Contests. I love to hate them. (Sheesh, this love/hate thing seems to be a theme this week.) Anyhoodles. Writers have many opportunities to participate in contests. I entered them when I first began writing because I needed the affirmation that I’d written the next best seller. (Lack of confidence has never been one of my problems. *g*)

What I discovered instead was several wonderful judges who took the time to explain all the things I was doing wrong. Since I entered all different contests from first chapters, to first kiss, to best endings, I learned so much. I never did final in a contest for unpublished writers. As a highly competitve person who always wants to finish first this was such a bummer, but I survived. And I not only survived the constructive criticism, I learned

I now have the opportunity to do the same for other writers. I’m judging writing contests and thoroughly enjoying myself. With my teaching background I rarely have problems finding positive ways to offer advice and soften the teaching moments. (I hope.) Still, it hurts. I have no doubt these writers sent in a story they believed was ready to be published. And some of them were, others … not so much.

I’m happy for the finalists, but my heart is with those that are going to receive less than stellar scores via email or snail mail. For some, there will be tears and frustration. Disbelief as they leaf through the pages reading judge’s comments. I have no doubt. I’ve been there. I can only hope these writers don’t become so discouraged that they walk away from their dreams. I hope they take this opportunity and learn from their mistakes so that their stories become stronger and their writing better.

Being a published author takes tenacity. Perseverence. Thick skin. I hope if you’ve entered a contest that you keep on keepin’ on. Because that’s the only way to get the brass ring.

0 Responses to The Other Side of the Coin

  • Nina, I love judging contests! And I agree; you want so much to help! I have to say–one of the most craft-challenged manuscripts I ever judged went on to get published, because that author just wouldn’t give up. It took her a while, but she did it! Being able to improve and keep improving is one of the best quality a writer can have, methinks.

  • Nina–You’ve touched a nerve with this post, as so many of yours do!

    As a two-time contest chairperson and a regular contest judge, one thing I’ve learned is this: If contestants send thank you notes to their judges it becomes less difficult to re-recruit them. When a job becomes thankless, people stop offering to volunteer.

    My advice is that regardless of your score, say thank you! Send a note of thanks to judges through the contest coordinator. She will forward the message. A little thanks goes a long way to encourage volunteerism.

    Best–Adele Dubois

  • Kristan – I love to hear those stories. Even with the muse begging for release, the mechanics of telling a story well is something most of us need to learn. Contests are a great way to get that experience and have an opportunity to learn from others who have been there.

    Adele – Thank you. I’m glad you enjoy my ramblings. I think “thank yous” in general have gone by the wayside. But you’re right. I sent thank yous to the judges who helped me along the way. Though I will admit I got lazy toward the end of my contest years, which is a shame. I know those judges would have appreciated knowing that they had made a difference in my writing journey. Thanks for the reminder.

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