A valued friend of mine (and a great writer) let it be known via Twitter recently that a piece they had published earlier this year had been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. “Well deserved!” I replied, because I happen to be that special kind of person who doesn’t feel threatened by friends’ success. And it was a really good piece.
Then I remembered, hey, wait a minute, my short story, “Sight Reading,” published by Prescott College‘s literary journal Alligator Juniper way back in 2007, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize that year. Somebody with Prescott had let me know about my nomination via email; I remember thinking how odd it was that my story, which had only earned an honorable mention in AJ’s short story contest, was now being nominated for a Pushcart. (The judge that year was none other than Nightbitch author Rachel Yoder.)
In any case, I snooped around on the Internet to see if getting nominated for a Pushcart Prize was something writers tended to brag about. What I found was, for the most part, writers didn’t tend to bring their Pushcart nominations up. Then I learned that pretty much any literary journal in the world(!) can send up to six(!) nominations to the Pushcart people, whoever they might be.
So being nominated for a Pushcart Prize merely means your story was somewhere among the handful of favorites of that particular journal’s editors (which you knew already, since they published it), and that these editors are aware of something called The Pushcart Prize. Thus, figuring it didn’t mean all that much, I left “Nominated for a Pushcart Prize, 2007” off my resume.
But I’ve been seeing it everywhere in recent years, writers describing themselves as “Pushcart Prize nominee” on their author websites, Twitter descriptions, et cetera. And every time I see it I think, So you wrote one of the best 10,000 short stories of this year, big whoop.
This may be an overly snide reaction on my part. (The voice in my head resembles that of David Spade when he talks about seeing people exiting a limo: Ooh, you have sixty dollars.) To be active on social media is to celebrate small victories wherever and whenever possible. Seeing one’s creative work nominated for anything is reason enough these days to shout it from the rooftops. Or mention it to your 166 Twitter followers.