In the last 4-5 months, I have entered my work for five ‘Open Call’ events. The four that have concluded have all been ‘unsuccessful’ and the one remaining is a very long shot. I have spent over £100 on the entry fees and, apart from the most recent (where I apparently made the longlist of 40 from 200 but not the final cut of 21), have had no feedback beyond the polite ‘no’. It seems like a good point at which to reflect on whether they have been worthwhile.
I have been selective in the ones I have gone for – two were recommended by other people, one of which was very definitely a good fit and the other (which felt less so) was a tutor recommendation so presumably relevant. I have approached each one as an independent ‘event’ i.e. my entries have been tailored to the competition rather than just sending off standard ‘words’ and I have no doubt at all that I have gained a lot from that very exercise. Each has given the opportunity to think about my work in a slightly different way; and the process of selecting/editing for each event is also useful. So, all in all, these entries represent a worthwhile part of the learning process associated with Sustaining Your Practice.
However, I will be weighing very carefully the cost/benefit for any future entries. I understand that each represents an opportunity to have the work looked at by someone but with no obvious criteria on which the judgements are being made and no feedback on the outcome (and, to be clear, I wasn’t expecting any – it would be very difficult), it has to be a possibility that the entry fees could be better spent … perhaps on a paid-for critique, for example. To be fair, none of these competitions has asked for a large amount, and there is no suggestion here that they are ‘profiteering from the process (though there may be some around that do) but the odd £15 or £25 here and there soon adds up and could perhaps, as I say, be more usefully directed.
In summary – useful, but to be approached in a highly selective manner in the future.