Don’t know about you, but guilt rules my life. Yep, the secret’s out – everyone including the family dog can guilt me into doing what they want me to do. It’s no different with contest coordinators. "Hey, we have record entries and one of them is yours! Wanna help judge?" Really, you don’t even have to twist my arm THAT much. All you have to say is you have a need, and if your need fits into that moment of my life, I’m happy to help : )
Now, as we all know, when you enter a contest you’ve agreed to judge, you can’t judge your own category. Bummer. What do I know about stuff I don’t write?
Twinges of adrenaline rush begin. . .
What? All you have left are Short Contemporaries with Paranormal chasers?
Blood begins to pound in ears. . .
With a twist of Romantic Suspense and sides of Chick and Lad Lit?
Guilt over being a selfish only child nudges me into the waters of the unknown. . .
. . .and I find I have a blast splashing around in the big pool -- hook, line and sinker : )
For instance, take the first year I had to judge YA. What a hoot! It was so refreshing to judge a sub-genre I never read. Now before any seasoned YAers begin to scream foul over my lack of familiarity with the idiosyncrasies of the of the sub-genre, let me assure you, I know the elements of romantic fiction writing, plus I have two teenagers. I think I have a pretty good idea of what I’m up against. I bow to the YA authors. Frankly, I wish my teenagers could read the completed books I’ve judged the entries for : ). What a challenge to write a good romance, yet make it digestible for the teen market. YA is now my first choice when volunteering to judge.
What I learned from YA: Throw away my jaded attitude toward the adult contemporary re-hashed, re-issues and enjoy being an adventurous teen again.
And how about the time I judged Sci/Fi for RWA contests?? Whoa, was that an experience! Again, the elements of romance remain the same, and the other considerations were clearly marked on the score sheet, so really, it was non-anxiety inducing to judge. . .but what way-out plots and settings I experienced!! I loved it! Okay, my normal, everyday mind does not think in the circles required to write a good Sci/Fi, but I quickly learned which writers had the knack for it. Think about it, a good Sci/Fi, Paranormal, Time/Travel author has to make it believable enough for the regular, on-the-street person to agree with the premise, YET, make me suspend reality long enough to enjoy the world they’ve created. Marvelous talent. Makes me envious : )
What I learned from Sci/Fi: It is WAY okay to think outside the box : )
I’m really not a fan of issue books, but do you realize how much effort and research are involved in writing Womens’ Fiction? Take the hot topics of the day, throw in your modern day super-woman and executive man, shake them together with gripping conflicts of twenty-first century proportions and Voila! You have yourself the next best seller!! Okay, not always on such a grand scale, but hey, you’re living in the here and now, you know what it’s like in the world. . .and to be dating? Womens’ Fiction gives readers like me (a settled, fuddy-duddy of a married woman) a taste of what the romance world is like today. Trendy, cautious yet, hopeful. Gotta love the odds.
What I learned from Womens’ Fiction: It ain’t easy making bizarre life look normal.
This year, I’m judging Contemporary and Historical entries, my most familiar stomping grounds, and finding the entries entertaining and intriguing. There’s a lot of talent out there which only serves to remind me how no one can sit on their laurels and expect to stay in the game. If you keep up on the Market News and Contest Win columns at all, you see some familiar names, but you also see a ton of new names. The sub-genre market may be cyclical, but the writers’ market remains in a constant state of competition. Editors change houses. Publishing houses conglomerate. The cream of writers rises to the top.
What I’ve learned from having the privilege to judge my fellow contest entrants’ work: I have a lot of work ahead of me in order to grab my share of the Dream Whip.
Being out of your element isn’t a bad thing. It hands you the opportunity to learn different aspects of your craft on a silver platter. It shows you’re willing to try something new. It makes your contest coordinator friends (hi Camy; hi Ruthy) happy with you. Most of all. . .
. . .It keeps the well-cultivated guilt molecules from building up inside of you until your eyeballs bulge and pop, spewing noxious gas on unsuspecting victims. Heaven forbid your future editor/agent chooses to sit down beside you at that moment. . .
Hmmm, think about it. . .
Blessings to all, and to all a spectacular Spring!!