The amazingly driven Phill English (of toothsoup fame) last week launched a brand new prize for emerging writers.

With limited publication opportunities and paid gigs in this writing biz, The Toothsoup Prize is a fantastic opportunity for those of us trying to get a foot in the door. It will provide writers with a readership, a bit of cash, and a publishing record.

Phill was kind enough to talk to me…

SvZ: So you’ve started a prize – tell us a bit about that. Who’s it for, what kind of submissions are you looking for, and how do we get involved?
PE:  Well, it’s called the toothsoup prize (or The Toothsoup Prize, whichever format floats your boat!) and it’s intended for Australian short story writers who have an unpublished story between 1,000 and 2,000 words. I wanted to be as broad and inclusive as possible, so I tried to make the guidelines pretty open.
At the risk of sounding obvious, I’m looking for great stories! More specifically, I’d love to read stories that are original and fascinating and creative and unexpected and moving and all those great properties that the short story format is able to possess. I want to be able to return to these stories again and again and be inspired by them.
You can get involved pretty simply by submitting your short story! But if you want to share the love, more exposure via Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, interviews such as this one would be greatly appreciated. You can also contact me directly via email (phill[at]toothsoup[dot]com) if you wish to make a private donation to the kitty (like one awesome person already has).

SvZ: What will happen to the pieces that win?
PE:   Each winner will be featured on the prize’s website as a past prize winner, and I’m hoping to be able to perform an interview and a reading with the author and host them in the same space. Eventually it’d be nice to put together an anthology of winners and honourable mentions after a year or so, but that’s a little way off yet. We’ll see how the first couple of rounds pan out first!

SvZ: Why start a prize? Aren’t there plenty of opportunities for writers already?
PE:   There are certainly a lot of opportunities for writers to get published, for sure. We have a thriving literature journal culture here in Australia, both in print and online spaces. But of the competitions out there, many are either formidably large, genre-gated, or invite so many entries that it may seem to writers to be a bit like a lottery. I’m hoping that the toothsoup prize will slot into the gap between those extremes and provide writers with incentive to write great stories and give them the thrill of being in the race for a nice little cash prize.

SvZ: In this weird, unstable atmosphere with arts funding cuts and speculation around major prizes’ future, do you think private, grass-roots competitions like yours will be the way things will happen in the future?
PE:  I think there will always be major prizes for established authors, for sure. But in terms of encouraging new and up-and-coming writers, the grant system can only support so many out of the thousands of talented individuals out there. Grass-roots comps like this might help to encourage those writers to get their work out there and read by their peers.

SvZ: You launched the prize last Wednesday – what’s the response been like so far?
PE:   Well I’ve already seen three entries hit the reading pile before the weekend, and two of those three donated to the prize pool. Adding to that a private donation of $20, and the prize has already been raised to $80! I’m sure I’ll see plenty more entries rolling in over the next couple of weeks, plus the usual avalanche closer to the closing date. I cannot wait to read them all.

Thanks, Phill!