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Details On Chuck Palahniuk's Short Story Contest

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Chuck Palahniuk's short story contest on!

Recently I've noticed a lot of questions popping up in our inbox about our Writers' Workshop Anthology on the website.  So I figured I'd take a few minutes to provide some much needed details.

  1. So what exactly is this thing?

    First of all, this isn't primarily a 'short story' contest.  I made it the title of this thread because many people are referring to it this way and it is very important to clarify that it is not a contest, but something much, MUCH more exciting!  If you think about this venture we're doing as a contest, you're probably going to be let down.  This is a Writers' Workshop, meaning, you submit your original work to our website and it gets rated, read and reviewed by your peers.  Then, depending on its overall standing each month, it has the possibility of being selected to be screened by our editors.  If it makes it past that process, it goes before our final screeners.  And it it makes it past that, it goes to Chuck Palahniuk himself.

  2. What does Chuck do with the stories once he receives them? 

    Well, he reads them.  Sometimes he'll read the same story many times.  He then writes up about a 1 page review of the story.  He praises all its positive points and provides feedback and critique on some of its weaker points.   (*See a public example of this here.)

    Chuck's goal is to select the best stories at the end of the year and publish them in an Anthology.  Chuck has teased that he already has a publisher lined up.  He will then toss his name on it, as probably one of the editors, and he's even going to write an intro for it. 

    We'll have no details about the publisher, or any sort of contract, until closer to the end of the year.

    What I can tell you is that this is legit.  Chuck has big plans for all the writers he selects that includes more than just being published.  He revealed some of them to me recently and my jaw dropped.  But I'll just have to leave you with that tease for now.

  3. How many stories get selected?

    Each month our Writers' Workshop gets about 100 stories submitted from people just like you.  Most of these people have never been published before.  Some of them are quite talented, and Chuck doesn't have to give an abundance of notes for them.  While others greatly benefit from all of his pointers and direction. 

    At the end of the month, we narrow it down to the semi-finalist selections.  This is usually about 17 stories.  So figure about 17% of the month's load.  Those 17 stories are sent to the final two screeners and we then narrow it down to the 6 best.  (Chuck is having so much fun reading the stories, that he recently upped that from 5).
  4. Then what?

    Chuck reads, reviews and critiques the stories and sends them back to us.  We post them in the member's only portion of the site on this page, for other Workshoppers to learn from.  These selected writers then either decide to revise their stories to see if they improve by peer feedback --  or they take the lessons Chuck has given and apply them to a new story.
  5. Can you submit the same story twice?

    Chuck and I talked about this recently and he's honestly not that thrilled about reading revisions at this time.  So we sort of agreed that, if he likes a story enough the first time, and he's thinking about selecting it for the Anthology at the end of the year, then at that time he'll view revisions.  Until then, I would urge you to focus on your next story... and stay busy writing!
  6. What sort of material do you accept?

    The Workshop in general accepts mostly anything.  Essays, short fiction, screenplays, novel excerpts and poetry.   For the Anthology, we're only accepting short stories and novel excerpts that have not been previously published.  Also, the novel excerpt should read LIKE a short story.  It should feel like it could be a stand-alone piece.

  7. Do I have to have my story be included in this Anthology?  What if I just want to join the Writers' Workshop for peer review and to troubleshoot my work?

    That's perfectly fine.  This is opt-in only.  There's a little box you check off with a release form attached when you join our Workshop and submit a story. 

    Let's be clear about something:  This Anthology is a bonus to what is already a ground-breaking feature on our website.  The Writers' Workshop was developed on our site over 4 years ago.  And for 3 of those years, Chuck wrote original essays on writing that are now all available and archived for members to read and learn from.  We also have helpful Q&As with Chuck, essays about writing, and of course, a bustling community of writers all waiting to read your work.  (this is probably the most vital form of feedback you can ever expect).
  8. Yeah, but this can't all be free.

    It's not.  The Writers' Workshop costs $39.95 to join for the year.  This gets you a Premium Membership to the site and full access to all the features I listed above.  90% of the website is free.  The Writers' Workshop makes up the other 10%.

    Please understand that this all takes a lot of effort and man-power to maintain every month.  This is a serious venture with the potential to get a group of writers published in 2010 in a major Anthology with Chuck Palahniuk as the editor.  Not to mention, the lessons and tools that are available in our Workshop (from Chuck's 36 essays alone) are similar to what you'd be paying over $20,000 for in any graduate writing course or MFA writing program. 

    $39.95 is about $3.30 a month, folks.  That's about the price of a coffee at Starbucks!  So if you're serious about your writing.  If you want to take things to the next level.  If you want the possibility of being published and starting a career.  Or, if you're simply looking for some feedback from your peers, then come give us a visit.

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