The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

August 23, 2009

Presenting: The Watery Grave Invitational

I may be crazy. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I am not now that I will be when this is all over.

Yep, I've thought about it and thought about it and the more I think about it, the more needlessly complex it becomes, but that's how it is when the word 'invitational' gets attached. But I like to think that is what will make this writing competition a little different from the rest.

The Drowning Machine is proud (and petrified) to host the first ever Watery Grave Short Story Invitational. (BTW, isn't that a terrific photo? Brought to you courtesy of the generous author/photographer at Toledo Perspectives.)

The competition will have three phases. Phase One will be deciding which authors to invite, and this is going to be the part that will give me acid indigestion. I have no idea whether I will be swamped with entries or get none. Assuming seppuku does not occur, Phase Two will be the issuing of the invitations and accepting entries. Regardless of the number of applicants, I will issue only ten invitations to submit an original crime fiction story of no more than 2500 words. If I don't receive as many as ten applicants, I will supplement invitations based on my web reading this year. Phase Three will be the judging and announcement of the winners. The winner will receive $25 US; second place will receive $15, and third place will get $10.

Here's how (I hope) this will work, the rules thereof, the details, the caveats, and general what-have you:
1. In order to apply for an invitation the author must have a crime fic story of no more than 2500 words already published (as in posted for the public to read) in an e-zine before twelve noon EST, September 8, 2009. Your story posted on your own blog does not qualify.

2. From twelve noon EST, September 1, 2009, until twelve noon EST, September 8, 2009, applications for an invitation may be submitted in the following manner:
Email a link to your short work of crime fic (the link must connect to the e-zine posting of your story) to Please don't submit your entry early or late, they'll go to spam and die there. Your subject should simply say FICTION SUBMISSION, and the body of your email needs to contain only your name, the name of your story, and the link to your story. Do not send original material unless and until you are invited to do so.
3. An author may submit only one link. Not one at a time, just one link per author. So choose your best work, as long as it's not longer than 2500 words, because you only get one shot at an invitation. I reserve the right to close submissions early if, by some bizarre twist of fate, there are more than 100 applications. I can only read so much in a reasonable span of time, after all.

4. I will, repeat, I WILL read every story submitted, given that all the rules have been followed. Worthy - and I am the Sole Arbiter of Worthy - authors will get their names dropped into a hat. No rankings at this time. From the hat I will randomly select and invite ten authors to compete for the first ever (notice I don't say annual) Watery Grave Invitational.

5. Since I have no idea how much time will be consumed reading the submissions, I cannot be certain of the date that invitations (and apologies) will be sent. I'm shooting for October 15, but I'll post an update when I have a better idea.

6. Authors should not expect any feedback on their linked stories. I don't have time for it, and I'm not an editor. Anyway, you're only doing this for the money and the publicity (assuming there is any), right? Besides, you won't know whether your name went in the hat to be randomly chosen. You could have the written the finest story on the web to date and still have Lady Luck give you the cold shoulder. So if you don't get an invitation, don't assume I didn't like your story.

7. Once invitations are extended and accepted, the invitees will have two short weeks to submit an original work, never before published. Again, less than 2500 words. If an invitation is declined, another name comes out of the hat. If you're optimistic about your chances of having your name drawn from a hatful of who knows how many, go ahead and start writing because:

8. There is no theme. The only requirements are that the story be an original, previously unpublished work of crime fiction, and be less than 2500 words.

9. Invitees should then submit those stories via e-mail, as an attachment. I use OpenOffice so I should be able to open and read most word processing applications but if you have any doubt, use Word. Be sure to include your name and email address on at least the first page of your story. Formatting? Follow your usual format. Remember: wait for an invitation!

10. Once I have all the submissions from the invitees, I'll need another two weeks to read, ponder, evaluate and generally see if I can't get some of you to work up a few nerves. At any rate, I'll post an update on the blog as well as e-mail you about the date winners will be announced. When winners have been announced, they should e-mail me with a mailing address so that I can send the prizes out.

11. When I post the winners' names, I will actually post the names of the top five entrants. That's so that if I ever get another wild hair and decide to do this again, the top five will have automatic bids to that Invitational. The above procedure would be repeated (with time frames adjusted according to my experience with this venture) to get another ten invitees, so there would actually be 15 invitees in any future competition. (Dream on!)

12. I insist on being allowed to post the winner's story for a period of at least 30 days. Whether 2nd and 3rd place entrants want their stories posted on this blog will be entirely up to them. I'm happy to do it. Anyone who wishes to have his story removed from my blog, no problem, as long as the winning entry has been posted for at least 30 days. I'll leave your story in place forever unless you ask me to remove it. If you want your story removed, just send me an e-mail. Other than the 30-day posting of the winning entry, all rights are your own.

13. Criteria for judging? You should tell me a good crime story, don't make me wade through crap prose, use your spell checker (or better still, a dictionary). I disapprove of writers who don't use quotation marks for dialogue; single or double is your choice, but don't make me work at distinguishing dialogue. I don't care if your story is noir, hardboiled, cozy, traditional, metaphysical, science fiction -- whatever, just so it's crime fiction, right? Entertain me.
See, didn't I tell you it was needlessly complex? Okay, ready, set -- go look at your web stories and decide which to send me a link. BUT NOT BEFORE 12:00 PM EST, SEPTEMBER 1, 2009. Good luck and good writing!


  1. Oh, I'm liking this! Great idea, Corey.

  2. You know about that gap between concept and execution, right? I have this awful sinking feeling in the pit of the old tum-tum.

  3. Well, hope you don't mind that I put the word out on Twitter to my followers about this--and if Jen, who has twice as many as me, RT's...

    We're pulling for you, man.

  4. Thank you. I think... Now I'm really scared.

  5. you're killing me with the word count constriction

  6. You know what Shakespeare said about brevity, Keith. My personal saying about it is that brevity is a luxury for the lazy, i.e. me.

  7. I'm in. You'll get WAY more than ten submissions, don't worry!

  8. Eric, I am absolutely delighted to have you on board.

  9. I guess one Limey should have a bash.

  10. I know where all of you live. And I'm coming for each and every one of you. I'm in and Greta might be coming with me.

  11. You're going down, Christopher! Keith-o-mania is going to be running wild! (Yeah, I'm a huge dork, I just used a pro wrestling reference for intimidation purposes and did it badly.)

  12. Lee: At least one Limey.

    Christopher: I don't know who/what Greta is, but I'll have the welcome mat out.

    Keith, Keith, Keith... Trash talk from you? ... Keep up the good work!

    You are all making me feel much better about this particular wild hair.

  13. I got the reference, Keith, and, yes, you did it pretty badly.

    Corey: Ouch! You wound me with that. How soon you forget. You read about her this year, as evidenced by your list of shorts that you've read this year. Now I know I'll have to figure out a way to reintroduce her.

  14. Christopher, I apologize for my lamentable memory. Mild Cognitive Impairment doesn't begin to cover it. I will (attempt to) make amends by re-read 'Greta' today.

  15. Well, $US, if that's worth anything these days.

  16. I'm back. Haven't written much the last two months so- I'm in.

  17. I'm happy to see your name among the interested, Paul.

  18. I'll be joining in the fun shortly.
    Hey, guys - Innit true there's a separate hat for the Brits? Fair's fair - eh, Paul n Lee?

  19. Joking, of course. Thanks for having me,
    (he said, backtracking!).

  20. I was just thinking, if you came up with, oh, maybe another 10-15 UK applicants, we could talk about a separate hat...