I used to. After all, turning writing into a competitive sport is a crime. In my experience writers are the most supportive and collaborative people on earth. But contests serve a purpose. Not only do they help fund fledgling magazines like ours, and put money into the pockets of deserving authors, they help groom good writers. What author can resist the inner excitement that comes from the challenge of capturing a prize? What poet doesn’t both thrill to and loathe the sharp focus that comes from the dual pressure of dreaded deadline and hope of glory? Such is the deepest desire of all writers: to be seen fully, their souls naked on a page, and crowned with a laurel wreath. To be noticed, to be known, is to be validated.
Winning is good. But truth be told, no one else can give a writer that internal validation. I’ve received awards before, and they felt awkward things in my hands. I wanted to hide myself rather than be on a stage. Other people’s compliments and praise never live up to expectations, never satisfy that inner longing we all have to be truly heard. No matter how many prizes we win, I’m not sure that the yearning ever leaves us. I’m not sure I want it to, or else I might stop writing with the same intensity.
Winning a contest is an important feather to tuck in your cap in an occupation that has no promotions, performance bonuses, or yearly raises. And a cash prize of $500 is nothing to sneeze at either! So please do enter our Magpie poetry contest. (Deadline is June 15th, limited to 500 entries.) Our editors will be reading your poem, gently and with reverence, and we will appreciate the coins you are tossing into our cap. We are brothers and sisters together, dreaming of the laurel wreaths that hide our fears.