Monday, January 24, 2005

Wannabe Poets and Poetry-Scam-Contest

Following my previous posting about 'writing', here I want to tell you about one truth. Truth can be bitter but I feel that I should tell this truth anyway.

So, this is about one poetry contest held online. I had almost forgotten about it until one day last year a friend of mine told me that she got a letter that her poem was selected as a semi-finalist "on the basis of your unique talent and artistic vision". This line was soooo familiar to me and just reminded me of my own experience in 1999. At that moment, I just knew that she was trapped in a scammed business. I just did not have a heart to tell her the truth... but perhaps I'll forward her this posting (hope she is ready to know this truth).

Back in 1999, my early year of 'coming back to writing', I found this, a poetry-contest website claimed to be held by the International Library of Poetry. I submitted my May 14th poem just to try my luck. Surprisingly, months after that I got a letter from them. As any other novice, I was thrilled to read a letter starting "After carefully reading and discussing your poem, our Selection Committee has certified your poem as a semi-finalist.." The letter went on saying beautiful things... it also said "In celebration of the unique talent that you have displayed, we also wish to publish your poem in what promises to be one of the most highly sought after collections we have ever promised".

To make my head swelling even more, the letter went one saying,"Before we go any further, Merlyna Lim, let me make one thing clear... your poem was selected for publication, and as a contest semi-finalist, on the basis of your unique talent and artistic vision". Wow... that almost made me cried!

But, then this letter also said in order to get the book where my poem would be published, I had to buy it. The book was quite expensive.. I think it was about $65, and around $45 if you bought two of them. I actually was persuaded to buy. I borrowed my brother inlaw's credit card to buy it, but (fortunately) somehow the credit card was rejected. So, I never actually bought the book.

Then after sometime, my brain tried to sort this thing out. I smelled something fishy. Why should I buy from the publisher if they were gonna publish my poem? I think no publisher would ask an author to buy in advance. In fact, an author should actually get paid rather than pay! But then I thought I perhaps was thinking too much so I tried my luck again by submitting my second poem. Still a poem that I thought was good enough to be submited. Months later, I got the same letter.. same wordings and same persuasion to buy a book and other products (mugs and other stuff with a personified poem)! Ah, I suddenly knew that this was a scam. But I felt needed to prove it so I decided to submit a bad unfinished poem. I didn't keep the poem (and now apparently has omitted me from their database,!), but I remember it was about the bee... stinging... with some crazy words... made-up words that couldn't be found in any dictionary! It was totally a rotten poem. And guess what? That poem was also selected as a semi-finalist!! At that moment I knew that was a gimmick. A contest where all poems were semifinalists! A HUGE gimmick!!

This firm/organization (fake one, I believe) -- the International Library of Poetry or the National Library of Poetry, the International Society of Poets or whatever term they are using -- try to get money from people who are desperate to get their works published! They actually are not running the real contest, but selling books (of course they can easily print one for you because you pay for it), mugs, certificates, and all kind of stuff. Of course many people (mostly novice) are willing to pay just to see their own poems published. Eventually, if you keep buying their stuff, then you'll be selected to be a winner. And even so, you have to pay to be awarded a prize! Yes, it is true... you have to pay more than $2,500 to attend the event in Washington DC (they always choose this location) where your award would be given. But strange enough if you refused to come, they wouldn't give you your award! What a strange contest! Yes, I did some research on it and found out that many people were actually trapped. You can also check about this from, Poetry Contest caution, and Literary Contest: Facts and Fakes; Don't forget to read an amusing story of Wergle Flomp. If you type " gimmick" in google, then you'll find out more.

In addition, if you are one of some victims and are convinced that this is a scam, then I suggest you to sign for a petition to stop them here: Stop Poetry Contests Scam.

So, now the truth is revealed. If you are one of those who were trapped, don't feel sad or upset. You don't need fake contests to prove yourself. You just have to believe that you can do it and just keep doing it.

P.S: Similar to but in different field is or the so called International Library of Photography... It is also a scam.


durin said...

yes, the fact that we are 'the winner' of a scam contest will not make us proud anyway. I am one of writersweekly subscribers and learned a lot from them.

merlyna lim said...

durin: betul sekali, malah malu. btw, thx u/ singgah ya..

sansay said...

Whoahhh... I just got such a letter! And with exactly the same words. But unlike most people I am of a suspicious nature, so what did I do? Use my best weapons of course! The web and Copernic (Google would have done as well I am sure).
And I ran a little search with the following words: poetry contest publication selling gimmick. This text here was my second result.
Now interestingly enough, what alerted me was the way the sentence: "And although we must charge a nominal typesetting fee for this service, you are under no obligation to include this information". And I thought "yeah right!" of course... that's a hook if I ever saw one!

merlyna lim said...

great, sansay! you aren't trapped in their gimmick.
you're right, asking for typesetting fee is just ... so suspicious...
btw, if it happened today, i would definitely search through google.
back then, google didn't "exist" (well, google only started in sept 1998). yahoo and other search engine had existed, but i didn't have secure internet connection then.

Nanang Suryadi said...

hehehe, sama. saya dulu juga pernah dikirimi surat-surat dari setelah puisiku dimuat di webnya. tapi saya waktu itu tidak minat beli. tapi ada teman yang kebetulan di amerika beli juga. :)