Although the entry fee is a fairly steep £10, there are some fabulous prizes on offer: first prize is £2000 plus a one-week writing retreat (heaven!) AND a day with a Virago editor and there are runners-up prizes of £500, £250 and 3 x £100.
The deadline for entries is January 24th 2011, so, ahem – no rush there, then! (I always think ‘there’s plenty of time’ – and of course, there never is).
Now, bad news if you’re a chap: this competition is only open to women of any nationality and from any country. (Quote from the rules: ‘You do not have to subscribe to Mslexia to be eligible but you do have to be a woman.’).
Whenever I mention ‘Mslexia’ competitions in my writing class – and the fact that they’re only open to female writers – the men always say, “But how would they know? I could enter under a pseudonym!” and of course, that’s true.
But imagine if you won first prize. They would phone you with the news; they’d want an interview and a photo; you’d probably have to attend an award ceremony. And that could all get a bit tricky, if you’re a man pretending to be a woman (but by all means, watch ‘Some Like It Hot’ or ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ for some tips).
But whatever your sex and regardless of whether you’re going to enter the comp, the Mslexia website is still worth a look, as it’s packed with information and writing exercises.
And for those of you who do ‘qualify’ for this competition and are thinking of entering, here are a few tips:
- Don’t leave it until the last minute! Start thinking about your story idea now. (This is really a ‘note to self’!)
- Have a look at this article by Jackie Kay on the subject of short stories and/or read some of her work. Ask yourself what subject matter and style is likely to appeal to her, as a judge?
- Look at the stories that have been placed in the past 2 years (scroll down the page for the links here.). Although the judges were different, it’ll give you an idea of what Mslexia is looking for (the magazine will shortlist the entries before passing them on to Jackie Kay).
- Try to be original. This competition is likely to attract over 2000 entries (last year they had 2,300). Yours needs to stand out from the crowd.
- Make ‘em laugh! I’m always reading judges’ reports in which they bemoan the lack of humour in competition entries. They get a bit sick of doom, gloom, death and destruction. If you can be funny (and it’s not easy), then go ahead. It will certainly help you with point 4 (above).
- The winner is likely to be a fairly ‘literary’ story (ie: where the quality of the writing and the characterisation is more important than lots of action). But that doesn’t mean you can neglect plot! Something still needs to happen and your main character should have gone through a change or shift, in some way, by the end of the story.