About the Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Contest

March 13, 2020 § 2 Comments


By Carma Hiland

Fourth Genre is offering a $1,000 cash prize for your best nonfiction essay when you submit to the Steinberg Essay contest, and we’ve just extended the deadline until the end of the month! As excited as we are about this contest, as writers ourselves, we also understand the inherent sense of unease that comes with writing contests. There’s something unsettling about bribing authors for their art. Is money the most appealing prize? Is it enticing enough to get an author to release their personal essay into the world, especially into the hands of unfamiliar judges?

Sending an essay into the abyss of the contest system can be stressful in many different ways. All of us on the Fourth Genre editorial team, myself included, have gotten to submission pages and reconsidered whether the submission fee—in this case, $20—is worth the small chance an essay will win or get published. And there are other questions we, as essay readers and writers, tend to ask, such as, should creative writing be so easily commodified? Does exchanging your writing for money cheapen the experience? Is the grueling process of drafting, revising multiple times, and submitting after hovering over the submit button for longer than you’re willing to admit worth the time for the payout?

Joey Franklin, co-editor at Fourth Genre, writes on this system of competition in an article published in the June 2019 issue of Poets & Writers. “For many of us, the real reward for entering a creative writing contest will not be money or publication,” he writes, “but rather the invaluable education that comes with finishing a piece of writing, and the particular clarity that comes from rejection.”

The greater reward is certainly the accomplishment of completing an essay that others may connect with and enjoy. Few of us choose to write out of any monetary motivation. But a little extra cash doesn’t hurt, nor does the chance at publication. In the spirit of clarity, here is a glance into the sorting process at Fourth Genre. During our regular reading period (Aug. 30 through Nov. 30) we receive around 900 essays; however, the normal submission rate for the Steinberg Essay contest drastically drops to 250 submissions. Take advantage of this. Many readers are involved in ranking each essay. Even if you don’t come away with the cash prize, all essays submitted during the contest are eligible to be published in the following issue.

Let us celebrate your writing. Don’t let your nonfiction molder in your documents folder; gain the education that comes with finishing a piece of writing and letting it out into the world. The Steinberg Essay contest is a great opportunity to do that—and could come with monetary rewards, too.

We have extended the deadline for Steinberg contest submissions to March 31st.

Carma Hiland is assistant managing editor of Fourth Genre.




§ 2 Responses to About the Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Contest

  • YogiMa says:

    I am not sure why you refer to the unease of bribing authors for their art. There is no bribe here. Seems to be more of a total crapshoot, a gamble. The publications / contest hosts earn money while over 200 writers are, dare I say, tricked out of $20 (assuming the writer can afford that fee to begin with). Contests that charge fees make me suspicious. You will only have one winner for the money prize, and the others will receive REJECTION as the return on their Original Essay + $20 investment. I think contests that charge submission fees are duping writers, behaving unethically, and creating unnecessary high-pedestal, superiority complexes. Writers humbly offer up their work for a few strangers to judge; PLUS, you charge a fee for that! It’s weird, ludicrous even. I am a fine writer, and I work hard. Honestly, contests that charge fees do not only make me feel uneasy; they make me feel patronized. Even if you promise to publish every essay, you are still patronizing writers, asking them to pay you then taking advantage of writers’ work to beef up your content and exposure. No thank you!

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