Thursday, June 3, 2010

if i was going to enter...

I'll admit that we were worried about the reception we'd get for our new contest, Notes from Underground. I think overall it was great! Except that many of you expressed hesitation at the overwhelming nature of a free-form application. What do you do with a free-form application? What are we looking for? Ack!

Scott said in the comments:

1. You don't have to fill five pages if you don't want/need to.

2. It doesn't have to be experimental; it could be a short story or other example of your writing. But it could be experimental.

3. We aren't looking for anything in particular, so don't think we are. We don't know what we're looking for. We're just looking. That's what we mean by "free-form." You don't have to break down the barriers of form and structure, but you can if you want. Hell, we don't even know what "break down the barriers of form and structure" really means.

This might make it seem even more overwhelming because I know that I freeze up when I'm faced with something so absolutely non-restrictive. Where do I even begin?

I was talking to Simon yesterday and he put it well:

What's hard about it? We woo you with our creativity, you give us 10 pages in an anthology.

Pretty simple, eh?

Okay, okay, it's still daunting. To try and ease some of your fears, I'm going to give you an example. Examples help, right? Keep in mind, this is only to give you an idea of what you could do. Your entry can be completely different.

Let's play.

Michelle's Entry for Notes from Underground

Dear Literary Lab,

Please accept the enclosed entry pages for your contest, Notes from Underground. I'm so excited to enter into such an amazing, fantastic contest. All three of you are absolutely brilliant. Brilliant, I say. I faithfully read your blog every day, and I'm always blown away by your brilliance. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. If I was an agent I'd publish you all right away. Yes, yes, I would.

(really, don't say things you don't mean...we do like honesty...)

Since I know you guys aren't super-picky, I've estimated the five-page entry to the best of my ability. I've used 12-point Times New Roman font for the prose, 1" margins, and I've attached the VIRUS-free pages to this email. I will now wow you with my creativity.

(you don't have to include a cover letter, but you can...cover letters can be used to explain stuff we might not immediately get with our brilliance...anything goes, remember)

1st part - a flash fiction piece:

2nd part - a poem:

Okay, that poem really needs work, but you get the idea.

3rd part - my short research paper about one of Flannery O'Conner's stories because she's amazing and I think I sound smart when I talk about her.

(paper continues...and seriously, you do NOT have to turn in anything academic. This is just me. I was an English major and like stuff like this. See, this free-form thing is all about me the writer. It can be all about you, the writer. Turn in weird stuff - we don't mind.)

4th part - a photo I took just to say oh, look, a pretty picture! (yes, your photos should be a .jpg please)

5th part - a paragraph explaining my goals as a writer and a little bit more about me:

You know, if I was actually doing this for reals and not slapping it together in an hour, I'd probably write that above thing in some sort of poem or something creative like that. Prose is just fine, too.

You could:

  • turn in a query for your novel
  • give us your publishing credentials
  • attach pictures of your really cool apartment or writing workspace
  • tell us about your favorite class in college and why
  • introduce us to your pet dog or goldfish, etc.

Anything, you guys, anything!

So does this help? I'm around all day, so please leave questions in the comments if you have them. I'll try to answer to the best of my ability, as will Davin and Scott (I think...if they are around today).


  1. Yes, ma'am, it does help. I think I'll give it a whirl.

  2. Hrm. Must cogitate upon this all. As I am stranded at home sans a car today perhaps the creative juices will proliferate and bring an abundance of muse-like inspirations.

    Very informative post. (On so many levels. :D) Thanks for this.

  3. I'm also around today, although I'll be back and forth running between my computer and lab bench. Michelle, I think it is useful to have your example. And, I should also say that if it was my application, I'd probably do something completely different from what you have here. Just goes to show that it can be anything!

    Really, I don't like the idea of having a selection process at all. But, what I think it important is that 1. we simply have a space limitation, and 2. we want to celebrate the writers who are really passionate about doing their own thing.

  4. Stephanie: Hey, that's a good excuse to get some writing (or entry-writing) done! Yay!

    Davin: Yep, exactly. Everyone's will be different! If I was really entering, these wouldn't be the things I'd put in, but it might be a mix-up of stuff like it. Or, I might get really creative and think of something else entirely way more creative. I might build a toothpick castle stuck together with peanut butter and take a picture of it.

    I agree that we do need a space limitation, and that's the reason for this selection process.

  5. Like Davin, I agree that seeing Michelle's idea of a free-form application is useful, and also like him I think I'd do something very different. Though I have no idea what. What I do know is that I wouldn't worry a lot about it, and I'd try to have fun with it. Fun, do you hear? Amuse yourself. Dazzle yourself. Write it for yourself. Then share, of course.

    Here's the main thing: Show us your writing, and show us that you're using your imagination when you write. I personally don't care if your "application" (or whatever we call it) breaks any rules or comes in a surprising variety of forms. Give me an idea that you can write well, that's all. You'll get my vote.

  6. Dazzling fun. I like the sound of that.

  7. So, 10 pages in an anthology--what does that work out to word count-wise?

  8. Hay, lookit! You *did* use my quote. I shall commence feeling all special and squiggly inside... now! :)

    Also, nice application, good lady. I'd give you the nod, solely on the basis of your use of the word "anagogical."

    What? Oh, yeah. Maybe I did have too much coffee today. Don't worry: it'll wear off soon.

  9. Tricia: Glad you like the sound of it and it's not too frightening. :)

    Ricardo: Um, that's a good question. Around 3,000 - 5,000 words. Depends on our layout, margins, font type, and such. This is something we need to figure out and discuss, I think... Thanks for the question!

  10. Simon: That's a great word, isn't it? I was smart in college...

  11. First time seeing the new blog layout and color, nice.

    The contest sounds interesting and since in a few weeks I won't be so consumed with my current WIP, I should be able to enter.

  12. I'm beside myself with glee(I had no idea I was this tall).

    I can't wait to try this. Thanks again for the opportunity!

  13. I think you've hit on a great idea--and people shouldn't feel too intimidated. They should think of applying to this as being similar to blogging: you're putting both yourself and your stuff "out there," but sending it to the contest instead. Free-form here seems to mean you're making your own rules, just like when blogging.

    I'm interested in seeing how this comes out. I like the new look here--the picture at the bottom is awesomely cute! Did you do that Michelle? I love the style.

    This site's on twitter now, I see. Maybe I should try there again--for the fourth time! lol

  14. FP, I'm glad you like the idea. It is definitely inspired by some of things you said. It actually seems like a move toward the direction of what someone would do if they were to self-publish. Maybe a hybrid of that.

    Michelle did do the art. I love the mood of that image.

  15. Yeah, I'm really happy to see the responses here, you guys.

    FP, I agree with Davin that this feels more like putting the writer in charge, like self-publishing, and I think that's a fun thing to try out.

    Yes, I did do the art. It's a mixture of a drawing I did by hand and then scanned in and painted and altered in Photoshop. It was an idea for our last Genre Wars cover, but we went with a less cartoony feel instead, which I like better anyway. I like this one, though. Scott seemed a little miffed that I didn't put a book in his hand... (he's in the middle).

  16. The art is gorgeous- it reminds me of the cover of Where the Sidewalk Ends. Love it.

    Proudly buttoned up on my blog and retweeted and all that good stuff. That way even if I crash and burn hopefully I'll send reinforcements who will do better!


  17. Davin, you mean I helped inspire the contest from things I've said in the past??? Or you mean what I said in my post in this thread, that the contest would be like blogging or making your own rules inside it--that you had that thought and it inspired the contest? If you mean the former--very cool! If you mean the latter--that's very cool too!

    Michelle, it's a darling image, however you did it--excellent work. So is the Genre Wars cover. It seems choosing which image was like "choosing among the stars in the sky." Win-win either way.

  18. Okay, okay, I'll work on the whole free form app thing . . . not that I have any idea what story I might enter. : )


  19. Workin' on it, Boss. Workin' on it. Be done by August, Boss. Maybe sooner. Workin' on it.

  20. FP, I meant that some of the things you said in the past helped to inspire this. You've helped me see the benefits of self-publishing. I think in an ideal world everyone would be writing for themselves, but I think the pressure of publishing makes people compromise. Possibly, this contest will help to bring us closer to writing for ourselves.

  21. Chuck, who said you could take a break to leave a comment?

  22. This is lots of fun! You guys are going to be doing a heck of a lot of reading. :)

  23. Sorry Michelle, I forgot to come back. I've been a space cadet today.

    Thanks for answering all those questions. Too bad you already posted the "you folks are brilliant . . I'd publish you all if I were an agent" angle. Hmm, something feels premeditated in that . .

    Now I'm off to pick up the button button, who's got the button - why, it's Michelle, she's got the button.


  24. Thanks for all of your support and enthusiasm everyone!

    Yes, Genie, if we get a fair amount of entries we'll be doing a lot of reading. Yikes! I'm looking forward to it. :)

  25. I let my self stupor and stew for a few days and you guys change the look over here. It's nice (but the blue was lovely, too).

    Best of luck to all who take on this challenge. I know you'll get great stuff ... there is so much talent floating around out there.

  26. Okey dokey! I've tweeted about this fabulous contest and I've added the button to my blog (mainly to remind myself about the deadline)!

  27. Thanks so much Tess and Judy! Judy, I do hope you enter!

  28. Tess, hah, glad you're sticking around with the new change. Judy, I hope you enter, too. :)

  29. Yes, it helps a lot. I'm going to post a link to the contest in my sidebar.

    My Writing Journey

  30. Even though this was touched on in your samples, I just want to be extra ultra-clear: we can send (virus-free) attachments for our entry? We're not required to have it pasted in the body of the email?

  31. Charity: Thank you!!!!

    Jessica: Yes, you can send attachments, but if you give our moderator a virus and crash her computer we'll make you pay for it. Just kidding. Well, if it's intentional we'll have to be mean, but I doubt you'd do that, and I'm not sure how we'd prove it anyway. Yeah, attachments are okay. :)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.