Judges’ Submission Tips From the 2015 Celtic Mythology Short Story Competition

kaboompics.com_Top view of desk with typewriter

In September 2015, we initiated our inaugural Celtic Mythology Short Story Competition. At the time, the plan was to publish a compilation that included the best of the submitted stories but also some explanatory commentary (in terms of the mythology/folklore aspects covered in the stories). This was, we figured, an effective means, not only of disseminating good cultural information, but encouraging authors of Celtic heritage to draw on aspects of their background they might not otherwise have previously considered.

The three criteria we used for judging the submitted stories were as follows:

  •  Celtic mythology or folklore forms a fundamental element of the story (i.e. the characters can be characters from Celtic mythology, the action can take place in a mythological location, mythological concepts can be used etc.).
  • Any Celtic folklore or mythological reference used should be as authentic as you can make it (for example; no dedicated pantheon of Irish Gods, no werewolves or vampires etc.)
  • A compelling story/theme, engaging characters. You’re a writer – you know what we mean

In total, 37 submissions were accepted, a relatively small number for such a competition but then, understandable given that we were an unknown entity and had never run this type of competition before. This time around we’re hoping to increase that number slightly.

In order to help those authors who might be considering an entry for the forthcoming 2016 Celtic Mythology Short Story Competition, the three judges recently met over a bottle of wine (amazing how fast that became a tradition!) and compiled a number of guiding notes that they were (roughly) able to agree on.

(1) Mythology/Folklore are not the same as fairy tales: Stories of beings known as ‘na daoine maithe‘ or ‘fairies’ form a part of folklore but the contemporary representation of them really has nothing to do with Celtic culture. We actually received queries from two people who wanted to submit stories from their kids (again, thinking that this was a ‘fairy tale’ competition). They were pretty miffed when I tried to explain the above which just goes to show how little people understand about Celtic culture out there. Having said that, the winning story from last year’s batch hit the whole ‘fairy’ aspect perfectly.

(2) Submitting a story based on lesser known aspects of Celtic mythology will probably give you an advantage: Of the 37 submissions we received last year, a full quarter of these were based on the Selkie (Enough with the Selkies already!) and we essentially chose two of these because they were very good. Fair enough, they were last year’s mythological ‘Bête du jour’ but you might want to broaden your subject appeal.

(3) You might want to submit a story based on (or using) cultural aspects that weren’t already covered in the 2016 Celtic Mythology Collection: This is just generic advice. Given that our stated aim is to provide information on different aspects of Celtic mythology, you’ve probably worked out that something different to last year’s subjects is probably a good thing. That said, if your story on Selkies (sigh) is good enough, we’re still very interested.

(4) Don’t confuse Vampires with Leannán Sidhe: This creature came second in the list of most covered cultural elements but there seemed to be a lot of misunderstanding around what a leannán sidhe was. To be fair, these are two relatively similar concepts but they come from two very difficult cultures (and in fact, the leannán sidhe is actually a kind of Gaelicised derivation of the Belle Dame Sans Merci muse tradition). WB Yeats really deserves a kick up the arse for confusing the two of these (which really is a good lead into the next tip).

(5) Avoid writing a story based on Cultural Advice from W.B. Yeats: W.B. Yeats’ books are regularly published by publishers because they’re out of copyright protection and there are no royalties to be paid for the use. Having said that, W.B. Yeats’ books are a BAD source to go looking for culturally accurate advice. I’ll repeat that in case you haven’t got the message. W.B Yeats = BAD!!!
This Shite that W.B Yeats Says article explains a little better what I’m talking about.

(6) Edit your stories (or at least get someone independent to peer review them) before you submit: Last year’s winner (Sighle Meehan) had, I think, three minor editing issues which gives some indication of what you’re up against. There’s always going to be some minor editing needed of course, and if we really, really like your story we’ll work with you on finalising it (but VERY rarely). There was one excellent shortlisted story that we wanted to publish in last year’s batch but, in the end, this just wasn’t sufficiently well-edited to get through to the final round (which was a shame – as it had great potential).

(7) Now – Did I mention the whole Selkie thing?

At the end of the day, of course, it all comes down to a matter of judgment (hence, the … em …judges). It also has to be said that, even between the three judges, there was some substantial disagreement on the final stories included in the collection (except for the first three prize-winners) although we did everything we could to be consistent and fair.

Hopefully this article provides some useful guidance but, without doubt, the best thing you could do is to download the free digital copy of the first Celtic Mythology Collection and check for yourself.

The Celtic Mythology Short Story Collection 2016

It gives us immense pleasure to announce the launch of the 2016 IRISH IMBAS CELTIC MYTHOLOGY SHORT STORY COMPETITION .
Submissions will be accepted for this competition from 1 September 2016 to 10 December 2016.

celtic-mythology-short-story-competition
This is the second year that we’re holding this competition and we’re coming into it a little wiser, a little less ambitious than the last time around but just as enthusiastic. Despite the almost overwhelming amount of work that went into it, the initial competition was a success (from our perspective, at least). Although this was a new and untested competition, we received a very respectable number of submissions, many of then of excellent quality. It was also particularly enjoyable to work with a number of new writers on the cusp of launching their writing careers. We’ll be watching their ongoing progress with interest and a certain satisfaction that we’ve helped that to some degree.

For us, a key objective of the competition was to try and increase the understanding of Celtic culture. We don’t really have any delusions that we’ve come anyway close to achieving that but we do feel we’ve made an important first step. By merging the creative short stories of the authors with our own cultural expertise, we’ve managed to release a free product that we’re exceptionally proud of and which fulfils the vision we established two years ago – cultural narratives that are entertaining and informative at the same time.

In terms of the 2016 competition details, we have made some minor changes (predominantly extending the word count to a maximum of 4000 words) but the value of the prizes are the same as last year.

First Prize

$500 and story published in Irish Imbas Celtic Mythology Collection

Second Prize

$250 and story published in Irish Imbas Celtic Mythology Collection

Third Prize

$100 and story published in Irish Imbas Celtic Mythology Collection

What We’re Looking For

Once again, any kind of fiction short story will be considered (action, romance, drama, humour etc.) as long as they meet the following criteria:

  •  Celtic mythology or folklore forms a fundamental element of the story (i.e. the characters can be characters from Celtic mythology, the action can take place in a mythological location, mythological concepts can be used etc.)
  • Any Celtic folklore/mythological reference or context used should be as authentic as you can make it
  • A compelling story/theme, engaging characters.

Next week, we’ll be publishing a blog post that summaries learnings from the judges that might prove useful to potential entrants. Otherwise, the necessary details can be found here at Rules and Conditions. Important dates to note are:

  1. Submissions will be accepted from midnight 1 September 2016 
  2.  Submissions close at midnight 10 December 2016
  3. The shortlist will be announced at irishimbasbooks.com and on the Irish Imbas Books Facebook page before 1 January 2017. An Irish Imbas Books Twitter account has also been set up and we hope to provide updates and commentary on that throughout the competition.
  4. Prize money will be paid to the authors of the three prize-winning stories in February 2017
  5. The Irish Imbas Celtic Mythology Collection will be released in March 2017.

Update on Forthcoming Productions

Yes, its that time of year again when we give some indication of where things are at on the (cough, cough) ‘production line’.

Fionn: the Adversary (Fionn mac Cumhaill Series: Book 4):
It’s been something of a frustrating month with this book. Although I’ve been working quietly on the various scenes, given its burgeoning length I’m starting to wonder whether this is going to be split into two separate books. If you receive the newsletter you’re probably aware that plot wise, the two key protagonists are moving in different directions which creates some nice tension but also two different storylines. One is very much following an action-adventure story along similar lines to the previous books, whereas the other is travelling more of a character development/mystery path.

I still have to make up my mind on how best to approach this and it’ll very much depend on how the writing flows (and where it flows) goes over the next month before we close down for the month of August.

If you really, really want a taster of what it looks like you can download the first chapter (sorry PDF only) here at: Fionn: The Adversary but that’ll have to do until later this year.

Audiobooks:
We’ve started development on the next audiobook (The Irish Muse) which should be available on this website later in the year next, probably sometime in September. We’re seriously considering the possibility of starting Beara Dark Legends as an audio series later this year.

The Celtic Mythology Short Story Competition 2016:
This is all set for launch later this month although we’ll be accepting submissions from September until December again this year. The final details will be here on the Competition Page at the end of July 2016, dependent on the finalisation of the cover illustration. Meanwhile, here’s a sneak peak at the initial ‘concept’ drawing for that. Can you guess what it is? [Clue – Not the Children of Lir]

Concept 1

Other Stuff:

We’ve been commissioning a whole bunch of images for book covers and other projects over the last month or so. The biggest of these (a complete redesign of the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series covers) involves one designer doing a photography shoot with a model outside of Dublin. This was, in fact, meant to be completed by now but, unfortunately, we’ve had to delay it due to trouble with Vikings.

It turns out that the series ‘Vikings’ – much of which is filmed in Ireland – has about 2500 extras for the current season and they’ve pretty much snatched up every scrap of costume clothing to be found in the country. We were going to give them some grief on this but, in the end, demurred because “they were fierce scary looking feckers”.