I expect to hear from the Fabri Prize judges any day now, and I’m braced for disappointment. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen others winning a string of literary contests that I had entered with high hopes. Most recently I found out I had not won Gulf Coast’s Barthelme Prize for short short fiction. I found out on my own when I saw an issue of the magazine celebrating the winner of the prize, and the name of that person wasn’t me. Rejection notices are never fun and I’m sure editors don’t like sending them, but I’ve learned that it is better for the writer to get one than to be simply ignored if he’s not a winner.
I’m not upset every time I don’t win one of these contests, but this one got to me. I know my story was very good. It’s hard to feel total confidence in a novel or even a short story. There is always some little thing or other you could fix. What about that flat exposition in chapter two, for instance? Maybe you should add a plane crash right after Uncle Jo-Jo passes out in the bushes. But a short short? Even my attention span is wide enough for a short short, and I knew mine was good.
I showed the winner to my partner and fellow writer. She readily agreed mine was the funnier story. She also pointed out that the organizers of the contest might have expected the submissions to look like a Barthelme short story, since the contest was named after him. That hadn’t occurred to me. I just assumed they wanted to make the contest seem classier by attaching a famous writer’s name to it. Sure enough the winner read a lot like Barthelme. The elements were there, even if it wasn’t very funny.
My entry was a parody of Faulkner, entitled Intruder in the Garlic. No imitation, no homage – a parody, but it was a pretty good parody.
Now I’ll wait to hear from the Fabri Prize people. If someone else wins, please don’t let me find out about it from Fox News or the neighbors. Give it to me straight. I can take it because I’m a writer, and writers have to be tough.