Six more days to nominate short stories for the Million Writers Award
When Jason Sanford began the Million Writers Award in 2003, it became a locus for finding good short fiction online. And short fiction that was published online was, as he notes, often overlooked by traditional short story prize venues such as the Pushcarts and O. Henry Prize.
The Million Writers Award grabbed the opportunity to rewrite what made award-worthy fiction from the outside, the Web side. And it still is: Any reader can nominate a piece of short fiction -- 1,000 words, max -- published online during 2011. Additionally, editors of online magazines are invited to nominate up to three stories from their sites. The nomination period opened March 26 and continues through April 9.
With the nomination process half over, more than 30 online magazines have submitted, including the Good Men Project, Juked and the Journal of Unlikely Entomology. Roughly 100 stories have been submitted by readers and by the authors themselves. It's OK to add your own.
All those stories will be culled by a handful of judges for a long list of notable stories in May, then whittled down to 10. Those final 10 will be put to a public vote, expected to take place in June, to determine the winner. It's all a lot of work, for a modest reward -- $300 plus a gift certificate for the winner (more, if more donors chip in).
It's worth noting that times have changed since 2003. One of the selections in "Best American Short Stories 2011" was an electronic-only publication -- although "The Sleep" by Caitlin Horrocks was published in the Atlantic Fiction for the Kindle, which isn't Web-based. But it indicates the trend: One of the three 2011 O. Henry Prize juror favorites was Jim Shepherd's "Your Fate Hurtles Down at You" from Electric Literature, which publishes simultaneously online and in print. And nominees for the Pushcart Prize can now be made by editors of magazines that are "print or online."
Nine years down the line, the division between print and online has dissolved quite a bit -- as well as been problematized by wireless content delivery to e-readers, smartphones and tablets that skips the Web altogether. But the Million Writers Award was designed not around the form but the content, to highlight new fiction appearing in new venues -- which it's still doing. Nominations are open -- wide open -- now.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Writing at Starbucks. Credit: John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times