Apr 16
WRITING CONTEST, ANYONE? by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, Apr 16, 2010

A certified writing contest enthusiast, Sonny Grenada III got hooked into writing even before the popularity of home computers and internet. And with the convenience brought by the keyboard, writing became Sonny’s pastime and stress reliever.

Science fiction stories is the first in his list so he didn’t mind spending for the expensive postage in sending his submissions to US magazines. For the less expensive submissions, he was writing technical articles which eventually saw print in the major newspapers.

Sonny’s passion for writing heightened when he attended a writing seminar. This opened up the avenue of competition, a great lure to budding writers. In no time at all, Sonny had written a short story in English, one in Filipino and a one-act play that he submitted to a literary contest.

When Sonny was invited to a writing workshop, he was more challenged at the prospect of writing a 100-page manuscript called script. A master of the keyboard, Sonny had submitted not only one as required but two theses for the workshop.

Not content in joining literary contests, script contests and story submissions, Sonny widened his horizons by learning how to write songs despite being tone-deaf. It’s because the lure of competition thrilled him.

As a veteran contest participant, Sonny had experienced the travails of writing competitions. First, there’s no guarantee that the contest will proceed as planned. Second, there’s no assurance that the prizes would be given as advertised.

And there are irritating requirements that turn off competitors like unnecessary certifications and photographs. On the other hand, contests with email submissions attract more participants than those with hardcopy submissions only.

In the more than 10 years of joining writing contests, Sonny had encountered almost all whims and caprices of writing contest organizers.

First catch is the notarized certification that you, as the contestant, own the entry and this certification frees the contest organizers of any liability from copyright infringements. This attestation, however, is only valid for the winning entries since there’s no need to substantiate a losing entry.

To think that there are hundreds of entries submitted and only 3 or so would win, the required notarized certificate was surely a waste of money. But that’s on the part of the contestant so it’s not a problem of the literary contest organizers.

Second catch is the required half-body shot photo of the composer in a songwriting contest. Perhaps they plan to make a pin-up out of that silly requirement. The organizers did not even bother to explain why the need for such.

In another contest, but this time a chorale scoring contest, contestant were required to submit a passport size photo. When contestants inquired about this, they were told that the photo would be used for the press release of winning entries. Again, a waste of money for the hundred entries that would not win.

Third catch is the required number of copies. Currently, there’s an ongoing writing contest for historical script. And it is required that, aside from the irritating affidavit of ownership, seven copies be submitted as if organizers don’t realize that a movie script involves about 100 pages of manuscript.

Fourth and most damaging catch is the submission charge. Like the New Zealand or the USA Songwriting Competition– a ten-dollar entry fee. And you are enjoined to submit as many entries as you can provided you have the entry fee to spare.

If you think there’s no more, hold on. The fifth catch is the part of the contest rule that winning entries would become the property of the contest organizer. Can you contest this contest rule? How?

For the adversities, there was a script contest organized by a movie production a few years ago, in honor of the deceased wife of the producer. It took almost a year before the results were publicized. The reason for the undue delay was lack of sponsors.

A semi-government institution had the same adversity. After getting a hundred plus entries for their script contest, the 3 winners were finally declared. However, on the awards night, only half of the prize were given and months passed before the balance was paid. So much like buying appliances on credit.

And after evading the catch and sidestepping the adversities, there is the mishap that could occur. Winning a grand prize in a songwriting contest is big deal especially if the awarding was held in Malacañang and no less than the president of the Philippines would hand out the prizes.

Unfortunately, the grand prize winner by the name of Sonny Grenada was informed of the event one day after the awarding was held. He, however, was able to redeem the cash prize from the cultural office. But there was no plaque nor even a certificate to prove his conquest.

In another songwriting contest sponsored by a foundation, Sonny got an honorable mention. However, he was not informed, absolutely so he was not able to receive his prize until now.

Winning a writing contest for a pet magazine was a new experience. Surprising indeed because the prize was a sack of cat food and other catty things. Ironically, Sonny owns dogs and hates cats.

Landing as finalist in a story contest of a Sunday magazine of a major daily, the prize was 700 pesos. Getting the cheque from that faraway office and encashing the same was not worth the trouble especially if you compute the taxi fare and the time consumed.

For more post-contest blues, there are writing contests that do not care to inform the entrants of the result. Like the ongoing songwriting contest of a composer’s group, there was not a bit of news in their website and queries are just ignored. The same with the songwriting contest of a pontifical university last year. The promised finals night was unheard of.

Writing contests come and go. There are good ones and bad ones. But for sure, writers and those pretending to be writers would be joining. No matter if there are snags, mishaps or adversities. It’s better to lose but to have joined than not joining at all.

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