Honestly, I almost didn’t enter this contest. I’m not sure why, though. I loved Ling Ma’s novel SEVERANCE. Francis Ford Coppola is one of my favorite directors, so I’d usually jump at the opportunity to get published in the journal that he founded with Adrienne Brodeur. It’s not just the star power: I’ve actually read and enjoyed Zoetrope, have even taught a few stories they published.
I was probably tired–it was a long semester–and submitting can get expensive after a while. I’m not sure what inspired me to enter the 2022 Zoetrope Contest, but I’m glad I did.
There’s a lesson here, for me as much as anyone. I almost didn’t submit my manuscript to the Mary McCarthy Prize back in 2017. In addition to the usual reasons, I’d been rejected numerous times from that contest without even placing. (That’s the case with Zoetrope as well).
For me, the lesson here isn’t about shotgunning work out into the world. My approach to submitting is best described as “ambitious strategy.” However, there’s always a legion of reasons to say “no.” Reasons not to leave the couch, not to leave your comfort zone, not to take a risk.
Good things don’t always happen when I say “yes,” but they seem to happen more often.
Postscript: Sarah Harris Wallman won an honorable mention for this contest in 2017 and 2022. She’s a prizewinning writer, and she was also the other TA in my MFA program at Pitt. She gave me invaluable feedback when I was writing my debut novel AND collection. I’ll always be grateful for that. My point is, the writing world really is a small town. That’s a really important thing to keep in mind when you’re operating in this space.
Also, while writing can be a lonely pursuit, if you do it long enough and keep in touch with people who take it as seriously as you do, connections form and re-form–and those connections can really help push everyone forward.