I've been sent details of a short story contest by the wonderful @LiteraryStriver and it got me thinking about not winning them.
It also got me thinking about what to send contests that exclude stories with profanity and gratuitous scenes, which is something I saw online at another competition source. "We don't want racism or blah blah." A short story doesn't make YOU racist or violent or profane. But they don't accept them?
It's dealer's choice, but unless the contest is aimed at children (either as readers or writers) I don't feel that any competition should include any censoring rules of this nature.
In fact, I strongly advise that you send any story contest with such a disbarment a package in the mail containing:
An acorn, buried in your own shit, with a little flag sticking out that reads "A Mighty Oak". Send them that.
Is Taxi Driver a good movie? You don't have to LIKE it to see its depth, the nuances in character and portrayal.
"Ooh, I don't like it."
I don't like it either. But **** off.
A contest judge ought to be obliged to read an entry through. Sometimes they won't. Sometimes they won't open up the box because, you know, it smells like shit. They think they know what's in there.
They see typos and spelling errors in the first paragraph and they think you don't know what the hell you're doing. They don't appreciate that it's your narrator who's responsible, for example. Huck Finn wouldn't pass the literacy test.
Sometimes they'll open up your entry, see the shit and the flag, and throw it in the garbage.
Sometimes, they'll notice that the flag reads A Mighty Oak.
But even then, a contest judge should not shy away from putting on a pair of gloves and getting dirty hands sifting through that shit, time permitting.
The discovery of an acorn may result in the judge realising that you have something to say. It could be the contest that gives the most comprehensive reading of each entry is the one which declares you the winner, the one that finds the acorn in the roughage and other detritus you've included, for the sake of your art. So don't feel bad if you don't win in a contest.
It's great if you do win, of course. But broadly speaking, there just isn't a lot of shit that people like.
So in summation, please take note of any contests that are judged by a committee of Care Bears, and dig out that short story about kittens. And best of luck!