Call me a glutton for punishment but I love to judge contests. A contest junkie? You bet! I can’t afford to enter all the contests I’d like, so I judge ‘em instead.
I’m absolutely floored when magnanimous friends of mine volunteer to chair contests for their chapters then moan the blues about not being able to find judges for all the entries pouring in. Are you kidding me? People won’t judge five - count’em 5 - creative pieces of genius begging for words of wisdom to guide them on their way? The disheartened coordinator shakes a heavy head at the task before him/her, while I shake my head at the blown opportunity.
What a learning experience each entry poses. I prefer to say I offer feedback rather than judging– you know, the whole judge not lest ye be judged thing–an opportunity to pass on a part of the knowledge I’ve gleaned over my 14 year career of writing. I can’t say I offer a whole lot of wisdom to the contest entrant outside of technique pointers and personal opinions. Rather, I’m totally selfish about the whole thing. These entries teach me what writing is all about, teach me to view the world through different eyes. I can spot a pro a mile away, and say a prayer for a publishing contract on their horizon; I can spot a newbie a hundred miles away, and say a prayer for a compassionate mentor to enter their lives. Each person courageous enough to offer their work as a sacrifice on the pillar of subjective criticism deserves a Badge of Courage.
To the pros, I sympathize with you and I’m feelin’ your pain, scowling at the fact this masterpiece of brilliance in my hot little hands (or on the computer monitor) is still on the aspiring market. I’m not an editor, nor do I have ambitions to ever be one. Its got to be the most confusing profession on the face of the earth. I often scratch my head and wonder what in Godiva Chocolates are editors looking for when all in the space of 30 pages, I’ve laughed, cried and scooted up to the edge of my seat? To all of you gifted writers I offer my thanks for entertaining me with unique plots, winsome writing, and the dedication to continue submitting your talent to the next contest.
Newbies, hey, we’ve all been there. I think I love judging your work even more than the pros. I see your heart, I feel your emotions. Enthusiasm bathes your plots like diamonds in the rough-sometimes very rough : ) Yeah, I can see it. So, you need to perfect your craft, don’t we all? Remember, aside from the Instant Successes who have their own issues to overcome, we have all poured our hearts into learning to present a great story. I praise God daily for nurturing deep within me the seed of storytelling, for giving me the desire to throw everything including the kitchen sink at a pair of characters that eventually leads them to a happy ending. Newbies often run headlong with such excitement. I see it in the entries that have no POV, whose writing is passive, who run off on tangents that leave me cross-eyed and flummoxed. Those are craft techniques that we all must learn, practice, perfect and incorporate. BUT, the ideas are works of art. Life experiences uniquely yours make me smile and nod, and humbly remember years ago when the only body part worthy of my attention were the eyes, and gazes were the sum total of the action of my plots.
Writers are not made, we’re chosen.
Welcome to the club : )