Secrets of the Segullah Writing Contests
The deadline for Segullah’s poetry contest and the Heather Campbell Personal Essay contest is coming up–December 31, 2008. Really, there’s no big secret: it’s a writing contest, women send us their essays and poetry, we choose winners, we publish them. Straightforward. But here are a few things I didn’t realize before I entered it two years ago:
- The staff of Segullah wants you to win!! By that I mean that we are pulling for the people who enter this contest. We never forget the women behind the stories. And many of us (me, at least) are not widely published, and still consider ourselves to be novice writers. Trust me: we are a sympathetic audience. We are rooting for you. Not everyone can win, this is true. But we appreciate each woman who takes the time to share her life with us through writing.
- Contest winners are held to higher standards than regular submissions. Regular submissions go through a revision process, working with our editorial board to do at least three revisions, sometimes four, before we publish them. However, our contest winners are published as-is, with minor copyediting. What this means for those who enter is that they need to take the time to send us the very best version possible. Publication-ready. Please, find someone who can see your writing clearly, and have them give you honest feedback. Then revise. Then find someone else, and get more feedback, and revise. Then do it again, as many times as you can before the deadline.
- Do not be daunted if you have never published before! You don’t have to have published anything before to do well. I speak from personal experience: “Finding Myself on Google,” which won an honorable mention in the 2006 essay contest, was the first essay I’d ever published. I don’t think that’s true of our other winners, who had more writing experience than I did, but it’s true of me. You can do this!
- If you’re wondering where to go with your next draft, and having a hard time finding a good editor, read the writing tips section of Segullah’s blog, and evaluate what you’ve got based on some of the ideas there.
- There is no theme for either contest (I’ve gotten that question a couple of times this year, so I wanted to clarify it). Write about whatever you want that fits in our mission statement. Read a few back issues to get some ideas of what we are looking for.
- If your essay doesn’t win, it still has a good chance of being published in Segullah after working through our editing process. For me, one of the best things about my involvement in Segullah is finding people who will critique my writing with expertise, honesty, and kindness. So if your essay doesn’t win, but it’s accepted for publication, that’s going to be good for your future writing. You’ll have the chance to revise it under the guidance of one of our editors. You’ll get published, and become a better writer. Yeah, yeah, winning would have been better. But this is pretty good, too.
- Follow the submissions guidelines I linked to above. Pay attention to word count–our space is limited, and we’d hate to disqualify your essay from consideration because it was too long.
There you have it–behind the scenes at Segullah. Now get writing!
p.s. I’m happy to answer any more questions you have about the contest in the comments section.
–Emily Milner, Assistant Editor, Segullah