If You Can’t Be Great, Be Different

Today, I was speaking with a friend of mine about my submission for #AmtrakResidency. This is a new writing residency that has had a lot of attention on social media, as well as a variety of newspapers and magazines.

Every writer and their momma’s pet cat are applying it seems. However, I’ve also noticed a surprising trend: people who have commented saying that they accidentally made an error in their submission and so re-applied. If the judging panel for #AmtrakResidency decides that any error invalidates these applications, then there are quite a number of authors whose work won’t even be considered. This perhaps highlights the importance of reading and understanding the submission process and official rules, writing a draft application, and editing said draft.

Many writers, from comments I’ve seen discussing the #AmtrakResidency, have submitted bucolic, train-filled writings. While the #AmtrakResidency entry form does state, “#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing ” they don’t actually require anything about a train in your sample. A part of me wonders how bucolic and train-focused they actually want the writings to be. Given there is really no history of examples as this is the inaugural contest, and therefore one can’t say, “oh they usually accept writings with such-and-such elements”, is it possible to go overboard with “writing what we think they want” in submissions? Or might it be better to submit something that may buck the trend, but that one will definitely be noticed for (as long as it follows the official rules)?

As my friend said, if you want to get noticed but fit in, you’ll have to be great. [Insert a brief allusion to the writings of Faulkner]. If you can’t be great, be different. 

© Melissa (Mel) Jordan and Melsj, 2011-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melissa (Mel) Jordan and Melsj with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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