“Mom, it’s not that bad, really.”
“She hated it,” I cried, sobbing into my pillow.
“But the other judge liked it—she said you had a nice voice.”
“Who cares! I got a 50% score … I’m garbage.”
“Mom, ya gotta handle contests better than this.”
I fisted a tear-stained entry in my hand. Rrrrrrrrip! I stared my daughter down and tossed the pieces in the air like confetti. “How’s that for handling??” I rasped. “Tell Dad we’re eating out.”
JULIE LESSMAN’S CONTEST TIP #1: Never … repeat … NEVER enter a contest after you’ve gone off hormones.
Okay, maybe I never really ripped a judge’s comments in two, but I certainly entertained thoughts of ripping a few judges in two. I mean, let’s face it—criticism hurts—bad! But you learn from it, you grow from it, you develop a thick skin (a prerequisite for trying to write novels), and—God willing—you become a better writer. So, bottom line, I am ALL FOR CONTESTS … unless, of course, you recently went off hormones.
Trust me, I know what I’m talking about, and so does the contest coordinator for the Heart of the Rockies contest a few years back. Poor thing. We’re friends now, but I think she went into rehab after that contest, if I’m not mistaken. Remember that cancer scare in the news regarding taking hormones? Yeah, so does my family … that was about the time they went into hiding when I weaned off HRT. You see, I was contest crazed … and if I wasn’t crazed, I was crying. Judges’ comments were lifeblood to me, and I torpedoed the Heart of the Rockies coordinator daily like a heat-seeking missile when I didn’t receive my judges’ comments.
“But where are they??” I badgered.
“They were sent out a month ago, Julie; you should have them by now.”
“Well, I don’t, and I need them—bad! Can’t you resend them?”
“Sorry, we don’t keep copies.”
Long, high-pitched groan. “But can’t you have the judges redo them—please?” (Yes, I really did ask that … a definite symptom of hormone withdrawal.)
“Julie, I’m sorry, but they are apparently lost in the mail. Give it time.”
Time? I didn’t have time. At this rate, I would never be published! So I did the only thing I could to stay sane while entering contests—I went back on HRT and became “normal” again (a relative term). I stopped crying, even when the scores were awful, because I knew that every contest made me a little bit better, a little bit stronger—a fierce competitor. And, I truly believe, contests played a key part in getting me published (finaling in the Golden Heart contest netted me a fabulous agent who landed me a 3-book publishing contract. Take that, Judge # 21!).
Months later after the Heart of the Rockies debacle, my husband and I were dining out, and I happened to comment about those lost judges’ scores. “I guess I’ll never know where they are,” I lamented.
My husband lowered his head. His focus seemed to sharpen on cutting the steak on his plate. “Er … they’re, well they’re … under Amy’s mattress.”
I blinked. “Excuse me?”
He looked up with a sheepish grin. “We decided—Amy and me—that given your emotional state at the time, those scores were not a good idea.”
My mouth sagged open. “So you hid them? Under Amy’s mattress? To keep the contest lunatic from going over the edge???”
He grinned. “Pretty much.”
I chugged my beverage of choice and gave him a shaky smile. “Thanks, babe, you’re the best.”
OKAY, guys ... don't leave me out on a limb here (or an edge) -- tell me your own contest horror stories! Everyone who leaves a comment (horror story or not) will have their name thrown in the hat for a signed copy (winner's choice) of one of the books in The Daughters of Boston Series. Winner will be announced in The Seekers Weekend Edition. So whether contest judge or entrant ... this is YOUR chance to pop a hormone or two and unload. Go for it!