Win a Prize by Cheating

Reading Girl 43

Fleur was sick and tired of the competition rules, regulations and conditions which surround the submission of a manuscript.  She decided to cheat the system.  But one of the worst things is to think you are going to get caught, that you are double-dealing the system, that you’ve done something you shouldn’t have done.  Be self-assured?

“Sure, you justify it to yourself that you aren’t going to win a prize in that writers competition anyway so what the heck, give it your best shot, enter four competitions with the same short story under 3,000 words.”  Fleur finds her handbag and house keys.  “And who cares?  First world problems, right?  They can only disqualify me.  They’ll get an entry fee without the hard slog.  What hey, they will do the hard work first.  Judges will find out later that I’ve cheated.  Well, not exactly cheated, more bent the rules.”

Fleur submitted the exact same story to four different organisations in the hope that one would succeed.  Of course, deep down she knows that the story will not succeed.  But there’s that tiny little glimmering hope that one entry will win.  “Ha,” snaps Fleur’s psyche, ‘you’ll win first, second or third place in each competition and cause a furore.”  There will be a lot of huffing and puffing, but Fleur says “I don’t care!  Keep the entry fees, frankly I don’t care!”  There will be tedious emails pointing out her indiscretion and how naughty she’s been – she don’t care!  They can sort it out by themselves.  Go ahead, eliminate her, but questions sneak through before the front door closes.

Fleur’s shoes pound the pavement as her rant continues “At the time I think I said to myself that I had not submitted to another competition, however, by the last entry I had.  And I didn’t change a word.  But here’s two questions for you.  How come books and authors can win the Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, Ned Kelly Award, Prix Goncourt, Man Booker Prize, etc, even though they have already won another prize?  Or magazine articles which have been reprinted elsewhere with author permission?  Like I said, I don’t care!”

“Please, please,” Fleur takes a breath “don’t let me win a place in any more than one competition.  I couldn’t stand the hassle.  As a matter of fact I don’t quite understand why I did it.  Well, in the case of the smaller organisation, I think I did it out of pity to bolster their entry numbers.  And in the case of the larger organisation, I think I did it out of spite to prick their egotistical speech bubbles.”

Fleur is expounding this tirade now because three of the organisations have announced their cut-off date, entries have closed.  The minor one is still struggling on.  “Oh,” she says, her pace slowing “I forgot to mention that I have submitted another manuscript, quite a different story but the same copy to two interstate writing competitions.  Their game plans are miles apart, one laidback and one stiff and starchy.  The story is rather laidback itself so I will be interested to see if it gets anywhere, I do like it.”

On the subject of slightly ignoring their instructions on the grounds of “get over yourselves, bloody gatekeepers” Fleur couldn’t help adding “If they don’t like it then that’s tough.  I don’t care!”  She knows she will have second thoughts after formal announcements are made in a few months’ time, and she voices the unsettling assumption that she may be victimised.  Fleur has heard tales of editors, indeed publishing houses, blacklisting people and the writing fraternity shunning one of their own for not following the guiding principle of “doing it the right way”.

Fleur stops walking.  “Publishers want unusual, they want different, but mostly they are just as rigid as the public service, any spark of individuality snuffed before it ignites.  Death to the formula!”  She hears her bulky envelope fall into the metal post-box and slams the flap shut.  The guidelines stated that all entries must be submitted by email attachment.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Reading Girl 42