June 2003 – Notes on Being a Nominee

I don’t like awards. I don’t watch the Oscars. I don’t pay attention to the Emmy’s. I don’t even really know what a Grammy is. I read an article once that said that the entertainment industry gives itself awards an average of once a day.

Of course, I’m always thrilled when one of my friends is nominated for something. I’ve had friends nominated for Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Edgar Awards, Jeff Awards, Tony Awards and even a Pulitzer. I’m happy for them and their success.

I try not to get too involved in the awards game. Sometimes I send my stories out to the places you need to send them to be considered, and sometimes I forget. It’s hard to keep up. There are the Edgar Awards, the Shamus Awards, the Agathas, the Hammetts, the Anthonys, the Macavitys and several others I’m sure I’m not thinking of. And those are just the ones for mystery writers.

That said, I’m pleased to announce that I was recently nominated for a Derringer Award for best short-short story of the year.

The Derringer has been around since 1997 and is given by the Short Mystery Fiction Society. The nominated story was “Shark Infested Pudding” and it was published in the November 2002 issue of a web-zine called Judas.

This award nomination is important to me because I had a lot of trouble getting “Shark Infested Pudding” published. I wrote it several years ago and several different magazines and anthologies rejected it. This was frustrating because “Shark Infested Pudding” was one of the first times that I felt I got it right.

When I fumble around with writing, I’m usually not happy with the results. My completed stories never quite work for me, they’re always a little bit off. There have only been a couple of times where I’m happy with the final results, where I feel like the story does what I want it to do. “Shark Infested Pudding” was one of those times.

So there I was with this story I was proud of and nobody wanted it. All of the bigwig and head-honcho writers say that you should always get paid for your work, and that’s a good policy (in theory). I’d gone through all the high-paying markets with this story and hadn’t had any luck. I finally sent it to Anthony Dauer at Judas, and Anthony accepted it. I was thrilled, but also a little let down. Judas didn’t pay for stories. I was giving “Shark Infested Pudding” away for free.

Once it was published, people read the story and told me they liked it. I remembered to send the story in to be considered for a Derringer and I went on with my life.

And then I got the nomination.

I didn’t win the Derringer Award, but by the time the winners were announced, it didn't matter. The nomination served as a small validation for a story that nobody wanted that had to be given away for free.