CHOOSING CONTEST WINNERS
How the Selection Process Works
We hold three contests each year: Short Story, Flash Fiction, and Poetry. We receive hundreds of entries, and the selection process is never easy. Here’s how it works at Gemini:
All entries are read blind—without the authors’ names or any identifying information. Readers see only the title and body of the story or poem.
On the first go-round we break the entries down into two categories: MAYBE and NO. We read each one with an open mind, and if there’s a spark or something that even remotely captures a reader’s interest, we put it into the MAYBE pile. For emailed entries we do this by clicking “Flag for Followup.” So what happens if we’re not sure? We click “Mark as Unread” and this entry gets a second chance too by going back into the original pile. We don’t call this the slush pile. We call it the gold mine.
Snail mailed entries that show promise get a check mark on the back of the envelope. Those that don’t pique our interest get an X. Any undecideds go back into the gold mine.
At last the final story or poem has been read and we move on to the second round, where just about any piece we open will be good. We are more at ease to enjoy the writing and fall into the world that it creates.
Every piece that’s been flagged or checked gets another read. If we like a piece, it gets re-flagged or re-checked. Its title, if email, might get written in a notebook to jog our memory, or on the envelope if snail mail. If an email entry doesn’t make this cut, we clear the flag. If a paper entry doesn’t survive, the checkmark gets turned into an X.
At this point the special pieces have started to rise. The ground starts to rumble. Excitement and electricity fill the air and much discussion is generated. Friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers are likely to hear a synopsis or a quote. In a way, the world becomes the judge.
By the third or fourth round we are down to a shortlist of perhaps a dozen or so entries and it is time to pick the winners. But wait! Just to be sure and fair, and perhaps because the editor is a bit obsessive, we randomly go through the NO entries and take another look.
This is how Beverly Akerman’s wonderful story “Pie” was discovered in our first Flash Fiction Contest. It hadn’t been flagged or even marked as unread. But we gave it another look and it leaped to the top when we realized it wasn’t just about a recipe for pie. Rather, it was about a woman who swore she would never again bake her son’s favorite pie, or any other pie, until he returned from war.
So here at Gemini we are very happy that nearly every entry gets a second look—and a second chance.
—David Bright, Editor