Growing a Contest

By Steve Grutzmacher

I clearly remember the day when Tom McKenzie came into my bookstore and asked if the Peninsula Pulse’s new writing contest could be named after my father. Tom was a regular visitor to the store who enjoyed talking about books. He would frequently ask for thoughts on the latest issue of the Peninsula Pulse – a newspaper he had co-founded with David Eliot – from my father when he was alive, or from my mother or me if we were in the store.

Through the years, the growth of the annual contest moved through several changes including a name change and the additions of photography and nonfiction to the existing poetry and fiction categories. Businesses and individuals have been gracious in their support of the contest from the outset. Still, the evolution was slow and though the number of entries in all categories grew steadily through the years, we still felt there were many more possibilities we had yet to explore.

This year, with Write On, Door County as a collaborator on the contest, many of the possibilities have been realized. Write On, Door County’s Executive Director Jerod Santek was an active participant in all aspects and, with their generous donation of stays at their house in Juddville, we were able to attract nationally recognized and published authors to judge our writing contests.

We significantly broadened our marketing efforts to reach a wider audience, which resulted in submissions from across the state, the region, and – in some cases – nationally. And we streamlined the submission process for both writing and photography.

With a record number of submissions this year we are already planning for next year’s contest. Most notably, we are changing the deadline for submissions next year to May 1, 2016. The reasons for the change are simple: the volume of submissions has grown to the point that our pre-screening panel needs more time to make their decision on what entries are sent to the judges for final selections and the additional time allows us to polish the final publication to a greater degree than we have in the past. The issue, itself, will still be published on the first Friday in August.

So writers and photographers you are formally on notice: start working now on your entries for the 2015 Hal Prize – the submission process will be the same and the website is ready to begin accepting your creative efforts (


The Hal Prize offers publication in the Peninsula Pulse’s annual Literary Issue, (circulation of 17,000). Cash awards of up to $150, a week stay at Write On, Door County (a literary retreat located in the heart of the Door Peninsula), a class at Peninsula School of Art (a nationally recognized year-round destination for artists and art appreciators), and other prizes will be awarded.


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