It never ceases to amaze me how subjective the business of writing is; especially when it comes to the business of fiction writing and getting published, both in the long form and the short form. What may turn off one person completely could seem to be the best thing ever to someone else, and vice-versa.
I mention this because as someone who has been struggling to break into the ranks of published authorship in both long and short form, I was excited beyond the point of reasonableness (Reasonability? Reasonablosity?) to discover that two of my short stories published last year have been selected as finalists for a 2009 Derringer Award!
The Derringers are given out annually by the Short Mystery Fiction Society, "to honor excellence in the creative artform of short mystery and crime stories," according to their website. The awards were instituted in 1997 and have been given out annually ever since. Previous winners include Carol Kilgore, Clark Howard, J.A. Konrath and Patricia Harrington.
And get this: previous runners-up include names like Jeffrey Deaver, Bill Pronzini and Duane Swierczynski, so no matter what happens, as a finalist, I'm truly honored and excited to be in such great company.
Both of my stories selected as Derringer finalists reside in the same category - Best Short Story, defined by the SMFS as any story between 1001 and 4000 words - meaning they are competing against each other, as well as against four other finalists. Hopefully this means my chances of winning are twice as good, rather than half as good, but who really knows?
My two Derringer Finalists are: "Independence Day," originally published in the July/August 2008 issue of Crime and Suspense, and "Regrets, I've Had a Few," which appeared in the September 2008 issue of Trei Literary magazine, the only issue the magazine ever released before disappearing.
If you'd like to check them out, "Independence Day" is archived at the Crime and Suspense site, and I've posted "Regrets, I've Had a Few" at my own website. I'd be thrilled if you'd like to read them.
About the subjectivity involved in this writing gig, it's interesting to me that one of my Derringer finalist stories was accepted by the first venue to which I sent it, while the other one bounced around for a while, being rejected five times before finally finding a home.
I like to think that my lack of success at getting agents and publishers to read my novel manuscripts is similar to the situation regarding "Regrets, I've Had a Few." I continued submitting this story because I believed in it. I felt strongly that it was quality work and sooner or later someone would recognize that. Eventually someone did, and now it's a Derringer Award finalist.
The moral of the story, I suppose, is obvious, at least to me. Work hard and sooner or later the breaks will come. If you're writing and submitting and not getting anywhere, keep going! The next thing you send out might just be the one that takes off and sends you on your way. I really believe that, and you should too.
By the way, the Short Mystery Fiction Society is open to everyone, writers and readers alike. If you're reading this blog, you're probably a good candidate for membership. You can check them out here. And, no, I'm not trolling for votes for my stories - to be eligible to vote for this year's Derringer awards, you have to have been a member prior to February 1 of this year. But if you join now, you can vote for next year's most deserving stories...