- Danny Walls.
One of the side attractions to membership in the Fly Fish Discussion List is the chance to show off your writing ability in the annual fiction contest. The reasons I started the contests were twofold.
The first was simply that, historically, fly fishing literature is replete with fly fishing fiction, from such wonderful writers as Sparse Grey Hackle, Robert Travers, Rodrick Haig-Brown and many others. There are a few contemporary writers still carrying the torch, with John Gierach arguably being the most popular and well known. However, in the fly fishing magazine trade, fiction pieces are virtually non-existent. If an article is not a kiss-and-tell, destination or how-to piece it doesn't get published. I find that highly disappointing, shortsighted and a real disservice to the fly fishing community. Magazine editors say that fiction doesn't sell, that the public doesn't want it. I respectfully disagree.
The second is that I am a wannabe writer and I was sure that I was not alone among the FF@ membership. If even the pros can't get fiction published in the real world how much chance did we wannabes have? Therefore I decided that we could write for each other if for no one else, and would have a place where we could publish what we wanted and not have to worry about rejection from hide-bound editors.
I wrote to the list that fiction pieces would be welcome and encouraged their posting, but very few were posted. I decided that to encourage people to post fiction that a strictly-for-fun contest was the way to go and so announced the first one in either 1995 or 1996(I'm too lazy to look it up). I freely admit that I did a poor job of running that one, especially in the prize department. However we were treated to a beautiful story from Bob Spencer, "Afternoon on Bass Lake" which won first place and is, in my opinion, one of the best in the history of the contest.
Subsequent contests were better run, I began selecting panels of judges instead of asking for members to vote, and many members donated prizes for the contestants. It has been run that way ever since and very successfully so. The rules to the contest are very simple, any thing is fair game as long as it has some connection, no matter how tenuous, with fishing (not even limited to fly fishing), and language should be appropriate to the list membership. We have both prose and poetry divisions, and each submission has to be posted to the list for everyone to enjoy. It is a real treat for me to read the submissions (not to mention writing some myself) , and the one thing that has surprised me is the high quality of the writing. We have had some excellent, and I believe very publishable , stories and poems submitted over the years. FF@ has a very talented membership. The winners for the past few years can be found on the FF@ web site under the " Member's Musing " section, http://www.uky.edu/~agrdanny/flyfish/main.htm. "Afternoon on BassLake" and some other earlier fiction pieces (and non-fiction ) can be found there also.
The fiction contest is near and dear to my heart and will continue to be a part of FF@ as long as I am list owner and themembers want it to be. Write on!
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