Open Letter to Pushcart Nominated Folks

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Pushcart Dear Writers who post resumes/bios with “Pushcart Nominated”:

Stop. You’re embarrassing the literary community. You’re embarrassing yourself. Because let’s do the math: Duotrope has 3,500 active literary journals. Let’s assume half of those submit to the Pushcart Prize.

So 1,800 journals each nominating 6 stories/poetry apiece = 10,800 nominations a year. 

Multiplied by the past two decades = 216,000.

216,000.

You’re really going to brag about an accomplishment that 216,000 other writers share? Is that even an accomplishment?

You’re like people who brag about getting on the longlist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Guess what? Everyone who submits a book gets on the longlist! It’s all-inclusive. You only look good to people who don’t have the slightest clue how the prize works. To anyone in the industry, you look like a wannabe douchebag.

Yeah, yeah, we know, you have to get promoted and most people in your department don’t have a clue what the Pushcart prize is; you need to appear important in your bio so people will fete you and buy your book and not think you’re wasting your life pecking at a keyboard.

But to people who know what a Pushcart Nomination means, it looks desperate. Especially when you don’t list what journal gave you the nomination. Because we know it’s not Tin House, it’s more like Podunk journal run by an MFA fail from his parent’s basement in Arkansas.

Caveat: “Special Mention” people, I’m not talking to you. Mad props to you. Because you made it to the shortlist, that top 100 action in the back of the anthology. That actually means you beat out a mess of people, so keep listing that. Special Mention is way different than Nominated and don’t let anyone tell you different.

And to the haters who diss me because they think I’m jealous because I haven’t won a Pushcart prize nomination, you’re wrong. I have. I just don’t brag about it or put it in my resume/CV because it doesn’t matter unless I win.

Just because we live in a culture that tries to have as many prizes as we have publications, because we believe in high self esteem and rewarding everyone who tries, that doesn’t mean you have free rein to artificially exalt yourself. No.

You need to get some self-respect. You need to show some self-restraint. You need to man/woman up and earn your writing epaulettes.

Sincerely,

A Writer Respecting the Pushcart Prize

 

[Editor’s Note:

I wrote this in 2011 but it seems to have legs, since people keep on coming and commenting. Let me clarify: I’m not trying to be mean.

I’m not saying that a Pushcart Prize nomination is meaningless; I’m saying that you should feel good about a Pushcart Prize nomination but don’t put it on your resume or cover letter because too many other people share that distinction, and editors will not value it as highly as other publications.

I think the Pushcart Prize is actually fantastic and they do wonderful work and I’m glad so many people are proud of their nominations, but please don’t put it on a cover letter.

It’s professional advice, that’s all.

What should you put in your cover letter? Where you’ve published your fiction/poetry/nonfiction, what degrees you have, where you’ve written about books, writing retreats you’ve been to, any awards you have won or been a finalist for rather than been nominated for.]

 

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117 comments

  1. Indeed. Getting nominated by the same editor who already liked your story well enough to publish it isn’t that big of a deal, especially if that editor is promoting the journal as much as the writer.

    1. It is obvious that the writer of the article do not know how it works. Everyone who gets nominated doesn’t get chosen to go to the final round, which they are sent to the judges hands. Each press may nominate 6 people, but they will only send like 3, and I know this as a fact, because I was nominated and sent (chosen to go to the final round). My poem was accepted again, by another publisher that also nominate for the Pushcart, and is very loved by my readers, so I know that my poem was worthy of any award nomination. To be honest, it wasn’t even hard to write. I hear nothing but jealousy and shade in some of the comments. A press publishes alot of work over 12 months, so to just to get nominated out of all those published pieces, is A BIG DEAL. You need to think about the law attraction, when you start posting articles that go to shade others peoples accomplishments.

    2. Really? Let me ask you something Pete, do you really think an editor would nominate a poem for the Prestigious PUSHCART PRIZE Newberry Prize or Pulitzer or Nobel or Eric Hoffer Prizes if they disliked it?

  2. agreed, pretty lame to boost your bio with P nominations, although, you certainly come across as a douchebag, too. i assume that is what you were going for.

  3. Makes sense. Why put something like down if it didn’t lead to something concrete?
    Sort of like me listing my one and only publishing credit from 2009 in my writer’s bio when I’m querying. Doesn’t really impress anybody besides my family and friends, if that, so why make myself look like schlep in the process.

    1. Ah no schlep, there is a huge difference between getting one poem published in a Lit Mag vs having a Lit Mag editor really dig your poem and then nominating it for a Pushcart Prize Award. I do agree with you that if you only had one poem published or one magazine article published does not give you bragging rights but it does not make you a schlep either. 3-5 poem/articles published= multiple publications looks pretty good actually.

  4. The post is entirely valid, but I wonder why the “open letter” is being posted without a name. I think the bad ass tone lacks something without a bad ass author.

  5. Dude. It’s me. BookFox. Fully bad ass. Just hit the “About the Author” link on the left. I stand behind all pronouncements made on this blog, whether serious and rational or crazy and hyperbolic.

    1. I half agree. The nomination part is not a huge deal and does not perhaps deserve to be mentioned in certain places where the writer lists a summary of major accomplishments. It does deserve a mention in certain conversations or updates on the writer’s blog or website though. Wherever we are listing publishing credits, if there is room, any prize nomination can be recorded as well. By your logic then, we shouldn’t be listing certain lesser publishing credits. It is a type of recognition, just like a published poem. It facts its a sort of double-recognition. It means not only did the journal choose to publish your poem out of many others submitted but also thought it was one of the best out of those published. And final point: ****The math in this article is VERY flawed and doesn’t exactly help to get your point across. Why arbitrarily use the last 2 decades to count how many other writers share the nomination? It doesn’t work like that. Either count exactly how many years the pushcart has been around and come up with a cumulative total or just do a count for the one year of the Pushcart. Personally, I think the annual average should be counted if an example is to be made because every year a new group gets recognized and the competition revolves and is renewed that year, and every year before that and after.

  6. OK. I’ll be the non-bad-ass contrarian here. But I don’t see what the big deal is.
    In fact, publishing a story anywhere is goddamned hard enough. You find the one place of the millions out there who likes your craptastic story, you should tout that journal and then go around and brag the hellz about it because here’s the deal:
    No one flippin’ cares anyway.
    Not your writer friends. Not your mom. Not your priest. Shit. Even if you get a notable publication in a place high up on Perpetual Folly’s Pushcart nomination list, I behoove you (am I using that word correctly?) to really find someone who gives a shit. Half your writer friends are either A. working on something that has nothing to do with short fiction anyway–their always goddamn novelists or some shit who have agents, and they look down upon any published short story; or B. they actually have never read any of your work or the journal it has appeared in anyway. The other half of your writer friends are poets, playwrights, CNFers working on shit that equally doesn’t matter to you. (How many halves did I mention there?)
    You know who does care. The damn editor who accepted your piece in the first place. Listen to him or her, strangle-hug him or her, and bragz the flying F out of their zine because the chances of you convincing another schmuck to like your crap is a million to one. Literally. There are a million lit journals and you happened to find the one journal that liked your stupid story. And you’d turn your nose up at that? Come on dudes and dudettes. Who the hell are you?
    Unless you’re one of five writers in America (and I suppose Canada and maybe a few other quasi-American speaking countries) who can expect a call from the New Yorker, you should just assume your story is shit and it won’t be read by anyone.
    So, writers-who-turn-their-noses-up-at-the-only-lit-ragz-they’ll-ever-get-published-in, I bid thee thus: Play with the first damn dog who sniffs your butt. Then yip your nutz off.
    100% of the world doesn’t care where or how you were published and the infitesimally small percentage who does care knows how flippin’ hard it is to get someone to, first, read your work and , .B., get someone to actually like it.
    Be one of the 60,000. Print out your Glimmertrain finalist certificate and paste it to the back window of your car. Goddamnit. Make a bumper sticker that says “I’m a published Hint Fiction author.” And tell all your cousins that you placed a poem at poetry.com and you have the 1996 anthology to prove it.
    You’re writers, you bitches. Everyone hates you and no one cares.
    Jesus.
    Mark

    1. This comment was light years more insightful than the actual post. You are 100 percent right, sir.

    2. Go Mark! We have another hater here telling everyone ‘hide your nominations for Christ’s sake!’ why should we bother? Mr. Hide Your Nomination It’s As Insignificant As You Are should be booted from the writing world. What a foul ball. Writers seldom get accolades. We aren’t actors who present something to themselves everyday. We are writers and when writers can’t stand behind us and say ‘Proudly put that nomination on your resume’ then something’s wrong. I’ve never seen something as sad as a writer with ANY LITTLE power, such as our author here (You know, the one who wouldn’t sign his name???) who can’t be bothered to do anything but take his tiny little pin prick and stab it into your Pushcart balloon. Trust me, he has issues and he’s definitely jealous.

    3. Thank you!! This business is hard enough without the damn Grim Reaper telling us to shut our mouths about our rare accomplishments. And in regards to the update, if a writer has to say, “I’m not trying to be mean,” they’re probably being mean. In fact, I find this article incredibly mean-spirited and hastily written. You can give professional advice without lambasting the audience. Also, if the writer intended to say the Pushcart Nomination wasn’t meaningless, and we should be proud of them (simply not list them on a resume) he should have said as much in the piece (he did not). The fact that he had to post an update, retracting some of what he’d said and/or clarifying it, tells me he didn’t give enough thought regarding his words before he published them. And this, as it seems to me, is the cardinal sin of writers. Also, for god’s sake, can someone spread positive energy on the internet for once??

    4. This is so true. Celebrate what you have. Be proud of everything. And if an editor loves your work, be glad.
      I’m an editor and it’s my first year to get to send nominations to the Push Cart Prize. This is one of the happiest tasks I’ve ever done and I’m going to enjoy it fully, every moment. No one cares. So we should care. And we should keep a record of everyone who ever has.

  7. man, my bio would be so lame if i didn’t make stuff up. no one would publish me otherwise, ever. everyone knows it’s 50% the piece submitted and 50% bio.
    jack has or will be published in douche, shite mag, and digital a*_h*L_. he is known by his friends as the only real bad ass left on the planet.

  8. @Mark: you are awesome. Start a blog with rants like that.
    @Jack: When I was a fiction editor for a literary journal, I found made-up bios. I read their piece and thought there was no way they’d been published in Top Ranked journals. Google proved me right.
    However, I also found bios that I thought had been made-up, but were not. Their pieces were so full of dreck I wondered why another journal had accepted them.

    1. Yes, thank you for this. More writers should volunteer at a literary journal when starting out so they can learn what the process is actually like and what editor’s hate.

      That’s what I’m doing right now; while dealing with a massive 1000+ submission backlog I got tired of all the people listing “Pushcart nominated” in their bios, so I wanted to see if this frustrated anyone else and, well, here I am. I just did a search and there are 58 people who have that listed that have yet to be read and 132 total in the system we’ve been using since 2015.

      Frankly, long, padded bios serve only as an annoyance. A regular topic of discussion in the office pertains to our appreciation for brief comments, thanking us for our consideration only.

      Part of my job when reading a piece is to give a person a numerical value from 1-3. Someone who has been published in very exclusive journals or WON a major prize gets a 1 and that means that I can’t reject it outright if I don’t like it. Instead I have to send it off to the managing editor for a second read. People who pad their bios with nonsense (we also don’t care where someone’s poetry/article has been published if they’re submitting fiction, by the way) make it take longer for me to sort through, which in turn means longer wait times. Sometimes editors (particularly if they’re new) will actually pass over long, convoluted bios because they don’t want to check every single thing with the list we have, so they leave it for someone else, which can result in a piece not being gotten to until the next reading period if there ends up being a backlog.

      And I too will often check on people who I don’t think actually deserve a 1 before sending a piece along because our managing editor’s time is precious. If I find that a person made stuff up I’ll reject the piece outright, and if I find that they didn’t but I think the piece isn’t very good I’ll write that in a note when I pass the piece along. Unfortunately, I find the latter is most often true. People who publish in, say, The Paris Review save their best work for The Paris Review and will often send us their bottom of the barrel work that they’re hoping to do something with. For that reason, even though we double check these people, nobody on staff (including the managing editor) has any expectation of quality when it comes to 1’s.

      Finding a good 3, on the other hand, is a real pleasure, especially for a first reader who has to wade through mountains of garbage. If I find something that’s promising from among that group, I will read it extra carefully and, if I like it, I’ll send it up the ladder with a positive note (these are a higher priority for the managing editor than a 1 that I rated negatively). I might even insist on being able to send that person an encouraging rejection letter if we are ultimately unable to use it, which may not seem like much to some, but being able to write, “You guys told me you’d like to see more of my work,” does actually get our attention.

      As for final decisions, the only time a bio matters then is if it establishes a person as a known entity. The chief editor also loves to be able to find and publish unknowns, (that’s why we accept unsolicited submissions in the first place) but will try to put in a few names that a shopper seeing the magazine in a bookstore or online would recognize. Someone who thinks writing “Pushcart nominated” in their bio is not such a person.

  9. ahh … @ boris?
    No. Shit.
    Sorry. I should have been clearer.
    Print out your pdf email that lists your name as either a finalist or Top 25 and paste that bullshit to the back of your car window.
    Everyone in the world will be astounded at your accomplishment. Maybe you even won one of the 12 competitions they have a year. Hell, maybe you have gone so far as to pay for a couple of rejections.
    Tout that shit, baby.
    Damnit! I didn’t want to do this again. Shit, man. OK.
    Glimmertrain is able to stay afloat because of their monthly goddamn competitions. Those competitions stay afloat because douche bags like us, who don’t know any better, actually pay to have people read our work. Every time we cough up 20 bucks for their New Writer comp, or Short Fiction comp, or Family Christian Values comp, Jane and Mary–or whatever the shit their names are–say to themselves:
    “Hmmm, here’s a new jackass who just paid me 20 dollars to read his or her stupid as hell story. It’s dumb as shit, but I want them to keep sending me crap and paying me 20 dollars to read three words and reject them so my, admittedly, subpar journal can keep publishing stories and actually make a profit (as opposed to the majority that operate from donations or from universities and are of decent quality). I know it’s racket, but you know what? We send our finalists pdf emails of their totally stellar (yet illegitimate) Top 25 or finalist performance. We even tell them to put it on their resume because that’s going to really improve their career.”
    But best of all–yes, best of all, Boris–sending out that one little pdf of your awesome Top 25 performance is basically like the slot machine stopping three cherries right above the jackpot line. You are going to feel like you almost made it.
    And you–knowing how totally awesome you are as a writer–will say to yourself, “Shit, dawg. I almost won that son of bitch. That family values competition was in the bag with my “experimental” story about two star-crossed lovers meeting at a bar that only serves Tequila-fucking-sunrises. Those Glimmertrain ladies were way into that. They’re going to be way into my next crappy story about two star-crossed lovers who meet at a coffee shop that only serves mocha-fucking-chinos. They will be amazed. I am going to win that twelve hundred and fifty dollars and think I am the man or woman. I will be in McSweeney’s next month. And then, who knows? I’ll probably be at Yaddo doing blow off the next up-and-comers butt cheek and breaking windows and writing the next great piece of shit for the New York publishing gaggle to masturbate over. I am that sweet dot com because I got an email form from Glimmertrain that says:
    “Although your work did not make it all the way to the top 25, it did make it a long, long, LONG way through the judging process (top 3%) and you are a finalist in the Spring 2007 Short Story Award for New Writers–nice work! (If you log in and click on “My Submissions,” you will see that designation.)
    Be sure to mention your finalist status as you send your stories out into the world.”
    Wow. That IS pretty great. I feel good about myself now.
    **This is a late revision to my previous rant. But, there is a big difference between a zine with an editor who actually likes your work and a flippin’ racket that convinces poor as shit writers that they’re getting somewhere with their works … not to be confused with lit mags just trying to stay afloat by charging for operating costs, like Missouri or American Short Story … ‘they’z be legit, yo’ (in the parlance of Junot Diaz, I guess)
    Zine means someone liked your shit. A Glimmertrain e-mail means there’s a profitable lit journal (one of the few) who wants more of your scratch.
    Damnit. I hate myself.
    Mark

    1. Also note: GT encourages resubmission of the same story, whether or not revised, for any catetory it fits. You can pay them over and over and over again for the same exact story if you want.

  10. Dude, we should start our own journal and give our ACTUAL certificates for the top 1,000 stories. But we’ll call it the Supreme Mille award, so it will sound foreign and impressive. And we’ll charge 19.95 to beat them at their own game. And we’ll be super rich! Are you in, Mark? I’ll write the rejections because you just seem like you love crushing souls, which would hurt our bottom line.

  11. This sounds like a fantastic idea, Boris. Man!
    If you got the rejections covered, I’ll take the submissions because I’ll gladly give our slush pile better attention than what most slush piles receive at hoity-toity lit journals. I’ll throw them all straight in the trash. Instead of giving our submitters hope of publication, we’ll just go ahead and be transparent about the whole deal: ‘Submissions will be deleted upon reception. Hope you like your certificate.’ First 1000 submitters will get our coveted Supreme Mille Award.
    Probably should set up an email account with an auto-response that sends the e-certificate. Anything else would be way too much effort. We also may need to convince a first-year MFA’er to write the certificate, one who still believes in the possibility of a career as a short fiction writer. You know, we don’t want to come off too cynical.
    I think we’re on to something.
    Bookfox, your namesake will likely have to appear on this thing. Hope that’s OK.

  12. Well, I am probably the only person who will comment here who got Pushcart nominated for the first time in 1976 (twice, I think, and that ‘twice’ made me realize it was no big deal.” It was ever thus from Bill Henderson’s day.
    It did make me happy to get nominations the first couple of years, but I never would tell anyone because it meant nothing. I actually was listed in the back of the book a couple of times in the 70s and 80s and I would never put that on my CV or anything.

  13. @Richard Thanks for the support. We need elder statesmen to tell our young whelp writers how to have dignity.
    @Tod Somebody had to say it, right? And by the way, you were hilarious for the Chris Adrian/Aimee Bender Festival panel. Loved that one.

  14. “And to the haters who diss me because they think I’m jealous because I haven’t won a nomination, you’re wrong. I have. I just don’t brag about it or put it in my resume/CV because it doesn’t matter unless I win.”
    I’m betting this was the point of the whole post. You just wanted us to know that you’d won a nom. Very sly! 😉

  15. doesn’t it stand to reason that you then never mention any publication credit, because the magazine publishes, say, 30 stories/year, and you aren’t special? the p nom is basically saying something just slightly better, that you made a cut at a publication. I don’t understand your logic? yes, lots of people get nominated. so? why would ever mention where you were published then? more people are published than receive p noms…why do you mention you have a MA? do you have any idea how many people have masters degrees? I think you should mention all of it. if when you’re cynical, you’re cynical all the time, not just with p noms. logic fail.

  16. @Sheila You should mention publication credits because most journals only publish 10 or so a year, as opposed to 3,000 Pushcart nominations a year. It’s a matter of statistics.
    I know it makes you feel good to get a nomination, and that’s important and I congratulate you, but from an editor’s perspective (someone who has read a staggering number of cover letters), it matters absolutely zilch.
    As far as listing my educational background, I believe my Master’s degree was slightly harder to get than a Pushcart nomination.
    Also, I think you’re missing the point with your analogies: a pushcart nomination isn’t something real. It’s the potential to win something. You’re just up for a prize and therefore haven’t won anything at all. Publication in journals and educational degrees are real things that an individual has actually achieved. So perhaps the error in logic is your own.

    1. I agree with your argument that a nomination isn’t a prize, but I think your math is confused for the first part. There will always be significantly more published pieces than Pushcart-nominated pieces — I’m pretty sure the journals can only nominate pieces they’ve actually published. The people being nominated will always be a smaller group than the people being published.

      1. Oh yes, that’s definitely true. Pushcart nominated is a smaller pool than overall people who have published. But because Pushcart Nominated is such a big pool of people, you should probably list other things on your cover letter, because those will be more convincing to editors (who see Pushcart Nominated far too often for it to be meaningful).

  17. At the same time, this is sort of hateful. I found this blog while looking up the pushcart prize. I hate the way the writing community shits all over things….It’s full of writers, and those writers write what they think about everything — to the point that nothing is sacred, nothing is special, and no one can feel good about anything anymore.

    I could be happy I made breakfast this morning — but 60,000+ other people made breakfast too. Still, it felt great to make breakfast. Which is all to say…contribute energy toward feeling great, not toward feeling crappy. Real life is hard enough. Just let good things be good things. If someone wants to nominate you for the Pushcart Prize, that’s awesome. No need to diminish it — there is already plenty of diminishing going on for writers anyway.

    1. Breakfast is a great example. You should take pleasure in eating breakfast, but you should not put it on your resume.

      1. I accept your challenge, Bookfox.

        Mitchell often curates his own breakfast. (Alpha-bits, what else? “They’re A, B, C, D-licious”.) He has also replied to a six-year-old Pushcart Prize comment thread.

        I think it works. Also, are they putting punctuation in Alpha-bits now, or is that just shipping damage? Cereal abuse?

  18. Wait a minute. Are you this John Fox? The one whose bio (on another of your sites) states that your “…fiction has also been a finalist for the Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange Award”?

    Nuff said.

    1. So the P&W Writers Award happens every four years and names 5 – 8 finalists. So the average is about two finalists a year.

      Pushcart Nominations, according to the speculative math above, is about 3,000 a year.

      So 2 vs. 3,000? Which do you think is more scarce?

      And not to beat a dead point, but isn’t being a finalist for something radically different than a nomination? If you’re actually named at the back of the Pushcart Prize, that means something. It’s an honor. That’s equivalent to being a finalist.

      Anyway, I think the bio’s justified.

      1. Umm, I think you left out a critical factor in your math. How many P&W California Writers Exchange Award (they should really consider changing that) applicants or nominees are there? 8 finalists out of…?

        Until you answer that (and the high profile of the Pushcart as well as its somewhat restrictive nomination process, versus PWCWEA — I couldn’t bear to type it out again), I don’t think I can respond to your question about “radically different.”

      2. “If you’re actually named at the back of the Pushcart Prize, that means something. ”

        Says you. So it means something. To you. But to someone whose won a National Book Award, maybe that means nothing. Who knows? Who cares?

        Funny how every story in Shenandoah is automatically nominated for that prize you list in your bio. Funny how , despite all that math you work out, that still means it’s less selective than the Pushcart process…but the question is what harm does it do for any writer to list a nomination of any kind? Why does that concern you? So what if it “means nothing” to you. Why bother with an open letter? Do you think that’ll change all of ’em from listing the nomination?

        I can only guess your energy is spent in the wrong places.

      3. My goal is to help writers present their best selves. If you can list something other than a Pushcart Nomination in your cover letter (maybe just list places you’ve published) the editor will respect you more.

        I don’t understand your point with Shenandoah. I wasn’t nominated for an award, I won a $500 award. Only one is given out every year.

  19. I think a better rule of thumb (and I think Sheila was trying to get at this in her comment too) would be to name your nomination IF you can also be proud to name the specific journal that gave you the nomination. You’re right to say that a Pushcart nomination in itself means very little, because everybody and their mother’s “small lit mag” can nominate six people. But a Pushcart nomination from a respectable journal implies that, not only were you published by this journal, but you were one of their best pieces (if the journal publishes very few stories to begin with, then the Pushcart nomination would again be kind of pointless and redundant). Does this qualification make sense to you?

  20. Hello. I stumbled across your blog while poking around the web to find the best way to cite my Pushcart Prize Special Mention when including it on bio information. I just wanted to add to the conversation that being excited about (and touting) a Pushcart nomination doesn’t seem so silly to me. I don’t think it’s exactly a repeat of being accepted for publication in the first place. It’s bigger: a way for the editors to indicate not only that they liked your piece enough to publish it but also that they think it’s one of the best pieces they selected all year — at least enough to maybe earn them a Pushcart nod. It may not be the most elite award, but it’s not something to hide under a bushel either. I say kudos to anyone who gets a nomination, since it does at least set them apart from all the other writers published by that same small press that year. Worth a horn-toot on some level.

  21. Just stumbled across this post as I do my writing avoidance exercises for the day. I agree with dkewing. Why on earth does it matter to you what people put on their bios? As you obviously know, being a writer yourself, trying to get published ANYWHERE is a soul-destroying process on the best of days. It doesn’t matter what a Pushcart nomination means to anyone else, but it sure as hell feels good to the writer who receives one, even knowing that the odds of actually winning are astronomical. I appreciate the discussion, but disagree re P nomination. Everyone’s bio changes as they get published in more places. Listing a Pushcart nom is better than listing nothing.

    1. Dkewing and Sandra: This article is from an editor’s point of view, not a writer’s. As an editor, you see so many thousands of writers list their “Pushcart Nominations” that it stops being something meaningful. So I’m well aware that trying to get published anywhere is a soul-destroying process, and I’m actually not trying to be soul-destroying but helpful: you shouldn’t list it because editors won’t find it a significant accomplishment. That’s as nicely as I can say it. Let it lift your egos, let it cheer you up, let it buoy your spirits — I’m all for that — but just don’t brag about it in cover letters or bios.

  22. Writing as a poet who includes “Pushcart-nominated” in his bio, as an editor who gets to make nominations, and as a publisher whose press is, indeed, operated from Arkansas (although I’ll correct you and say you won’t find many basements here – our press is run in our extra bedroom), I disagree and feel compelled to respond.

    SRP nominates six poems each year for the Pushcart. Last year, we made those six selections from 440 poems published in Assaracus and roughly 180 poems published in chaps and full-length collections. On years like this one, when we also publish an anthology and launch two additional literary magazines (Jonathan and Adrienne), those numbers will only increase. We spend a great deal of time deciding which pieces to nominate. We announce our six selections with fanfare. We make a big deal out of it. We’re proud of what we publish, and we’re proud of our authors.

    To say that nominations don’t matter disrespects writers who’ve earned those nominations and presses who work diligently to make those nominations. Sure, there are thousands of nominations each year. That’s partially because the Pushcart folks don’t charge a fee – they want to see the best of the best. Good for them.

    If a writer earns a nomination, then I absolutely want that writer to be proud. I’ll also say that I’d much rather work with a writer who is appreciative versus a writer who is jaded about such things. That’s a big red flag to me.

    Bryan Borland
    Pushcart Nominee/Pushcart Nominator

  23. While I agree 100% with NOT listing Pushcart Nominee in a bio (it makes you look ignorant and desperate since it’s not that big of a deal).

    However, I do think there is a place for it on a long form CV (since you are already listing individual poems and stories).

    Maybe as a notation after Publications?

  24. Maybe instead of hiding behind one of several million bullshit “literary” blogs (indisputably the fallback for “writers” who can’t publish), you could spend your time actually writing like the rest of us so that you could actually earn a Pushcart nomination. You’re like that kid who doesn’t get cast for the school play and then goes around talking about how dumb it is anyway, how you were only doing it to be ironic, etc. Meanwhile, the actual participants of that play at least have interesting things to talk about, while you’re sitting in your basement apartment at your mom’s house obsessing over strangers’ bios. Alone. Like a bitch.

  25. A lot of negative comments by people who haven’t been published and then nominated. Do all that work first, then make your petty comments, if you still feel that way.

  26. The fact that you feel the need to post a rant about what other writers do or don’t do within their resumes speaks volumes about your own talent. To be blunt, as you have been, you should get a life and get off your high horse. Let people celebrate any victory that means something to them. You are certainly not the authority.

  27. This post seems to be working out for your very nicely…. Alright so I skipped most of the commentary to make this post so forgive me if someone’s already commented something similar, but file this under category People In Glass Houses: Mostly I agree, anyone who knows anything about The Pushcart knows a nom is nearly meaningless. However, your rant would hold a bit more water if it was published by someone other then yourself. Having your own blog and using it to publish your own opinions is also a very amateur move.

  28. I see your point, but the math works both ways. Out of your example of 500 journals that nominate, say they only publish 20 pieces per year and all journals have an average acceptance rate of ten percent. We all know this is way too high, but for the sake of argument it makes our math easy. That would mean that for that given year, your crappy story was in the top 3% of all crappy stories written that year. At a more reasonable rate of acceptance of five percent, then it was in the top 1.5 percent of all crappy stories. At a two percent rate of acceptance, which is common even in the crappiest of independent journals, your crappy story was in the top 0.006 percent of all crappy stories written that year. So I think I would have to side with Mark on this one.

  29. I ended up here after I googled what it means to be nominated and now that I know it doesn’t really mean that much, it won’t go on my bio unless, of course, I win or get a special mention.

    As for the backhand on Glimmer Train (add Narrative to that since it’s the same process or racket — depending on whether you’re still optimistic or jaded), I’m leaving my finalist placement on that bio because it took me many years of paid competition entries to get it. Maybe my stories are crappier than most, but until I read this post my GT and Narrative finalist placements meant a lot to me. And I’m just going to go on believing they do mean something, even though I no longer enter competitions with entry fees. But thanks for showing me the way on the Pushcart nomination.

  30. Just dropped in on a whim. My son was just nominated for a Pushcart and I was looking around to get a feel for what it might actually mean. He says he has no plans to add it to his resume or even mention it at school. It would be nice if he won but he knows it’s a long-shot and is happy with the nomination. As parents, we are proud, of course. As a reader, I like his story (I know, moms are like that but so what?). I don’t really understand the point of your open letter. A somewhat unfriendly bit of advice to the nominees that they will look sad and needy if they add the nomination to their cv? Is it not cool to admit to the literary world you’re happy that someone likes your work? You don’t know what someone will find attractive on a cv. Another sad and needy Pushcart nominee might just be the very person who will read your work someday and find something noteworthy about it. Please don’t feel the need to respond with a snarky comment as I am clearly not worthy. As a matter of fact, this is your page, feel free to delete my comment; no hard feelings.

  31. The day I was nominated for a P, I knew it was time to throw everything away and start over. Thank you, editors, for the wake up call.

  32. I got my first nomination this year and I’m thrilled. I agree if the individual wants to celebrate then why not? The fact is in the days of social media and the everybody is a poet genre something like the influential Pushcart should be celebrated as the nomination is based on the quality of work deemed by the editors of the literary magazines which is how you get accepted to them in the first place. Most probably don’t know about it outside of the literary circles and writers that submit to the small presses and literary magazines but that’s what the award is about keeping that ‘spirit’ alive and you can’t deny it has and is very influential. If you’re worried about a literary resume then you probably shouldn’t be writing anyways ever you get should be celebrated despite the snobbery of some that delight in their pride of being too good to celebrate something that’s worthwhile. If you don’t want to celebrate then don’t simple as that but if others do be glad they are and good for them.

  33. I got nominated this summer for a poem I wrote about the TSA after a very significant experience between another passenger and I, as we went through the TSA checkpoint. My editor and the other poets in the summer writing retreat was deeply moved by the poem. It was very emotional. Needless to say, you better believe I’m going to put “Nominated for a Pushcart” on my Bio. I earned that &*%#$@ this summer! Sorry, but the author of this post seemed like a douchebag, not sorry.

  34. I found out a few weeks ago that I got a Pushcart nom for a nonfiction piece. The first email showed up in junk mail. I emailed my gracious publisher at Red Dirt Press, and she sent me the official notification. I had never even heard of Pushcart. I’m just happy that Red Dirt has published three of my pieces and that the dear editor chose one of my pieces. Regarding cover letters, bios, I hate them. I try to make them concise, maybe 200 words? “Pushcart nomination” is only 2 more words, but so is “Pulitzer nomination. Do these cover letters/bios even matter?

    1. First, congrats on your Pushcart Nomination! That’s wonderful and you should feel very happy.

      But I would say not to put it on your cover letter. Yes, cover letters do matter, and I would recommend prioritizing other pieces of information that might help you more.

      1. Here’s another way of thinking, I think: If you saying in your cover letter that you’ve been published in X (let’s say podunk) journal, why wouldn’t you add that that story was nominated by podunk journal for a Pushcart? The nomination indicates that your story was one of the top 3-6 stories in that journal in the past year, and that seems worth calling out, no? It seems you would lead with the nomination, but more of an “oh and by the way”…. (Let’s keep this conversation going 7 more years!)

      2. Go for it! You can do whatever you want to do, I’m just saying what editors might be thinking. I do think it’s a good idea to specific which journal nominated you. For instance, if you’ve been published in four places: Tampa Review, Third Coast, Granta (pushcart nominated), Ploughshares.

  35. Here’s the thing. A pushcart doesn’t mean you’re the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, but it means your writing is, objectively speaking, pretty good. It means you’ve reached a certain bar – not the highest bar on the ladder, but still, a certain bar. So stay humble, but still be proud.

    1. Absolutely. Every writer should be proud of their pushcart nomination. But I would emphasize other things on the query letter.

      1. Dude, your open letter literally asks of Pushcart nominations “Is that even really an accomplishment?”

        Don’t pretend like you’re this benevolent supporter of everyone feeling proud when you quite literally said the opposite–stand by your pompous tone.

  36. Don’t be a crank. Let people celebrate themselves and celebrate small presses and be excited about someone liking (and remembering) their writing enough to nominate it. Jeez. Get over it. They’re not embarrassing themselves. BOooooooooOOo on you.

  37. Any nominations and accomplishments that ANY writer gets should absolutely be celebrated. I don’t care if it’s being published in a literary magazine, getting a Pushcart nomination, getting a book published, or any other sort of recognition. Writing is hard and it’s hard work. Instead of taking that special moment away from someone, why not just congratulate them on their accomplishment? Lots of people write who never, ever even get published. The problem is, we still have writers, like the sour puss who wrote this, who still feel the need to push their fellow writers down instead of lifting them up. Be an adult and have some respect. I suggest you go and speak to one of those Pushcart nominees and find out for yourself how hard they pushed and struggled, and how hard they STILL push and struggle, in their writing career. Maybe, hopefully, that will give you some perspective. But sadly, considering the tone of this opinion piece, I highly doubt that will happen.

    1. “The problem is, we still have writers, like the sour puss who wrote this, who still feel the need to push their fellow writers down instead of lifting them up.”

      I don’t really agree with the original post, but I also don’t think this was John Fox’s intent when he wrote it. He makes it pretty clear that, from his own perspective as an editor, bragging about a nomination in a cover letter is one of those things that makes you look like an amateur. Of course, this is only his perspective; the real question is, how widely shared among editors is that point of view? I have no idea.

      It seems to me that, since it’s easier to get published in the first place than it is to get a Pushcart nomination, Fox’s logic stumbles a bit. If I’m listing publications, why wouldn’t I point out that the editor thought it was one of the best things she published that year? Because isn’t that all you’re really doing?

  38. I’m so happy to be Push cart nominated by Minerva Rising this year. It is the fact that my work was chosen from so many others that initially boosted me. Statistically this pleases me without having to do the maths. The micro and the macro of the conversation are two important ends of this story and need to be considered. Minerva Rising editors rated my poem’s world, tone, shape, nuance… the work that I’ve spent so long fine tuning and yes pecking at my computer. Editors have seen my efforts and surely it helps other editors to know that a nominee most likely has some degree of literary whack. There are so many submissions because the crew at Push cart are doing the good overarching work of a true communist organisation, considering as many as they can. Proud doesn’t even come close to having my work handled by push cart. I like the tip about bracketing the p c n after the publishing journal for bios. Thks.

  39. Whoever wrote this post about being nominated and all that jazz not being important is probably just pissed cuz their writing career isn’t as big as they want it to be. I mean I sure as hell have never heard of John Matthew Fox. I think, Mr. Fox, if someone receives something that inspires them as an artist, they have every damn right to celebrate it, in whatever damn way they choose. By posting this bully trash “article,” you are defeating the purpose of writing, and art in general, which as I’ve always seen it, is about connection and bettering the world. I had no intentions of buying your book cuz I didn’t know who you were, but I sure as hell won’t do it now. And that, as they say, is that. 😉

  40. Here’s how ridiculous Pushcart Nominations are: I once won an award from a prestigious, definitely top 10, literary journal as their best short story they published that year. Yet they did not nominate that story for a Pushcart. I actually asked the editor about this apparent inconsistency and she said, “we use different criteria for Pushcart Nominations.” But they gave me a prize, and $1000, for being the best story in their journal that year? And that story was not one of five nominated for a Pushcart? So I’m obviously missing something when it comes to understanding the Pushcart Process. (I’ve never won one. I’ve been special mentioned three times.)

    1. I won a Pushcart last year, and mentioning it in my cover letter doesn’t seem to get me any special treatment. I still receive the same amount of form rejections as I did before.

      1. Your comment is besides the point of my post. I’m not expecting special treatment or whatever. What I meant was: if this journal – okay it was Ploughshares – gave me a prize for the best story they published that year (that was the stated criteria for the prize) then how was that story not nominated for a Pushcart? They didn’t really have any explanation. So the nomination process, at least at this journal, is certainly murky and subjective and in my opinion devalues the nomination process. (fwiw, I don’t know if I’ve ever been nominated for a Pushcart. I have won the prize since I posted the comment above, which is why I ended up back reading this open letter again.) I

      2. My post was meant for the general discussion but wound up as a reply to yours through my own carelessness with clicking reply arrows. Congratulations on the win, by the way. Now you can nominate stories that might otherwise have fallen through the cracks.

  41. On the pro website Publishers Marketplace, you’ll find plenty of agents announcing book deals from Pushcart-nominated author so-and-so. These are people who landed actual, real book deals. Maybe your advice is correct, but the labeling is pervasive even at that level. It’s hard to imagine authors who just inked a book contract getting away with bragging while Mr. or Ms. Emerging Writer is laughed out of South Frog Pond Review.

  42. If you don’t think the nomination should be on a bio or cover letter, I presume you also think the initial publication shouldn’t be on the bio either, because certainly a Pushcart nomination is at least as impressive as merely being published in the journal in the first place. So, in short, don’t ever mention your small press publications in a cover letter or bio? (Am I understanding correctly?)

    1. No, that’s not what I meant. Definitely list your publications on your bio or cover letter.

      Just don’t list your Pushcart Nomination in your bio or cover letter.

      The only place your Pushcart Nomination should appear is in your CV.

  43. Your mathematical estimate does a disservice to the writing community and it should be removed. I ask you. Please remove this.

    Your estimate assumes:

    1) A writer is never nominated multiple times.

    2) That the number of literary journals has been consistent since before your post. We likely have more far more lit journals since before the internet.

    3) That duotrope’s “active” and “inactive” status for a magazine is credible. It is not. It is just a guess by duotrope.

    4) That even half of the listed lit mags nominate is a just a bad estimate. It takes time, care, and effort in picking and sending out their nominations, especially when Pushcart Prize nominations required choosing, printing, and mailing, including paying for postage.

    5) That each journal that did submit submitted 6 nominations. They can submit up to 6, but there is no reason to use this in the estimate.

    1. One of the people who run the Pushcart anthology contacted me and told me that I had underestimated the number of submissions they receive. So thanks for your concern, but I’m going to leave this post up.

  44. In 2020, Twitter profiles for authors have one of two bilines:

    “Best Selling Author” (note that they omitted “New York Times” as clicks in our brain assume from so many book covers)
    (or)
    “Pushcart Nominee”
    (or sometimes even)
    “Pushcart Nominee Bestselling Author”

    There are literally thousands of these profiles, by mediocre authors. No to belittle their efforts or the necessity to self-advertise in the era of self-publishing, but it makes me less interested in their work as a writer rather than draw me in. (I have a small press.) This article is so true. But it also tells that Pushcard is as important a prize as ever, particularly if you make it to the later rounds.

  45. John, thank you for your post. I was Googling what a Pushcart Prize was to try to better understand it, and admittedly, it’s sort of what I suspected in one way and not what I expected in another: 1.) To be nominated doesn’t seem to matter all that much, if literally anyone from any journal the world over can be nominated; but 2.) the actual Pushcart Prize seems like a bigger deal than I thought, at least going by the reviews from reputable publications, and so to actually “win” or be mentioned by them would be a big deal.

    That all I said, what I get rather cynical about is how insular all of this is. I could start a “journal” tomorrow, begin following as many people as I can in the writing community on Twitter as possible, most will follow back and spread the word, open for submissions, select a few pieces, and when the time comes, submit some to Pushcart, and now that means something? In other words, my cynicism washes ashore at the idea of these little journals by writers for writers, which aren’t reaching a wider audience. Maybe I’m too cynical about it all, and it’s a way to be supportive and help writers’ self-esteem, but it seems a false esteem to me. Going back to math, I at least find the journals with a wider net, with few acceptances throughout a year, more laudatory.

    Sorry for the morning rant. Interesting post, thank you for sharing all those years ago.

  46. Totally agree with Katherine 2016. Nomination means I’m doing something wrong. Each time I get nominated I go off to a Buddhist retreat for 2 weeks to realign my karma.

  47. Yeah, sure there is a hierarchy in the nomination process. Is your story, essay, or poem nominated by a Pushcart winning writer who read it in a journal or press publication, or is it nominated by the editor who published it? Is your nominated work listed in the anthology as coming pretty close? Because that last one matters most. That is considered the “real nomination.” However, editors of literary journals aren’t just flinging their offerings to Henderson and his annual panels in a kind of guerrilla marketing tactic; Pushcart is partially dependent on the editors to let them know what to read. Henderson doesn’t consider online publications. (Nominate those works to Sundress Publications Best of the Net.) There is a swirling appreciation factor for the editors of literary journals and small presses that is acknowledged by the yearly anthology publication, same with those literary journals that arrive in mention at the “Best of” anthologies. It isn’t only about the poets and prose writers. Sure, we all understand the vast numbers of nominations, but they are spooned out of a larger sum of works published, and set against an even larger set of works not published. I think we can go easy on those who want to acknowledge and appreciate literary journal and small press editors nominating the writing that rose to the top of a year’s worth of selections, but we should hope they mention the journal or press that did so and, in part, to distinguish the level of nomination. I have begun to shy away from mentioning those nominations in bios, knowing that they are not the kind that get printed in a book, yet still find it worth celebrating on social media, and toasting those of friends.

  48. Mr. Fox: Why disparage other writers for promoting their nominations when you promote your own nomination (the Third Coast Magazine Fiction Award)? Why?

    1. A nomination means you haven’t won anything. It means you’re eligible to win something.

      I actually won the Third Coast fiction award. I got $1000 and publication and a very nice letter from Ann Beattie.

      It’s like the difference between buying a lotto ticket and actually winning the lotto.

      1. Question? An author has to be nominated by a University Press, Small apress or Micro-Press editors not themselves like the Eric Hoffer Book Awards ok so does that mean essentially that a Micro-Press editor can submit his/her own work for a Pushcart Prize Award Nomination?

      2. No not even close you have to be nominated over a bunch of others and that is an honor buying lotto ticket is meaningless. A nomination is not an award but it is an Honor and one I can certainly live with. If we are to use your logic their should be an open letter to Nobel Prize Nominees I mean after all they are not winners now are they?

  49. Just stumbled on here and am a bit overwhelmed by the smug tone of the open letter, coupled with the rather cowardly backpedalling and gaslight-y nature of BookFox’s response in the follow up and comments of “Hey, I’m just offering advice, why u mad bro”, as though this open letter is a professionally-worded, non-dickish helping hand to writers. There’s actually zero reason to leave a Pushcart Nom out of a bio since, as others have pointed out, it’s two extra words. If editors were looking at those two words and throwing stories back in the slush pile–in other words, if adding that nomination was such a gauche move that it becomes a disqualifier–I’d get it. But this whole open letter comes off as someone who’s won prizes looking down on those who’ve been nominated (and frankly dude, it’s pretty tacky to stipulate in the comments that you won the Third Coast Prize, clearly more prestigious than the Pushcart!, and call nominees lotto-ticket buyers. Fuck off).