Essaying the Essay: a contest based on the meaning of essay

Deadline: March 31st, 2014
Judge: Ted Dyck
Entry fee: $ 30.00 for one essay, $50.00 for two, prize $500.

essay : an attempt or a try to explain, understand, or explore in prose or verse almost any subject with reference to its personal, objective, and/or universal aspects.

The essay’s radical feature derives from its original definition – it is an attempt or a try to come to a resolution about its subject – it is not an irrefutable argument with a final Q.E.D. [as-was-to-be-proved].

This feature of the essay – its tolerance of uncertainties, of undecidability – marks its aptness for our age, whose discourse, Christy Wampole argues, desperately needs what she calls, somewhat regrettably, essayification:

I believe that the essay owes its longevity today mainly to this fact: the genre and its spirit provide an alternative to the dogmatic thinking that dominates much of social and political life in contemporary [times]. In fact, I would advocate a conscious and more reflective deployment of the essay’s spirit in all aspects of life as a resistance against the zealous closed-endedness of the rigid mind. I’ll call this deployment “the essayification of everything.”

Purists may rue the term – which ruefulness is perhaps another instance of precisely the kind of mind-set that essayism counters – but it is indisputable that the most humble of persons, as well as the most ethereal of logicians, live with uncertainties. As does the essay.

Not that the essay “rides off in all directions at once” [Leacock]: it has “the ability to hold… opposed ideas … at the same time” and still be coherent [Emerson]; it employs “the open palm of rhetoric” rather than “the closed fist of logic” [Cicero]. Send me your best!

-Ted Dyck, WorDoctor


PRIZE $500.00 paid on publication. Judge may chose honourable mention(s) for publication in the print magazine or on the website at the usual rates of $50.00 and $25.00 respectively.

Deadline: March 31, 2014. Decision by June 16, 2014. Publication: Fall 2014.

Entry fees; $30 for one essay $50.00 for two.
(includes one-year three issue subscription) by PayPal, or send cheque made out to Mennonite Literary Society to:
Rhubarb Essay Contest, 606-100 Arthur Street Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3B 1H3.

Number of Essays
Author of the essay(s)

Judges reserve the right not to choose a winner if no submissions meet Rhubarb’s publishing standards.

Format: Word, RTF, or OpenOffice (no MacApple, please) attachments to email preferred. Submit to: [email protected] Author’s name withheld on submitted poems. Original, unpublished, and not submitted elsewhere.

Send with a cover sheet identifying it as Rhubarb Essay Contest Entry, including name, email address, mailing address, and a short biography. These will not be forwarded to the judge. Decision will be announced here, on in July 2014.

Eligibility: Anyone writing in English on any subject having paid the entry fee.