Only two months before the big day of the festival, we started announcing the writing competition. Considering the short notice, we only aimed for short story and poetry competition. We were so lucky that we had Khmer Writers Assembly to work hand in hand in this. Nou Hach Literary Journal inclusively donates to the festival to cover the prizes. Yet, I also convinced Aspeca Students Alumni to contribute 100 USD. This article I describe the whole procedure and address some lesson learns.
There were 43 poems and 35 short stories submitted. We were thinking about who would be the jury. We also thought of hiding their participation too. Finally, we dicided to have one committee member from the festival, a lecturer of Khmer Literature from the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and another poet.
We then developed a scoring table with a fomular ready for the jury to enter the score. Every entry was replaced by a number code to avoid any conflict or favor among judging jury. It looks like this.
There is only one person who took all the responsibility on the code. No one among the team would know who is who. Finally, the jury decided not giving any first prize to both categories. So, we got one second place, two third prizes, and one place for encouragement for the short story category. For poetry, we got one third prize (no first nor second), and three encouragement awards. The winners come from many provinces such as Koh Kong, Pursat, Phnom Penh, and Kandal.
Later, when the jury decided on the winners, we had to invite them to join us at Battambang so that we could give them the prizes. That was the time that we knew who they are. Among all the award winners, the committee know two of them. However, again we only know them after the award had been announced.
Initially, we were worried that there were too few women enter the competition. However, it ended with a happy ending as we have two women awarded and one of them received the top prize in short story category.
There are people that said most of the winners have connections with the organising committee. As a team leader, I would like to say that it is not strange that we know people in this small literary community. I believe that as long as we know ourselves we do not afraid of anything. If transparency does not start from us, what would it start from?
Thank you so much to Teri at the Nou Hach Literary Journal for inclusively contributed to the writing competition. Thanks for Aspeca Alumni for rewarding one winner. Thanks to Khmer Writers Assembly for being a great partner for the Khmer Literature Festival to organise everything smoothly and made the competition process went well.