The contest, in its 43rd year, is named after nationally published author and Cal Poly professor Al Landwehr, and winners are published in “Byzantium,” Cal Poly’s literary annual.
Submissions will be taken in the form of fiction and poetry, and there are cash prizes for the winners: $100 to first place, $75 to second place and $50 will be awarded to third-place winners. In addition to cash and publication, the winners for the poetry and fiction sections of the annual will be showcased in a reading later this year.
But more than cash and his name in a book, biomedical engineering senior and last year’s first-place fiction winner Aaron Rowley won confidence.
“Really, winning was a validation of my creative process,” he said. “And it was a source of motivation to keep writing.”
Rowley, graduating at the end of this quarter, was published in “Byzantium” every year he submitted. After his first place win last year, he finished a novel, which will be published this summer.
While Rowley won’t be submitting this year, he said he was grateful for the confidence boost that came with his “Byzantium” achievements. Being selected and receiving such high praise from the selection committee inspired him to continue to pursue writing, he said.
Art and design junior Allie Rogge submitted poetry during her freshman year on a whim and was selected as an editor’s choice.
“I had never heard of ‘Byzantium,’ so I thought it was some easy thing I could make quick cash from,” she said. “I was so wrong.”
She recalled being blown away at the reading, feeling incredibly grateful to be published alongside campus greats like Rowley, especially as a freshman. Though Rogge wasn’t selected last year, she’s hoping her time in poetry classes will make her work stronger and publishable this year.
“I think I’ll have some worthy stuff,” she said. “I hope so.”
All entries must be typed, up to five poems may be submitted and short stories must be between two to 30 pages. Writers must be currently enrolled at Cal Poly, and winners will be expected to participate in the reading and celebration during spring quarter.
Submissions are judged by a panel of English professors, none of whom are creative writing professors. Adviser of the contest and English professor Kevin Clark said the creative writing professors know the students and their writing styles, so to make the contest as unbiased as possible, they pull in three or four professors to judge fiction, and three or four others to judge poetry. The authors submit their work under pseudonyms to maintain anonymity as well.
“Students can expect to be judged on command of language, but each judge really has differing criteria,” Clark said.
Good fiction submissions show great character development, and have persuasive movement, Clark said. Where winning poetry submissions have what he called “implication.”
“Good poems don’t just come right out and tell you what they’re about,” he said. “They imply it.”
Winners of the contests have gone on to presitigous graduate programs, and many are now professors or higher-ups in publishing, Clark said.
“This contest opens a lot of doors,” he said.
More information on submissions can be found on the website. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 15.