Monday, October 8, 2012

Writing Contest Judges

Writers enter contests for several reasons--to win, to get their name into the writing world, perhaps to test themselves, to take a chance they might win or place. As I told you on Friday, our state authors convention was held this past week-end. The Awards Luncheon is the final part of the week-end. Contest entries were sent between April and June and entrants had to wait until October to find out if their work placed, won big, or got no recognition at all. That's a long wait which results in great joy for some and disappointment for others.

This particular contest has several categories in both poetry and prose. It's up to the writer to decide how many entries to send. There were some happy faces on the people who walked to the front to accept their award. The woman handing out the certificates and checks made a rather startling (to me anyway) statement as one person was on her way to receive an Honorable Mention. She said that the judge had penned a note on the entry that told the writer that her work probably would have placed much higher if the judge had been younger and more hip. 

Maybe that comment would have been better left for the individual to read herself rather than hear it publicly. But, it also got me to thinking about contests and the judges. Maybe the judges personality and stage of life plays a bigger part in winning contests than we realize. I feel, though, that a judge should not consider lifestyle, age group, or other specifics when judging a writing contest. Judge the writing, not what he/she relates to as far as those item are concerned.

If a 24 year old judges a memoir about WWII, he/she would have a difficult time relating to that era, but they can judge the impact of the writing, the passion behind it, the good or bad mechanics. If a 70 year old judges a piece on the rock bands lifestyle, he/she should consider those same things. Consider the writing above the subject matter. 

So, if you didn't win anything in a contest you entered--whichever and wherever it might be--don't give up. Enter your work in another contest or submit it to an editor for possible publication. I've often told writers that an editor is only one person. If the first one doesn't accept your submission, then move on to the next one. Her opinion could be altogether different. Judges are the same--all individuals.

An ideal situation would be to have 3 judges make their choices from a group of entries, then see which entries get unanimous votes, which have differing views etc. Note that I said ideal because in the real world, it's not easy to find people willing to commit to the time it takes to judge a writing contest. 

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