Archive for the ‘Literary Prizes’ Category

I discovered the Pushcart Prize Anthology through one of my friends sometime back. After resisting temptation for a while, I yielded to it, and got a couple of Pushcart anthologies. After all didn’t Oscar Wilde say “I can resist anything except temptation“? 😊

I got two Pushcarts – the most recent edition and one of the older ones. I thought that the Pushcart Prize was like the O’Henry Prize – that, it was given for short stories. I was surprised to discover that this was not the case. The anthologies featured short stories, poems, essays and excerpts from books. They also weren’t placed in separate sections so that all the short stories were together and all the poems were together. They were placed randomly in no particular order. It added to the charm of the book, because once you finish reading a story or a poem, you have to turn the page to find out what is coming up next. Sometimes the contents of anthologies are organized by authors’ names in alphabetical order. None of that here. Everything was random. I loved that, because this is the way we discover new books, writers, stories, poems – randomly. The Pushcart anthology reflected that.

In one of the books, there was an introduction by the editor Bill Henderson in which he described how the Pushcart Prize and anthology came into being – how it started as an act of rebellion against big publishers who routinely rejected the work of new talented writers and so Pushcart decided to promote new writers and small presses through the Pushcart Prize and anthology. On the way, Bill Henderson takes potshots at the internet and bloggers which made me smile 😊

One of the things I discovered about Pushcart which I loved was this. It is an anthology which is published annually in December. So you can read it during the December holiday season. It is around 500 – 600 pages long. So it is reasonably hefty and it will entertain and enlighten the reader for a while. The most important thing I discovered was this. There doesn’t seem to be any Kindle or digital edition. It is a proper physical book which you can hold in your hand and read. So, no monthly literary magazine, one anthology every year, available as a traditional book only. They have continued this tradition for more than 50 years now. It is very beautiful, traditional, old-fashioned, charming. The Pushcart must be one of the last such literary annuals out there. I don’t know how long they can keep up with this tradition (there must be a strong temptation by some of the younger editors to come out with a digital edition, but I don’t think that will happen as long as Bill Henderson is around), but we should celebrate this as long as it lasts.

I want to say something about the small presses featured in the book. Most of the presses were unknown to me. This is how it should be, because this anthology promotes small presses. But I was surprised by a few names, especially Granta and The Paris Review. These two might have started out as unknown small presses, but I don’t think they are small now. I don’t think they promote new writers. If you are a new writer and you send your work to Granta or The Paris Review, you can be sure it will be rejected, even if your work is good. There is no difference now between Granta and The Paris Review and the big guys like The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review or The New York Review of Books. These are all guys who reject new writers. I also saw McSweeney’s featured in one of the Pushcart anthologies. McSweeney’s started out as a literary magazine which published work which other literary magazines had rejected. But that is all in the past. These days, if a new writer sends their work to McSweeney’s, it is most probably going to get rejected 😊

Being a writer is hard. Because most of the time, a writer’s work is going to get rejected. I have seen writers who have published multiple books through leading publishers, whose new work – short stories, poems, novel manuscripts – routinely gets rejected. I don’t know why this happens but it does. Also, for 99% of writers, their writing is not going to pay their bills. So they get a regular day job which helps them pay their bills, and after coming back home from work, they indulge in their passion, which is writing. With a high rate of rejection and low economic prospects, it is only a brave person who ventures into writing. But inspite of the odds stacked against them, many writers indulge in their passion and spend a lot of time and energy creating beautiful works of literary art. The only reason that they do this is because of the love they have for their work. They need all the encouragement that they can get. It is so wonderful that small presses promote such writers and there is a Pushcart Prize which celebrates those writers and small presses.

Well, long essay done 😊 Now I have to get started on the two anthologies. So excited!

Have you read Pushcart anthologies? What do you think about them?

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