Screw-ups in the Million Writers Award

I have received a number of e-mails about screw-ups with this year's list of Million Writers Award notable stories. Many of these mistakes are minor--misspellings of either journals or authors' names and wrong links to stories. As I have been made away of these mistakes I have corrected them.

But as many people have pointed out, a couple of stories didn't appear to meet the guidelines for this year's awards. First, there seems to have been a story or two listed which were published prior to 2007. This is a mistake, but not one I take too seriously. Let me explain: some journals (such as the Barcelona Review) do not archive their stories in a way which lets the judges easily determine when a story was published. It also happens that judges can make mistakes and miss a story's publication date, meaning they might select a story which was not published in the preceding year. When any of this happens, my view is to not remove the story from the notable list PROVIDED the story wasn't also listed in a previous year's MWA. The main goal of the MWA is to bring attention to deserving authors. As such, I have little desire to remove a story because a judge messed up the story's publication date.

Another issue that has come up is that some of the notable stories this year don't meet the MWA's 1000 word minimum. The MWA rules state that the genre of short stories called flash fiction or short shorts is not eligible for the MWA. The reason for this is simple: When I started the MWA, I felt that the award should be used to promote longer fiction on the web. Partly this was because I am not a fan of flash fiction, and partly because I felt online flash fiction was already receiving a good deal of attention.

This year one notable story, Maryanne Stahl's "Your Hair, Your Weight" in Per Contra review, is well under 1000 words--clocking in at exactly 208 words. I asked the preliminary judge who selected this story what happened and she told me she'd forgotten about the 1000 word limit. Unfortunately, I also goofed and failed to notice the story's length when I was compiling the notable story list. Because the story is so far below the word minimum, I feel it would be unfair to leave it as a notable story and have now removed it from the list. I apologize to Maryanne and Per Contra for this mistake. The only good thing is that Maryanne is already a highly accomplished author, so I don't think this will derail her writing career in the slightest.

This leaves the final issue, which is that several people have noticed other stories on the list which appear to be slightly below the 1000 word minimum. In these cases, I will not remove the stories. I do not ask the judges to do a word count on stories--if they are close to the minimum, then they will remain. Again, this gets back to promoting deserving authors.

Now before people start harassing me because of my well-known dislike of flash fiction and how this episode marks me as a hypocrite or, worse, a sloppy editor, everyone should know that I was approached several months ago by an author and editor about doing a flash-fiction version of the MWA. We both agreed it was a good idea but that we didn't have the time to do it this year. If all goes well, this flash fiction MWA will be launched early next year alongside the regular award. And in even better news, I won't be running this flash MWA! So my biases against the flash genre will be kept well away from the award.

I hope this clarifies everything and settles any disputes about this year's award.