Friday, January 19, 2007

contests and prizes and things I never usually win

The first. So. Umm. There's this contest held over the Labour Day weekend (a long weekend in Canada) where entrants attempt to write a novel over three days. The 3-Day Novel Contest. It started in 1977 and continued haphazardly, sponsored by a few different publishers. The winner gets published. The runner-up gets $500 (Canadian). Finalists get prizes - probably copies of previous winning titles, is my guess.
It started in Vancouver BC, so I've been aware of it for years, in a vague way. One of the current sponsors is ABEBooks, which is based in Victoria BC. ABEBooks has a great community forum, and each year there's a thread for 3-Day Novel entrants. Which made me even more aware of it.

I'm a slow writer. My handwriting is slow, although clear and easy to read. I was a slow typist and am only a slightly faster keyboardist. I compose slowly, doing the first edit between brain and hands. And I like to stop and look things up and fact-check while I'm writing, because I'm not one of those writers who can simply Make It Up. I'm willing to mess with the facts if it improves the story, but I first need to know what the facts were.
And I'm usually at an SCA event that weekend--September Crown. Camping, no electricity, tent, commitment to attend meetings, possibly teach a class, visit with friends and all that.
These seemed like good reasons not to enter. As soon as I had that settled in my mind, I started wanting to enter.
That meant working out a storyline that wouldn't require any research, relying on subjects I already had a grasp of. A storyline that could be radically shortened if time ran out, or expanded if things went unexpectedly well. Epistolary? Picaresque? Absurdist? I decided on a picaresque structure, easily changed in length by the addition or removal of an episode or two.
It meant relying on my husband and friends to keep me on track, to get me to places with electricity, and to put up with my distractedness. That, fortunately, was a given. As a bonus, my apprentice Alicia le Wilfulle lent me her laptop which has a much longer-lasting battery than my little Thinkpad. So I was able to work at the campsite for quite a while before being shipped over to the nearby Haggen's caff.

I attended a meeting, taught a class, gave feedback on a display, got a decent night's sleep, ate meals, and typed. Typed on the ferry, typed in camp, typed in the Haggens and typed at home. Wrote about a boy with the ability to fold himself away, surviving in a war-torn country, and losing pretty much everything except the stories he told himself. God that sounds pretentious. I think the theme (really? I never have themes) would be 'you can hide but you can't run'. It was patched together with fragments of Grimm's tales, refs to child soldiers, to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, to the persistent story of a young child smuggled through a concentration camp in a suitcase, to refugee and resistance stories, and my acquaintance with the joy people feel when they rediscover a lost book from their childhood. I wrote litfic (I never write litfic), possibly magical realism. I discovered that I can write 1k an hour, for 3 hour bursts, and remain coherent, on the screen at least.
The last part was pretty much what I was interested in--finding out what my speed was if I just wrote and didn't research, fuss, or edit. And I wanted to wear the t-shirt, because I like it.
Unlike Nanowrimo, the 3-Day has no word-count objective. I believe they like a story to have a beginning, middle and an end, but that's only my guess. Most entrants turn in about 100 pages, which in standard manuscript format would be about 25k words. Mine was closer to 16 or 17, but it was a complete story. I was clever enough to write the ending on the second day, leaving me with the adjustable middle to occupy my time and what was left of my brain.
I printed it out, shipped it off, and got back to my usual genre writing and collection of rejection slips.

This week the results were announced, and I made the shortlist. Which I will copy here, because I don't know how long they'll keep the whole announcement up:

First Prize (publication, summer 2007)
Brendan McLeod for The Convictions of Leonard McKinley

2006 2nd Prize Winner

Terry Dove of Vancouver, BC wins $500 for Rocketdial

2006 3rd Prize Winner

Carolyn Magner Mason of Tuscaloosa, AL wins a library of 3-Day Novels for Hopeless Causes

2006 Shortlisted Novelists

  • Tom Alexander, London, UK
  • Timothy Anderson, Edmonton, AB
  • Emily Anderson and Marit Peterson, Chicago, IL
  • Rae Calvary, Milwaukie, OR
  • Patricia Chao, New York, NY
  • Trisha Cull, Victoria, BC
  • Jody Franklin, Victoria, BC
  • Joe Goodwill, Vancouver, BC
  • B. Gordon, Victoria, BC
  • Thomas Gray, Olympia, WA
  • Cammy Lee, Toronto, ON
  • Colleen Marlin, Toronto, ON
  • Kari McKay, Edmonton, AB
  • Walt Morton, Venice, CA
  • Richard Schwindt, Kingston, ON
  • Andrea Wijayakoon Phillpotts, Richmond, BC
  • Ron Yamauchi, Vancouver, BC
And this is the acknowledgement email I received:
Congratulations on making the shortlist! The judges really liked "Fold".
Hope you keep working on it!
Melissa for 3-Day

* * * * * * * *
The 3-Day Novel Contest
The world's most notorious literary marathon.

All of which is, y'know, cool. On re-reading Fold, which I hadn't looked at, I was amazed to see that it was a pretty decent piece of work, and although I had not allowed myself to edit as I went (which is my habit) it read rather well. I had no urge to break out the virtual red and blue pencils.
There may be a lesson there, but I'm going to ignore it.

The second. Reading Smart Bitches recently sent me over to the Juno Books blog, which made entertaining reading and a peek into the early days of a new imprint. And some bloody gorgeous cover art. One cover has Chinese characters on it--Dark Maiden, by Norma Lehr--and a request to email if you know what the characters mean.
Three years of Mandarin Chinese at last pays off! I know how to struggle through a Chinese dictionary. I sent in the pronunciation and meaning of the characters, and I won a copy of the book when it comes out.
Much coolness. But I have to be patient until the book comes out. And since I'm aware that publishing time is closer to geological time than to some others, I shall be patient.

The third. Our workplace encourages United Way donation. One method of encouragement is prizes. The only thing I've won was a shoulder-bag with about 20 sponsor marks on it, left over from the Commonwealth Games. This year I won dinner for two and a night at the Dunsmuir Lodge, not the sort of place our budget usually runs to. Couch at a friend's place is more my speed. I haven't collected yet, what with Christmas, Twelfth Night, finishing the short story and Mark about to leave for Estrella and the Tucson gem fairs. But I have until the end of March.
I did consider giving it to my son and his girlfriend, and I may yet.

All these things coming my way. It makes me a bit nervous.


garunya said...

Re: the second - I knew what the characters meant, and how to say them, but that's because it happens to be exactly the sort of thing I write about ;)

(although that's not the word I'd use to refer to such things)

batgirl said...

I didn't find the two as a recognised term in Mathews, either, I think it's more of an assemblage, possibly because the supernatural beasty in the book is more malicious than fox spirits usually are?

garunya said...

I think it's that the more malevolent examples of Chinese fox spirits aren't so well-known in the West, so they felt they weren't demonic enough.