Essay Non-Fiction posted February 2, 2015

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An Earth Shaking Essay

These Contests Are Rigged!

by michaelcahill

Pulitzer Committee Make Note

Want to get a heated discussion rolling? Bring up contests. Choose an aspect and a debate will ensue.


"What's the point with all the damn CHEATERS who enter?"

"The prompts are sooooooo LAME and WORN OUT!"

"ANONYMOUS HELL! They might as well sign their name!"

"The voters are MORONS of questionable parentage."

"I'm here to write, not rut around like a pig in the mud grappling over scraps of carrots with the uncouth hogs who care only for glory and the spoils of war. I'm an ar-teest."

Well, if I thought I could win without cheating, I would. Sure the prompts are lame and worn out, but they are so warm and familiar just like my binky I still sleep with. Of course, I have a signature style, how else will you know who I am? It doesn't take intelligence or fancy lineage to vote. Are we not here for the glory and the spoils of war? Why become an ar-teest if there are no rewards?
I enter contests because I find them fun. Contests are also a great crash course in learning new forms. One of the best ways to learn about haiku is to enter a haiku contest. You'll be able to read some excellent haiku written by top writers and get quality feedback from them. Sure, your lame little haiku entry will be thrashed and laughed it. You'll no doubt become the scourge of haiku land. However, you will learn about haiku. Slowly you will improve until one day you will be the one who laughs, thrashes and castigates the poor sap who dares enter YOUR domain!
Seriously, I didn't know what a haiku was until I started entering haiku contests. I read the winning entries and received excellent feedback from the top writers on the site. I learned and I am still learning. I have even won a couple haiku contests along the way too! It beats sitting on the sidelines saying, "How can you say anything in seventeen syllables?" Join in and find out.
The same principle applies to all of the many forms:  sonnets, nonets, senryu, you name it. Each form will improve your skills as a writer if you master it. There is no downside to learning and mastering a form of writing expression. I'm a free verse poet by trade. I can't begin to tell you how much my free verse has improved since learning these other forms.
As far as the prompts being worn out, that may have some validity. But are you truly so ready to admit you are unable to come up with an original idea? In any case, there are member created prompts every week that are original and challenging. More often than not, only three or four people enter them. Where are all the people who complain about the worn out prompts? That's an easy one; they're in the 5-7-5 Funny Animal prompt.
Not everyone wants to enter contests. That's fine, I know many people who don't. Some of them even take the prompts and use them as the basis for original pieces they post. I don't know of a single one of them who complains about contests. So, this isn't directed at them.
Is there room for improvement? Oh yes, there is no question about it. There is some truth to the prompts being over used and worn out. We could use some fresh topics. Part of the answer lies with the site, but part of the answer lies in our court. Any one of us can sponsor a contest on any topic we wish. You can make your own rules, chose your topic, choose the style and format you want everyone to follow. It costs about six fake dollars. You can review the top six poems on the front page and you're ready to roll.
It would be nice if the voters showed more diligence in the booths. It isn't the fault of the author who writes about their cute puppy; it is the voters who vote for a PICTURE of a cute puppy, when the contest is supposed to be about WRITING. The contests have RULES. It would be nice if the voters considered them when voting. The compliance committee is limited in what they are allowed to disqualify. There WILL be entries that are not in keeping with the spirit of the prompt. Vote for entries that most meet the requirements of the prompt. Don't vote for pictures or subject matter. We all love puppies and honor our brave military. That doesn't have anything to do with WRITING! Vote for the quality of WRITING; this is a WRITING site.
While I'm at it, REVIEWERS, what kind of a terrible reviewer are you to review an entry in a 5-7-5 contest and NOT COUNT the syllables. How dare anyone take someone's money and compliment their PERFECT FORM when their 5-7-5 is a 5-7-6. You can't take the time to give your fellow "family" member a heads up to keep them from being disqualified? Please keep in mind when reviewing a contest entry that there are rules and give a heads up if a rule is not being followed. I've been disqualified five times for things a reviewer could have easily pointed out. Mad at the committee? No … mad at the reviewers who didn't give a damn whether I was disqualified or not.
I'm sure you realize I could ramble on indefinitely. Mikey, no! Don't wrap it up. Keep going!
Finally, I see several newbies throwing their hats in the contest ring. That's what I love. These are the writers who are going to improve and grow rapidly. These are the writers taking advantage of what this site has to offer. Do you think they're afraid of Mikey, Dean and Domino? Well, they should be! But, they're not. So be it. See you in the booths!



This is a bit of a ramble. A topic which could be discussed for thousands of words no doubt. I'll leave it at this as a jumping off point. :)

Special Note: My work is the black background with the big letters. Now, if there is an abundance of blood and horrific images, that's DEAN! You've been making that mistake and costing me lots of fake money. Be cautious!

Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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