I had the honour of being a judge for the Engen Books/Kit Sora “Flash Photography/Flash Fiction story contest. It’s a wonderful paying contest open to Canadian residents who can write a piece of flash fiction (250 words or fewer) inspired by the amazing works of Newfoundland photographer Kit Sora.
I won the very first contest (March 2018) and bribed my way into being a judge this time around, because I love the “behind the curtains” stuff when it comes to publishing.
The rules were simple, read each of the stories and pick my top 10 and submit that list to Engen who would compare it to the other judges lists. Since none of the stories had the authors listed, and it was a double-blind judging system, it would be a fair contest.
Since it was paying market and the winner would be have bragging rights from being a contest winner, I knew I had to treat this contest with the seriousness it deserved. So, cracking open favourite fermented beverage I set to work.
Sounds easy right? Wrong…
I was “lucky”, since it now warmer weather, there was “only” 24 entries for the contest, and I had to pick the best ten from them. Since the same photograph, a wonderful picture of Kit on the shoreline in a gleaming green mermaid tail was to be the writers inspiration, I figured I would see a lot of the stories with a similar theme...wrong again.
I read light-spirited tales of adventure, tales of loss that broke my heart, and tales that reflected our current political climate. How was I to rank my favourite ten out of all these?
After a read through of them all, and a second malted beverage, I made three piles “Yes, No, Maybe” and left them for a day to stew around in my mind. The next day I read them all again and shifted some from one pile to another as I felt best. They were all great stories in their own right but the “No” pile were stories I felt needed more than the 250 word limit to shine, or tales I didn’t associate with Kit’s photograph.
Next was sorting out the “Yes/Maybe” group, and this consumed the rest of my afternoon as I reread the stories, asked myself if they touched me, and if they paid homage to the supplied photograph.
Once I had my top 10, I sent it to the good people at Engen Books before I could second guess myself. This exercise has given me a newfound respect for the labours that publishers go through when selecting a story, and I hope it will make be a better writer for doing it.