Broken Pencil’s annual short story contest is back for blood! Every year we receive hundreds of submissions for the Indie Writers’ Deathmatch and from there we choose a mere eight shorts stories to pit against each other week after week for battering and praise from the bloodthirsty comments thread of contestants and readers. After all the bloodied noses and bruised egos, one writer emerges to win fame, publication and some pretty sweet prizes.
Last year’s runner-up Colin Brush not only survived the bruising but he’s returned to tell his tale and interview past rivals and winners. In the lead-up to the December 31 submission deadline we’ll be featuring Brush’s interviews with past rivals and winners. But first! We hear Brush’s own gory tale:
Before last year’s Indie Writers’ Deathmatch, my writing hadn’t gone further than student chapbooks. Suddenly, my story “Free Therapy” was glaring from Broken Pencil website, giving it new validation. Complete strangers labelled it childish kitsch; others swore it was worth reading. But even after five of seven days, the end of round one seemed hopelessly far. I had been staying up till 4am every night to vote and getting up at 7am to watch for new postings. At least four times, I swore I was done with this competition, slamming down the screen of my laptop as if that would sever me from the internet completely.
Matches were close. The importance of a single ballot sunk in quick. Facebook became a recruiting camp for voters, and I would search through piles of paper for any lost acquaintance’s phone number. When one friend told me she’d been flirting on dating websites just to gather new voters, I felt genuine love. I couldn’t win everyone though: “I didn’t vote for you because I won’t vote for writing with swearing in it,” my Grandma told me after reading my story. Although I was just grateful she didn’t read on to the abortion themed match-off.
It’s no wonder this competition starts in February -the BP masterminds have synced Deathmatch up with the seasons. Last year, as the competition ended, so did winter. I’d won publication in the magazine and pat-on-the-back emails rolled in. I could finally peel away from my lifeless computer and enjoy some fresh air.
Truth be told, it was exhausting and now Broken Pencil is unleashing it again. But spending 21 days hostage to my computer seemed trivial after meeting writers, editors and connecting with publishing scene. Becoming a Deathmatch finalist is also an instant credential, confirming that yes, I have potential as a writer.
Over the next couple of weeks, come check back here for my interviews with former contestants. We’ll hear tips and tricks for success (or just survival!), the glorious highs, the horrible lows and how Deathmatch can and will change your life! So, get your submissions in. First prize comes to $650, while the four top stories get first- rate billing in Broken Pencil. Submission info can be found at brokenpencil.com/deathmatch.