Contest junkie Terri Favro made the semi-finals in last year’s Deathmatch with her ghost story Cold Comfort, and faced off with the rampant poltergeist that is this competition. Now, with fears behind her, Favro is sharing just how haunted this lightless spot in the internet is, and maybe how to defeat it.
What brought you to submit to a tournament that pins up stories like targets at a gun range?
In the heat of battle, as I was dangling upside-down from the struts of the online arena with a battalion of trolls screaming down at me with virtual chainsaws, I asked myself that very question. Why, Terri? Why are you up at two a.m. defending your filthy but well hewn prose from invisible Neanderthals when you could be sitting by the fire writing sensitive, finely tuned, subtle short stories and sending them off to genteel literary competitions that will damn you with faint praise or actually publish you so that you can gently browbeat friends and family into actually reading them?
Possibly I have an atavistic desire to kill-or-be-killed. Or I was looking for cheap publicity for my indie press-published novel. Or I knew that a story entered into the Deathmatch was a story that would elicit a readership and a strong reaction rather than sitting chastely on a end table in its plastic wrapper until it was tossed unread into the recycling bin.
What kind of person did the Deathmatch bring out in you?
The kind of person who unexpectedly finds herself channelling George C. Scott in his career-defining role in “Patton”, if George were fighting a rear-guard action through Sicily while stylishly attired in a retro wrap dress (a big look during Deathmatch 2013), a pair of stiletto heeled pumps, and Cherries in the Snow lipstick, whilst standing in front a laptop at 2 a.m., heart racing, while mentally screaming, “What the fuck is this shit?” That person.
What were the most hostile thoughts you had during the Deathmatch?
That Deathmatch was not, in fact a literary competition, but the parasitic feeding frenzy of a gigantic soul-sucking monster that clamped its hagfish-like jaws on the voting machine and pumped it like a succubus, feeding off shredded egos, bad karma and inchoate rage. That, and maybe all these web hits just looked good on an advertising rate card.
What were the happiest?
I was pleased to realize that more people read “Cold Comfort” and had an opinion about it than anything else I had ever written. The reach of Deathmatch rivals Hockey Night in Canada playoffs for those not keen on tooth loss or the use of double negatives. I just gave it 110% and stuck with my game plan.
Is there anything from the comment board that still resonates with you?
One of the moderators referred to my supporters as burned out advertising creatives and empty-nester moms, which caused me to embrace even more strongly my friendships with burned out ad creatives and empty nester moms (both of which could describe me).
Do you have any advice for future Deathmatch participants?
Never, ever admit weakness or concede a point to your opponents or their miserable, cowardly, mealy-mouthed, puerile supporters. Open a small space of doubt and they will rush in and fill you with them. Even if you feel crushed and beaten, stand your ground.
Follow the action in other rounds and vote for the underdog (in other words, try to get yourself matched up against an easy mark).
Upgrade your bandwidth.
Brush and floss. Deathmatch will come to an end but your teeth are forever.
Mount an online privacy fence around anything you don’t want your opponents to poke their grubby fingers into.
Stock up on Bactine.
Live blog from a bar surrounded by drunken friends. It will both strengthen your resolve and help you absorb nasty sucker punches.
And as Don Corleone said in The Godfather, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
What have I been up to since the competition?
In the aftermath of Deathmatch, my competitive chops went into overdrive and I kept entering competitions. I was shortlisted for the CBC Literary Prize in Creative Non-Fiction, took an Honourable Mention in the CZP Rannu Fund Prize for Canadian Speculative Fiction, and won a contest run by Red Line magazine in the UK for a piece themed on the end of the world, which is going to be anthologized next year. I guess I’ve turned into one of those professional contest-enterers, like housewives from the 1950s who collected cereal box tops for a chance to win a La-Z-Boy or a bedroom suite.
On the non-contest front, I collaborated on a comic book, “Waiting for Mario Puzo”, published by Grey Borders a few months after Deathmatch. I’m now completing a autobiographical sci-fi novel called “Sputnik’s Daughter: A radioactive love story”, collaborating on another graphic novel, and planning out a sequel to “The Proxy Bride”, my novella published by Quattro in 2012 as a contest winner –– of course.
This year Favro will be moderating one round of the competition. For more info click – deathmatch