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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Writing Contests"

   Something's been bugging me lately. Our local middle school supports several student writing contests. There's obviously no problem with that other than the fact that they seem fishier than most writing contests. Take for instance, Creative Communications. Their website (www.poeticpower.com) states that they are better than most student writing contests (which accept all entrants' works) and that they reject more entries than they accept. The only problem I find is that almost everyone who's entered their contest is published, not that I have any problem with that. The problem is in the submission.
   How can a contest work without charging an entry fee? This isn't to say that I have anything against free contests, but isn't there some type of profit to be made here? This isn't some sort of non-profit organization dedicated to "nourish the growth of our younger generations." This is a company that wants to make money.
   Had I known this before, I wouldn't have bought the book in the first place. Creative Communications cleverly sends out congratulatory letters to those who were "exclusively" accepted for publication. Afterwards, they ask them to buy their anthology and continues to badger them if they sign up for email notifications. They subtly use the writers' vanity to convince them to publish anthologies for themselves to display. To further advertise, they persuade teachers to enter as many students as they can because the language arts teachers win a book for themselves if enough of their students are accepted. This just launches the vanity chain where orders come pouring in along with all the money.
   Of course, then there are those great reviews which get visitors to their site thinking, "Wow! This must be a great contest to receive such great reviews!" Ah, no. Those are probably more people caught in the vanity trap. The website simply asks some of its winners to write a review and they enthusiastically agree because of the chance they get for their words to appear on the Internet. Not only does the company receives loads of money, but they also become increasingly popular (I must point out their ingenious marketing skills.)
   As for evidence, I have some. Several years ago, when I myself was in elementary school, my teachers convinced me to enter a poem I'd written in class. Sadly, I had very low self-esteem at the time and sent in the worst poem I could muster just to show how I wouldn't be able to win any contest. Surprisingly, about three months later, I received an acceptance letter by mail which told me that I was recognized as a young writer. That was the first and only year I purchased an anthology.
   Now, I know there are plenty of poor quality anthologies out in the market, but this one was pretty bad. And for $26.40. There were so many entries crammed onto one page I could tell something was amiss. Once I checked the website, I saw that the books weren't sold to the general public, so what's the real "honor" in being accepted anyway? For your words to be crammed onto a page in some other writer's book probably sitting on a coffee table, gathering dust?
   Unfortunately, although I loved the website, I must admit that this company is probably a scam. They make such a big profit already from sales that they can easily afford to award $3000 to all the Top Ten winners. All I can say is, I'm disappointed. Just watch out- if something's too good to be true, it probably is.

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