Friday, March 5, 2010

Victim of His Own Success

I've noticed a couple of writer friends of mine have been looking haggard the last few times I've seen them. I've also noticed these particular friends have been having an enviable level of success, publishing new books annually or better, giving readings or workshops several times a week all over the South, if not all over the country. There is certainly a phenomenon in which a writer can achieve more success than might, in some ways, be good for them.

The latest victim of this phenomenon is Robert Brewer. Well, not Brewer, himself -- that's just me being overly dramatic -- but rather his excellent two-year-old idea of the April PAD (Poem-a-Day)Challenge. In 2008, when Brewer, editor of Writer's Market and author of the very helpful blog "Poetic Asides," launched the idea of inviting poets to respond to daily prompts throughout the month of April, he received an impressive total of 5000 poems. From those he and a cadre of guest judges culled the 50 best and published them as an e-book. The results were impressive. Usually when someone selects the best 1 percent of anything, the results will be pretty impressive.

In 2009, Brewer decided to repeat his previously format. This time, however, instead of 5000 poems, he received 25,000. Needless to say sorting through that quantity of material proved to be a more than daunting task. In fact, the results of the 2009 challenge have only now been announced -- yes, less than a month from the beginning of the 2010 challenge. Recognizing the absurdity of pulling out a mere 50 poems from 25,000 and saying these 50, or (if my once-vaunted math skills still work) this 1/5th of a percent are clearly superior to the next 50 or the next 100 for that matter, Brewer has abandoned the idea of the 50-poem e-book and gone instead with a list of the 5 best poems from each day in the challenge, which triples the odds of any single poem being selected. Of course, tripling 2 out of each 1000 is still only 6 out of each 1000 or roughly 1/2 of 1 percent.

Personally, I'm simply amazed that when Brewer saw the type of response he was getting this year, he didn't just throw up his hands and say, "Uhh, sorry, my mistake," and walk away from the whole thing. Any lesser man, actually pretty much any other man, would have done so. So, great big kudos to you, Robert, and to all those who helped you judge this 30 or 40 lifetime's worth of work. Thanks, also, to you and your judges for selecting 3 of my poems to be among the 5 best for particular days. I feel pretty good about beating those 1 in roughly 167 odds, and I'd probably feel even better about doing it three times in 30 chances if I had any idea how to calculate those odds. Two of my three selected poems, "Second Chances" and "The Passion" were recently published in Waterways, perhaps confirming the quality of the PAD challenge judgments.

For anyone who hasn't yet seen it, the complete list of "winning" poems can be viewed at, where you can also discover weekly writing prompts, read articles on poetic techniques and trends, and of course get "warmed up" for the 2010 PAD Challenge, assuming Brewer still hasn't recovered his sanity and intends to go forward with it again.


  1. Congrats! Looks like I need to go back and read all of these works again.
    From a mere two-fer...

  2. as one of the initial screeners for two days of the competition, i can say that it was DAUNTING work but robert really works hard to keep putting a good blog and so much more out there for other writers. rock on Robert, rock on :)

    and congrats to you Scott!

    When I saw the title of this I thought you might be bemoaning the insane number of readings you'll be doing soon!