QUESTION: For the Pearl S. Buck Category, can one submit a manuscript of 20 poems (under 5,000 words) about social change, wherein each poem draws its inspiration from a singular experience in the life of the poet and, as a whole, speaks to social change?
ANSWER: Typically in the contest, each submission is one poem or one prose piece per entry. However, in the topic categories, such as Pearl S. Buck, Appalachian, The Flood, or Inspirational, the rules of the contest as written do not necessarily disallow it. The topic categories that accept prose or poetry just say "up to 5000 words, (prose or poetry)" which one could argue would not necessarily prevent multiple poems as part of an overall manuscript focused on a single topic. One could also make the point that prose writers have up to 5000 words at their disposal, while most poems would come nowhere close to that word count. As contest coordinator, I also just like the idea of a small group of poems that are dedicated to a single topic. I think it would be good to try this out.
Without changing any rules, for 2017 the special topic categories of the West Virginia Writers Contest (such as Inspirational, Flood, Appalachian, and Pearl S. Buck) will also accept limited collections of poems that must be entirely about the topic for which they are submitted. By "limited" here's what we're saying:
- All poems within the manuscript submission must be on theme to the category. These should not be poems that only loosely fit the theme, but poems which reinforce one another to speak directly toward the category's theme.
- The word count for the manuscript of poems may not exceed the 5000 word limit of the category and that word count must be indicated below the category in the upper right corner of the first page, as in accordance with contest guidelines.
- The entry fee to do this is the standard category entry fee of $10 per manuscript.
- All poems within the submission must be previously unpublished, unless the previously published poems account for less than 25 percent of the whole (as in accordance with our eligibility rules as stated on the contest rules page of the entry form).
- No poem within the collection can have previously won a prize from West Virginia Writers, Inc. (excluding honorable mentions).
- Judges for those categories will be instructed that any collection submissions should be judged as a whole work and not by their individual parts; meaning if one or more of the poems is not up to the quality standards decided by the judges, that poem or poems may drag down the score for the whole. So choose your words wisely. Similarly, if a judge finds there are poems present which are off topic, that too may play a factor in their ranking of the work.
- Submissions such as this should be stapled together and have an overall collection title.
- Regular poetry-only categories of the contest (Short Poetry, Long Poetry, Emerging Writers Poetry) still allow only one individual poem per entry.