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 March 1, 2015. 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 (TheHalPrize.com).
Though our love for brilliant, beautiful prose, poetry and photography has not changed – technology has…and in an effort to keep up and embrace all the convenience technology has to offer – The Hal Prize – formerly known as The Hal Grutzmacher’s Writers’ Expose and Photography Jubilee – made a few changes to its submission process this year.
Instead of asking writers to email their prose and poetry and photographers to send hard copies of their images via snail mail – we logged into a website called Submittable, which made life a little easier (though at times a bit confusing) for all.
There are no credentials to submit, few stipulations to adhere to – just some word count limits and a submission fee of $3 per category to help cover the costs of prizes and the convenience of Submittable.
A pre-screening committee including Jerod Santek, Steve Grutzmacher, Alissa Ehmke, Erin Monfils and Grace Johnson read through submissions on the website, which hid authors’ names. They met over pizza and beer to sift through the entries, presenting a handful of their top choices to our esteemed judges – Michael Perry, Lesley Kagen and Heid E. Erdrich – who made the final selections.
The photography judges – Len Villano and Kelly Avenson – popped into the office one afternoon and examined the submitted photographs one at a time on a large screen. They discussed lighting, composition and subject matter before agreeing on the photos that appear in this issue.
This issue you hold in your hands required the time, talent and expertise of too many individuals to name – but those who continue to write, to photograph, to bravely put out their creative work, make this issue possible.
Thank you to everyone who contributed and submitted!
– Sally Slattery