Monday, September 20, 2010

The Honorable Ms. Fox

Finally, after all these years, I’ve volunteered to judge a writing contest or two. Waiting to receive the entries is a little like waiting for Christmas morning. Sometimes you’re not quite sure what you’re going to get, but will be interested none the less.

I’ve had some good experiences in contests and some bad ones. The bad ones left me not wanting to enter anything. Ever. After giving it much consideration, I thought one way to remove the blight of the not so good experience would be to pay it forward, and try to be a better judge myself. So I particularly looked for a contest in which the judge would be allowed to make comments on the entries.

In my bad experience some of the comments I received were, ‘this isn’t a romance’ and ‘no one uses language like that’. Uh, excuse me, it is, and they do. But the point is, to me, those were not constructive comments. Especially in light of the fact that one of the judges proceeded to comment about the thousands of romances she had read, and not found one like mine. Therefore, it wasn’t fit to be published. Thank goodness I received a contract for that story the same day. Otherwise I would have been crushed. And just for the record, it’s a bestseller.

Now I usually put on my big girl panties in the morning, so things like this shouldn’t get to me. If you want to think my writing is crap, you are totally allowed to think that. I promise, I won’t lose one minute of sleep over it. The big ‘but’ is, tell me why. If my characters are TSTL, tell me what I could improve, just don’t tell me they are. How does that help me make them better characters? As a contest judge, a response like that is not only condescending, it’s in poor taste, and totally unprofessional. And if you cannot tell me how I need to improve, even though you don’t like something, then you are not fit to be a contest judge.

*looks around* Crimeny, where did that soapbox come from? *climbs down*

So here’s hoping I can truly help someone, and inspire them to be a better writer. Or, congratulate them because they are totally awesome right out of the box.


  1. Wonderful post! And I'm so glad that soapbox arrived on time. :) You're right though--judges sometimes need a bit more monitoring, particularly those dastardly old-lady types who think they are Siskel or Ebert of books. They aren't, which is why they are judging contest for free instead of writing literary reviews. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a way to let them know that?
    You'll be a fantastic judge, I know it.
    As for me... I bowed out of my usual contest judging gigs this year. Had too much going on. But maybe next year.
    Have fun with it!

  2. I'm interested to see what kinds of things turn you on and off about the contestants writing. You should do another blog post about that!

    And thanks for voting for me! :)