPETITION.

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  28. Thanks for not minding my long speech Davin! When I'm this passionate about something it's hard to stop (at least I didn't give that awful Elizabeth Swann speech from that Pirates of the Caribbean sequel that I like to pretend never happened...)

    Mary, I know what you mean about wanting to feel you were 'chosen'...I'm going to try to get the word out even though it will likely mean someone better will then knock me out of the running *laugh*.

    I'll do it because Davin sounds sad. We can't have that. Davin is never allowed to be sad! (Or Michelle or Scott either!)

    Spreading the word everywhere I can.

    ~bru

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  29. Ok, you got me. I just emailed my entry to you!

    (Hope a touch of profanity is ok)

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  30. Ha ha, Mary and Bru, I can certainly understand your wanting to not feel like you were automatically included in the anthology. At first I was worried about that too. But, then, it hit me. It actually gets to the heart of what we were trying to do if there is no competition. If we were able to include everyone, then the true test...the true competition would come when you were writing against yourself, with no rules. Just writing that gets me a little scared, honestly! We're promising you a moment in our little spotlight, and it's up to you to come up with something you want to share. That doesn't sound like an easy in at all!

    Lisa, thanks so much for entering today!

    In general, thanks to everyone who has already entered. We can thank you in person since we don't know who wrote what, but thank you!

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  31. When I first about this, I was not scared at all! I entered right away and didn't think it was that difficult because I could do whatever I want. I'm better at that than having strict guidelines. Now I hope I wasn't too hasty...

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  32. I don't where in your queue my entry is but I have to admit that preparing Part I gave me serious pause. Then I did it and felt kind of elevated because I had completed the most "experimental" kind of writing I had ever attempted. I hope you get a great response to this post.

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  33. I have to say, "Write about anything at all" isn't so much intimidating as completely uninspiring. Restrictions breed creativity, but when asked to write "anything," my mind just comes up blank. It's not interesting to me to be free to write anything I want; I'd rather be given the chance to resolve a difficult problem or finish a specific prompt than given such poisonous liberty. Likewise, an anthology that is just "Here are a bunch of stories!" isn't as interesting as, say, an anthology of "stories about the dark side of corn" or "flying pig stories." Seeing different takes on a theme is intriguing; seeing a collection of people all doing different things at random is not.

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  34. Aimee, I really think whether or not this is easy or hard, interesting or not, depends on the writer. I've definitely encountered writers who are already "above the rules" and that may be where you are all the time. If so, I really admire you!

    Judith, I remember you saying you were having a hard time with it. I'm so glad you decided to come up with something and enter. I'll be excited to see who wrote what.

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  35. Scattercat,
    As I mentioned in the post, I can definitely see how some people would find this completely boring. I think it does depend on the writer. But, I'd like to talk about myself for a minute if that's okay. For many years, I took a bunch of art classes and writing classes. I loved the thrill of getting an assignment and then coming up with something within the confines of the assignment that impressed other people. It was a wonderful feeling, and the rules did often get me to be much more creative and challenge myself. Then, one year, I was offered the opportunity to have my very own art show in a small gallery at UC Davis. I was really excited until about a week before the show, when I suddenly hated everything I had to offer and felt too paralyzed to do something new. Without the guidelines, I had nothing. For me, that was an important turning point in my artistic life. I realized that--again, this is only for me--the new creativity had to come from me not only creating the art, but also creating the guidelines that made it interesting to myself. Yes, I could be random, but that probably wouldn't be interesting to anyone. I had to make my own guidelines.

    I'm not sure if I'm trying to change your mind or not. I think people work differently, and the driving force behind art isn't necessarily self-expression. I've read some amazing and inspiring things that came out of something with more focus. But, I guess I'm just throwing this out there.

    Thanks a lot for coming and being honest!

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  36. Scattercat: I'm going to speak frankly if that's okay. I know that probably not many who are writing or have written novels had guidelines or a prompt for their novel. They came up with it completely on their own. Is walking into a bookstore completely boring to you? They are filled with random novels that came out of nowhere...

    I agree that having prompts really gives me direction, and I've come up with some fantastic, amazing things because of prompts. But our last anthology was a success (in our opinions), and there were no prompts or guidelines except for length and to put your story in a genre that fit the best category we offered.

    I don't see how this is any different except that we're offering more freedom with actual genre - giving everyone a chance to do either art or flash fiction or poetry or whatever else can be printed on a page.

    I do understand how this might be completely boring, but maybe you can look at as a challenge to enter something really great that might spice it up? Either way, we really appreciate your input on this, so thank you! Our goal is to provide opportunities for our readers to express themselves and be heard, and we can't do that without honest input.

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  37. Blogged!

    ...and I got about a dozen new readers last week thanks to a blogfest and one of them is already passing the word on and thinking about what she wants to send in...

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  38. I do have some concerns about this contest though. I entered, but now I'm worried about if I win - what will my name be tied to. I don't want to be apart of something that has a lot of profanity or erotica - or disgusting. When you give people the freedom to do what they want is there no limits whatsoever. I need to know that there are some limits or I won't be able to be apart of it.

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  39. Bru, Thanks a lot!

    Mary, We will have to let you decide once the stories are in then. We can let everyone see the result before we publish it and the individual writers can decide if they still want to be a part of it.

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  40. I'm okay with that - thanks Davin :)

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  41. I'm 2/3rds done with my entry and will try to get it emailed by friday. Yeah, I'm nervous about it but just going with the flow - stream of consciousness style and giving it my best shot.

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  42. Im just learned of this opportunity today- I sent out my five pages today as well and I hosted this contest on my blog, maybe it just wasn't getting around enough? hopefully it will be now, I know of two other blogs this contest is on as well.

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  43. Mine is mostly written in my head. I just need to put finger to key and make it real.

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  44. 當我微笑時,世界和我一起微笑;當我快樂時,世界和我一起活躍。..................................................

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  45. Though, p.s., I may chicken out and send something else. hahaha

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  46. Mary, I'm glad you brought it up. It was something I hadn't considered. Thanks!

    Robin, my stance is always that it's good to be nervous. :)

    Summer, thanks a lot! I'm not sure if this has been getting around or not. Last year we had hundreds of entries..although the contest was different. I'm glad it's getting out today.

    C.N., I do hope you have time to put something together. I know the vision in one's head isn't always a guarantee that it will make it out. Don't chicken out, though.

    Chinese guy, stop it. Just stop it.

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  47. Chicken out might not quite the be right word, but what I have written in my head is pretty thick with voice and I'm not sure how well it would float in a blind read because of that.

    If I don't send that, I'll send something else...

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  48. And yet, even though I don't know either project, I will be disappointed if you don't send the first. Because I'll know.

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  49. hahaha Fair enough. I'll take my chances with the first. Even if it doesn't make the cut, it won't be boring, at least. lol

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  50. "Chinese guy, stop it. Just stop it."

    Oh my god I just laughed so loud I scared the cat.

    He was upstairs.

    To the issue of concern over other potential content, I have to say that I look at it this way: having a piece in an anthology would be like having a painting hanging in a gallery. You're only responsible for the contents of your own, well, content. Not for the contents of every other exhibit or work of art.

    That's how I'd look at it anyway!

    ~bru

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  51. Mary, I don't think you have to worry about too much guilt by association. I write almost almost daily flash over at flashyfiction.blogspot.com, and so far (except when I have crossed genres just for fun) no one has mistaken me for a YA romance author, which a majority of the other writers who frequent the site are.

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  52. p.p.s. Five single-space pages or double-space pages? (Assuming five pages of text with no illustrations, charts, or x-rays.) I always draft in single and I just realized that might be twice as humongo as you'd like to sift through for the first round.

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  53. That's a dangerous thing to say, Davin, but thanks. :)

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  54. Okay. Submitted mine. Fingers crossed and all that stuff. You know, this is my first writing submission ever. Finally got past that hurdle and it wasn't so bad. Thank guys for creating something a newbie can get their feet wet with.

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  55. I updated my blog post about this very contest so my readers could see this post as well.

    To be honest, I had a strange idea pop in my head when you first announced the contest, something I figured I'd just go ahead and do if I did enter. But now, I'm not so sure. Maybe I should throw in part of something I'm already working on. Something that shows me as a writer more than me as a spur-of-the-moment-this-just-came-to-me contest entrant. I don't know. But I do know this. I'm entering, gosh darnit. I am.

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  56. I wish I had known sooner, but with that plea; I'd be an idiot not to try. What do I have to lose? I am excited

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  57. I will definitely give this a shot. I'm so glad I read the plea, otherwise I would have missed the competition...

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  58. I've just blogged and tweeted this contest (I tweeted it several times when you first announced it.) From my experience with contests, everybody waits until the last possible moment, so I'll bet you'll be inundated.

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  59. Quick question - till what time today will entries be accepted? Also, the mail should be sent to LiteraryLab (at) gmail (dot) com - is that correct?

    Lavanya

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  60. Hi Lavanya,
    We'll take entries anytime today. Yes, send to the literary lab email. I hope you're having fun with it!

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  61. There are people who wait to the last minute and people who completely forgot about it -- I'm in the latter category. But I e-mailed an entry just before noon today, so I hope that still counts.

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  62. Awww, what a wonderful appeal. No wonder you had so many responses. I really wanted to enter, but every time I tried to think of something to write, I'd throw it out. I knew it wasn't what I wanted, but I could never figure out exactly what I wanted to write.

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