Pigs AND Poetry at the San Mateo County Fair? You bet!
The Literary Stage offers writers from around the world an opportunity to enter literary contests and win cash prizes AS WELL AS free writing workshops and author presentations throughout the run of the fair. Not only that, we print all of the winning submissions in our annual Carry the Light Anthology.
The Literary Arts Contests
Boris and Bardi Koodrin took directorship of the fair’s Fine Arts Galleria in 2009, which has since grown into a premier 18,000 square foot art gallery and literary department. The art and literary contests award over $20,000 in prizes per year. We are proud to be partners with Notre Dame DeNur University, which offers through the fair an annual $5,000 Creative Writing Scholarship to full-time students who can earn up to $20,000 in four years. With no geographical boundaries, the contests are open to anyone, anywhere. Our first international literary entry, hailing from Australia, was submitted in 2016.
Bardi’s vision was to give writers a presence and a voice. First, she designed a hanging system so that submissions are displayed as works of art and fairgoers can easily detach them to sit down and read everyone’s stories.
To give writers a voice, she procured a stage with a professional sound system. Once that was in place, she contacted the San Francisco Peninsula Writers, the local branch of the CWC California Writers Club. Members enthusiastically volunteered their expertise and The Literary Stage was officially launched in 2009.
Since then, The Literary Stage has hosted over one hundred and fifty free “Events within the Event.” We’ve hosted local author book sales, open mic, writers’ panels and debates, author presentations, one act plays and monologues, community service events, dance performances, musical acts, children’s activities, and the Rejection Generator. Each year on Opening Day we host a Launch Party for our latest Carry the Light anthology; contestants love to autograph one another’s books, not to mention taking advantage of the opportunity to read their contest submissions to an avid audience of their peers.
A Unique Partnership between the Fair and the San Francisco Peninsula Writers
In 2017, the branch entered into a partnership to become an official “sanctioned” program, solidifying the nine-year collaboration between the CWC and the Fair. The purpose of sanctioning the Fair contests and the Literary Stage events through an organization like the California Writers Club is to create or expand community relationships. Sanctioning raises awareness of both organizations and increases the number of participants and entries. It calls attention to the literary contests held each year; sets a standard for more comprehensive contest guidelines by which entries are judged; and regulates the continuity of qualified judges, among other benefits. The rules for the division contests are determined by the CWC as the sanctioning body of the competition.
The fair continues to oversee the manner in which literary contests are judged fairly; all contests are judged blind, with no names attached to the submissions. The San Francisco Peninsula CWC has developed specific templates for judges to follow and to uphold the highest standards of impartiality and confidentially. What’s more, these templates can now be used by other CWC branches throughout the state of California to partner with their own local fairs. Who knows how far this concept could go?
Another unique aspect of the San Mateo County Fair literary department is Carry the Light, our annual anthology of contest winners’ work published by Sand Hill Review Press www.sandhillreview press.com. As far as we know, this is the only anthology of a county fair’s contest entries that is available during the run of the fair. This 300 plus page volume is a true effort of love, considering there is a brief five-week window of opportunity to get submissions judged and the books produced and distributed during the fair week in June. Contestants need not purchase a book to participate in the Literary Stage events.