Editorial: The Pushcart Prize

I have been reading up on the Pushcart prize. If you are not familiar with it, it is an award given out to the “best [literary works] of the small presses”.

I was surprised to find that quite a few people speak of being nominated for it disparagingly. The common idea is that being nominated for it is no big deal as over 10,000 people are nominated it for it each year. Some say that because so many are nominated that it is embarrassing to mention a Pushcart nomination among one’s writing credits and advise writers not to mention it.

To me, this is B.S.

To be nominated for any award (with the exception of the Darwin Awards and their ilk) is always an honor. It may be a small honor, but it is an honor nonetheless.

To be nominated for any award, one has to be selected out of a pool; the larger the pool, the more meaningful the nomination. My question then is: if 10,000 people are nominated for the Pushcart, how big was the pool from which they were selected? I can hazard only the broadest of guesses, but I suspect the figure is in at least the hundreds of thousands.

Another perspective on this is that to be nominated an editor or publisher has to nominate the writer. An editor may read hundreds of literary works in a year (maybe more), but he/she can nominate only six for the Pushcart. So, to be nominated, one’s work must stand out to that editor, a person who may have read hundreds of superb literary works per year for decades. Furthermore, if a publication has several editors, the six will likely have to be chosen out of all the hundreds of works all those editors have read. So when an editor nominates someone for the Pushcart (or any other prize) he/she is vouching for the high quality of that writer’s work. And if that nomination comes from an editor in a highly respected literary journal (e.g. Granta, the New Yorker, Agni, or The Paris Review), then that nomination means a lot.

So, why do I bring all this up?

For the first time, I am going to nominate six of The Chamber’s contributors for the Pushcart. I have already made my final decision and I need only put the package together to send to Pushcart Press (for some reason, they don’t accept nominations by email, only via the USPS). I will announce the nominees (and hopefully winners) at a later date. It was not easy making the selection because of the hundreds of excellent works submitted.

Thank you for your time, and thanks to all those who have submitted or otherwise contributed to The Chamber. It is a pleasure and honor to read and publish your work.