Category Archives: Matthew Firth

“Orchestrated Disaster” in Front & Centre #25

Black Bile Press has published my story “Orchestrated Disaster” in its special edition Front & Centre #25

Editorial Feature: Two writers talking – Salvatore Difalco and Alexandra Leggat

Also fiction by:
Zsolt Alapi, David Burdett, Christine Catalano, David Rose, Daniel MacIsaac, Chelsea Novak, Jeremy Hanson-Finger, Stacey Madden and Zachery Alapi.

Reviews of books by:
Anne Perdue, Danila Botha, Chris Walter, Daniel Allen Cox, Mark Anthony Jarman, Dave Newman, Jerrod Edson and Salvatore Difalco.

Order a copy HERE.

To Contest Or Not To Contest

I recieved a nice little form letter from a literary journal. They encouraged me to enter their annual fiction contest. Four years ago I sent my story “Summer Sublet” to the Eden Mills Writers Festival. This was my first submission ever, to anything. I call it my “masturbation story” and don’t know why I thought it stood a chance. Greener than green created bravado, I guess. The funny thing is it went on to be my first published story a year later.

After reading Matthew Firth’s: No More Prizes, No More Contests! a couple years back I stopped entering. I wouldn’t mind a bit of money, sure, but most of my stories are not the canlit pablum for the masses that often wins. The aforementioned journal also wants $40 to enter, albeit with a free subscription. I could go from a struggling to starving writer in no time.

I thought about entering the Writers’ Union Postcard Contest, 5$ fee, not bad. I took a 600 worder and whittled it to 250. In the end, I didn’t like the shorter version so much. Also, the WUoC are hosting a symposium about the changing literary landscape. I thought cool, but they only accept payment through VISA. What if you’ve never owned a credit card? So no, I don’t think I will enter their contest or attend their lecture.

No More Prizes, No More Contests! by Matthew Firth

In 1996 iconoclast singer/songwriter Nick Cave wrote MTV to ask that his nomination for Best Male Artist be withdrawn from competition. Cave was flattered but also nauseated by the idea of prizes and awards for artists. In his usual purple manner he stated his reasoning thusly:

“I am in competition with no one. My relationship with my muse is a delicate one at the best of times and I feel that it is my duty to protect her from influences that may offend her fragile nature. She comes to me with the gift of song and in return I treat her with the respect I feel she deserves – in this case this means not subjecting her to the indignities of judgement and competition … My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race and if indeed she was, still I would not harness her to this tumbrel – this bloody cart of severed heads and glittering prizes. My muse may spook! May bolt! May abandon me completely!”

It’s a long quote but worth repeating and remembering. More writers should take Cave’s position.

In recent years, literary prizes and contests have become a cancer infecting all levels – from the glitterati to the humblest rural writing circle and everywhere in between. Literary awards are so ubiquitous that they are meaningless. They remind me of my six-year-old son’s sporting endeavours: everyone must get a trophy or medal in fear of treading a developing ego. Taking part is not enough, there must be some material compensation, some exaggerated recognition of achievement. Literary awards of all stripes aren’t much different – except in this case we’re dealing with adults’ egos, stunted though they may be.

To be blunt, as an editor, I don’t give a rat’s arse when someone submits a story and then boasts in their bio that they are the 2004 recipient of the Dumb-ass Valley Writers Association Short Story Award or what have you. I don’t care. Nobody cares. Wake up: literary awards and contests are a scam.

The big awards are particularly sickening. Longlists and shortlists are compiled. Nominees are trotted out like county fair pigs. Sparkling wine (or more likely real champagne) is supped. Pics of beautiful, clever folk are snapped. The winner is announced. Bland speeches are mumbled. Stickers to smear on the new print run are ordered. And then all the lemmings run out and buy up the award-winning book, eager to be onside with the bunch of nothing-better-to-do writers (i.e., the judges) who selected the big winner (in all likelihood a peer/pal of the judges in the first place). It’s a perpetual circle of self-congratulation more closely resembling a circle jerk than anything else.

Contests run by literary journals and mags must also be resisted or better yet, rejected outright. They are nothing more than unimaginative cash-grabs by editors at lazy, uninspired publications. For a $20 fee they dangle insipid awards before the noses of writers so desperate for attention they shell out the dough faster than you can say Doris Giller. But of course the unknown/naïve writer – chequebook at the ready though they are – probably doesn’t win the contest. Instead, he/she is let down gently with a year’s subscription to Cash-grab Review, said subscription the equivalent to the aforementioned six-year-old’s hockey trophy.

What’s the problem here, you ask. Everybody wins, right? The journal boosts their subscriber’s list so they can go cap-in-hand to suck at the Canada Council tit for one more year. The writer thinks he/she is the cat’s pyjamas because he/she is one of 250 runners-up for (insert name of vacuous lit-rag contest here). All winners? No. Nobody wins but nobody loses either – all concerned just drift in an ego-stroking fog of mediocrity.

Writing decent fiction isn’t about yearning for a medal to pin to your chest. And it’s not about compromising or altering your work to comply with silly contest specifications. It’s not about beating down the competition. It’s not about ego. Writing decent fiction is about conviction, not contests and awards. Write what you want, what comes from your heart – the bourgeois awarders and indolent contest-judges be damned. Cave has it right: this isn’t a horse race so we should all stop betting on the muse and get back to writing decent shit rather than ogling odious and hollow awards.

Matthew Firth
Black Bile Press

“Men and the Drink” and “20 Grit”

Exciting news! My chapbook “Men and the Drink” and the new issue of Front & Centre which includes my short story “20 Grit” are now available from Black Bile Press in Ottawa.

Matthew Firth November 25 at 7:47pm
– Black Bile Press Media Release –

New From Black Bile Press

One-offs Chapbooks Series Three, featuring:

Tony O’Neill
Julie McArthur
Nathaniel G. Moore

Black Bile Press is back with its third series of one-off, single story chapbooks by three of the literary underground’s hardest hitters.

Tony O’Neill is an internationally-renowned writer of salty fiction. His novels include Digging the Vein (Contemporary Press) and Down and Out on Murder Mile (Harper Perennial). Now Black Bile Press has the honour of publishing his chapbook Bill Bailey, a hilarious story about a man, a hirsute woman and an unlucky, yappy dog. This is a unique opportunity to own a limited edition O’Neill publication that will sell out quickly and never be reprinted.

Julie McArthur is a rising literary gem from Toronto. Her chapbook Men and the Drink centres on a woman’s survival strategy for dealing with men in her life. Told in McArthur’s deadpan, succinct style, the story blends humour and panache just so.

Nathaniel G. Moore is a well-known and respected writer of irreverent short fiction and the perfect fit for a Black Bile Press chapbook. His book “Sensational Sherri” is a ribald tale that mingles wrestling, pornography, booze, obsession and nostalgia like only Mr. Moore can.

This threesome of writers and their books represent the best of the best when it comes to fierce and fiery short fiction. Each story is published as a limited edition, single story chapbook, carefully assembled but anything but precious.

Order all three books for only $10.00 (plus $2.00 postage), for a ridiculously good final price of $12.00 for all three books. Or order one chapbook (please specify the title) for $6.00 ($5.00 for the book, plus $1.00 postage).

Also, the new issue of Front & Centre #22 is now available. Read gripping new fiction from Julie McArthur, Victor Sakalauskas, Drew Gates, Lisa Foley, Joel Williams, Zdravka Evtimova, and Gregory K. Betts. Includes reviews of books by Kerry Kelly, Seymour Shubin, Dan Fante, Richard Labonte & Lawrence Schimel, Lisa Foad, and Cynthia Flood. This jam-packed magazine is also $5.00, plus $1.00 postage.

“Matthew Firth’s seminal, wonderful, creme-de-la-creme lit mag is a must for anyone remotely interested in bold new writing. Each issue is full of the cream of new, ballsy, international writing and should be devoured, cherished and held onto as gold-dust for when the painstakingly selected talent on offer make it inevitably massive. One of the very best which I heartily recommend you subscribe to.” Laura Hird

Order by sending a cheque (made payable to M. Firth) to:

Matthew Firth
Black Bile Press
573 Gainsborough Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario
K2A 2Y6

Queries: [email protected]