• Joseph Simurdiak

KILLER NASHVILLE, PART 1: FINALIST

最終更新: 2019年10月2日


The Killer Nashville Claymore Award

For a first-time author, the literary world can seem a frightening, hyper-competitive place. It’s tough enough writing, revising, and completing a full novel—but that’s just the first battle, the battle you have with yourself. The next battle involves getting your work out there, having it seen by agents, publishers, and finally readers. It’s a very different sort of arena, one that requires a very different sort of creativity. Thousands of novels are published every year; if you're a new, yet-unknown author; how do you help your work stand out among the myriads? You've already produced what you feel is a strong, gripping novel—now how do you give it an extra edge?

With these very concerns on my mind, last winter I began reading up on the early careers of authors I admire and, inspired by several examples, decided to enter my novel in a writing contest. I figured that if I could somehow pick up some accolades, it would show readers and industry professionals alike that, even though they might not yet have heard of me, my work is worth checking out.


In January, to my great excitement, A Red Autumn Wind took first place in a literary competition. That gave me the boost in courage I needed to raise my sights and try entering my novel for an award.


As I started researching awards for which my novel might be eligible, one soon caught my eye—the Killer Nashville Claymore Award. Not only did it look accessible to first-time authors, but Killer Nashville enthusiastically cultivated new and rising voices. Indeed, the Claymore Award was a prize given to the best unpublished manuscript, and unlike many writing contests I’d found that asked only for short stories or small novel excerpts (only five to six thousand words), the Claymore Award asked for the first full fifty pages of the novel. On top of that, Killer Nashville ran an annual literary conference, and it presented its awards at a banquet in front of other authors and representatives of the literary industry. It all sounded exciting, though from a logistical standpoint I doubted I'd be able to attend such a conference even if I did somehow manage to place as a finalist (I live in Japan, after all).


I had other doubts as well. As I prepared my submission, I realized A Red Autumn Wind might not even be the right fit for this competition. Killer Nashville, as its name suggests, focuses primarily on thriller, suspense, mystery, and crime fiction. My novel has definite elements of mystery and suspense, and in some parts reads like a thriller, but it is primarily a historical fantasy novel. Could it still be competitive?


I figured there was only one way to find out, and as Wayne Gretzky famously put it, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. I submitted just in time to make the deadline.


Six months passed, which gave my doubts plenty of time to gnaw around my skull.


Perhaps my novel wasn’t the right fit for the contest after all. Or even worse, my deeper fears whispered, what if I wasn’t good enough yet to be competing at this level?


Then, one morning in June, I opened my email inbox find a message from Killer Nashville.


“Congratulations,” it began, and my breath left me.


I read on. My novel had just been named a Top Twenty Finalist for the Claymore Award. The runners-up and winner were to be announced at the Awards Dinner in August.


My work had been judged. In a sense, I had been judged. A team of bestselling and award-winning authors had read my writing and deemed it competitive. Now I was up against nineteen other authors, nineteen other entries, all of which had been deemed likewise strong. If I was honest with myself, I would probably make it no further. But I knew what an honor I’d received, and I felt validated just having made it this far. Besides, many Claymore finalists go on to land book deals, and I felt like I'd crossed some kind of threshold.

"You have to go," my friend Chris told me one evening. We were at a promotional event for his new web series, which had recently been picked up by Amazon Prime and nominated for an award of its own in South Korea. "You have to go to Nashville. Even if you don't end up winning, these kinds of experiences are important. You'll make new friends and contacts, and you'll learn a lot from the conference. You also need to get comfortable at awards events, since you may have more in the future. This is an opportunity you've earned—so be seen, and make yourself known."

I hadn't seriously planned on attending until that point—after all, I didn't have to go to Nashville in order to be eligible to win. Though I visit my family the United States every summer, the conference was near the end of August, by which time my holidays are winding down and I’m usually back in Japan. However, the more I considered Chris's advice, the more I realized he was right. If I just could arrange to extend my holiday a little...


Perhaps I could make the trip work.


I would make the trip work.


Once I was committed, the pieces fell rapidly into place. I found it simpler than I’d expected to arrange an extension on my trip to the States. The logistical barriers I'd imagined all seemed to crumble away, as if they’d been no more objectively real than my own self-doubts and excuses. I sent an email to the organizers at Killer Nashville telling them I planned to be at the awards dinner, and that my father would be attending with me.


(To be Concluded in Part 2.)

 © 2018 by Joseph Simurdiak