Prize Winning Literary Math (or 3rd place & $3.75 will buy you a moccha frappuccino) by Laurie Frankel

I’ve been sending out a lot lately—submitting my work like wet spaghetti flung hot onto a wall—seeing what sticks. Recently, I learned I was a contest finalist—whoot. First prize was publication in a top-notch lit mag, one thousand dollah-make-you-hollah, and the opportunity to read at a conference. Did the website detail 2nd- and 3rd-place prizes? Yes. Did I read them? No. I figured (wrongly) that if they were giving $1000 for the 1st place then, like every other contest I’d ever read about, 2nd- and poor-slob 3rd-place would simply receive a lesser amount . . . of money (not that I write for money. It’s so much more satisfying to write for journal copies—two of them).admissions

Yesterday I received an email. It read:

Subject: RE: [Name of Contest] Story Title

Dear Meredith,

Congratulations! Editor X selected your manuscript as 3rd place winner in the Y Competition! (names have been redacted because I’m classy that way.)

Have I shared my theory that exclamation points are for the sixth graders and those lacking a brain stem? Have I shared my second theory that addressing a congratulations email to the wrong person is beyond lame on the lame-o-meter? Because who the hell is Meredith?

Just so we’re clear, my name is not Meredith, my middle name is not Meredith. I don’t even like the name Meredith. If I have to be incorrectly addressed I’d much prefer to be called Gretchen or What’s Up Your Highness (which is what I taught Siri to call me).

My closest association to a Meredith is a tall, zitty, frizzy-haired babysitter I once had named, you guessed it, Meredith-Ann Fouty. Picture a giraffe with a skin condition sporting a ‘fro and you have Meredith-Ann. When Meredith-Ann was around me she would speak Gibberish with her friends—gibber gee, gibber gah—to throw me off the trail of juicy band-practice gossip. As far as fake languages go, Gibberish was a close competitor to Pig Latin but harder to understand. Meredith-Ann was smart like that.

johnfmalta_oculus_nytBut I digress.

The email went on to say:

Please contact Person at Person’s email for instructions on how to redeem your award. Blah, blah, blah.

All best,

Another Person, with an MFA who teaches poetry (I looked her up thinking this twit must be an intern but no, she’s just your inner-circle careless twit, weak on proofing skills. My sincerest apologies to all interns).

Redeem my prize? What’s there to redeem? Just show me the money, people. A bit confused I went to the website and learned, get this, there is no money for the poor slob who places 3rd, only a discount on the conference fee. I put this through my de-coder ring and got:

Meredith, for the 40+ hours of your life you spent writing/re-writing your 3rd-place “winning” story you effectively have “won” the honor of paying us! In other words, after writing for ten gazillion years, if you weren’t already clear on this fact, we’re here to let you know your hourly writing wage = minus$$$. And, oh, Congratulations!

Yours truly,

The Establishment


Author, short-story writer, and humorist, Laurie Frankel knows pain is the root of all comedy and is thrilled her life is so damn funny. Her books include I Wore a Thong for This?! and There’s a Pattern Here & It Ain’t Glen Plaid, about which Kirkus Reviews has this to say: “. . . laugh-out-loud funny . . . great practical suggestions . . . A quirky, earnest guide to regaining self-esteem for the modern woman.” Frankel’s literary work has appeared in ShenandoahThe Literary ReviewNorth American ReviewAlaska Quarterly Review, and The Pedestal Magazine. She is the winner of the 2014 Time and Place Prize in Brittany, France. Contact her at: LauriesLoveLogic.


The illustrations are by John F. Malta. He is a Kansas City based illustrator and educator. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and VICE.

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