Thursday, June 12, 2008

Contests: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ruthy here, pestering you all in typical fashion, but that's what I do, right?

Hey, just wanted to give you a heads up that Cynthia Rutledge will be guest blogging for us on Saturday, June 14, 2008. Yes, this very Saturday you will find our buddy Cindy hanging out in Seekerville, with her bathing suit, no doubt!!!

We'll have sweets and drinks on the deck, and the pool is ready for swimming, so come prepared.

Cindy's a talented gal who's never afraid to share thoughts and expertise with Island inhabitants and pubbed authors alike. Come on by, grab some chips, sip a long, cool drink and we'll dish...

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

Writing contests. Are they good? Bad? Useless? Helpful?

All of the above, depending on the entrant, entry and the contest involved.

If you’ve entered a contest, you’ve most likely run the gamut of feelings. Hope, fear, joy, despair. That awful feeling that you’ve just left your naked baby out in the rain. While especially true for newbies, it can be equally as traumatic when you know your work has the caliber to win or place, and it still doesn’t.


All that said, entering writing contests should be a well-thought plan. That's your job, Cupcake. Tweak it, pimp it, lay the entry out in full twenty or thirty page glory, making sure you touch on important topics that don't necessarily happen in the 'real' twenty pages. Today's judges are often geared, trained and/or programmed to look for complete revelation of your GMC (I think that's an acronym for some Chevy product) in the opening pages, plus they want you to reveal the H/H's inner conflict with a strong showing of external conflict. Your hero and heroine need to be embraceable from the beginning but separated emotionally and sometimes physically by seemingly insurmountable circumstances.



Good luck with all that!!!!

On top of that, make sure it's the book of your heart, that you've targeted your publisher and audience correctly, and that your family is fed on occasion.

Below are some realistic tips to help a very subjective topic.

1. Enter contests that suit your work.

Make sure the categories offer the sub-genre or manuscript length that fits your story. Other than size, a contemp is a contemp, right? Short, long, a contemporary romance will contain the elements of traditional romance with the expected plot twists that bring our hero and heroine to a satisfactory conclusion.

Oooooo. Wrong. So wrong. A short contemporary will bound into plot points, not having the weight of an additional 30,000 words to muddle things out. A long contemp has the luxury to do a slow, rhythmic dance, weaving threads intrinsically, because of that same 30,000 word cushion. Therefore, a short contemp, entered into a long contemporary contest, might miss the mark because the timing is off in the judge’s opinion.

Also, your work should fit the scoresheet involved. Many chapters have their score sheet available online. If characterization is a big factor and your heroine doesn’t appear until the last two pages of the entry, you’re in trouble. The judge is constrained by the score sheet; he or she needs to abide by the contest parameters. If your work doesn’t fit the format, you need to decide the value of entering that specific contest.

2. Know your reasons for entering.

Do you want constructive feedback? Are you willing to risk losing to gain a critique of your work? Are you thick-skinned enough to shrug off a bad judge, and thick-skinned enough to accept the advice of a good judge who points out your flaws?

Judging is subjective. I’ve seen contest results on books that I would have scored higher or lower for individual reasons. In many cases, I can’t fault that other judge’s opinion because it’s based on their preference, experience and expertise. My disagreement doesn’t make me right and them wrong. Simply different.

Judges come into contests with their own set of expectations. It’s a rare book that satisfies a wide variety of judges. When that happens, you know you have a winner. An entry that stands the test. This is an unusual circumstance that most of us can attest to, from either side of the coin.

I’ve had two entries I judged go to discrepancy in separate contests. One was the way-too-often-mentioned-here entry from our very own Mary. Although I dissed her story presentation, we became fast friends as a result. (A plot on her part to find out where I live and have me ‘taken out’… Shame on you, Mary Connealy. Murder isn’t nice, except in cozies.)

The other was an entry that dealt with an historical period I’d just read about in a lovely book that has since become a TV movie. That book was so well done that the contest entry didn’t come close to measuring up in my opinion. While some aspects of the entrant’s writing were good, the set-up and hero/heroine relationship were weak in my estimation, probably because I’d read the NAL book a few months previous. I came into that entry with heightened expectation because of what I’d experienced, skewing my opinion. The discrepancy judge loved the story and she became a finalist despite me. Right? Wrong? Who knows?

3. Take it on the chin.

You need to handle your results with professionalism and dignity. Good or bad, someone put time and effort into examining your work. If they didn’t, a polite note to the contest coordinator is in order. Coordinators want to know if contestants are dissatisfied with the feedback from an entry. If it’s simply that you disagree with the results, then stop. Take a breath.

A day.

Okay, maybe a week. Look at your work objectively. Compare it with others. Run it by your critique group or partner, without prepping them first. Then be tough enough to handle the advice given.

Does this mean you’ll always agree with that advice? No, of course not. It’s never easy to hear criticism of our kids, husbands or our work. Way too personal! But, it can hone your writing into something with a greater likelihood of finding its way to an editor’s desk, and that should be your overall goal.

4. Get over it.

Yeah, that’s what I said. Good, bad, indifferent, get over it. Move beyond. Put your chin in the air and your hands on the keyboard and get back to work. If you’re not ready to revise that particular piece, then move on. Start something else. Pouting is a waste of time and time’s a limited substance. You never know when you’ll run out! Dust off the seat of your pants, tuck in your lower lip and start anew. You are the champion of your destiny. The captain of your ship. The pilot of your plane…

You get the picture.

Contests range from good to bad and everything in between. What you take from them sculpts your work into something worth seeing. Worth buying.

Words for the wise: Enter at your own risk, but don’t be afraid to take the chance. Where else can you get a professional critique of your work for twenty to thirty dollars? Cheaper than most writing courses and maybe more valuable. I don’t know of any writing courses that end up with your thirty-to-fifty page opening sitting on an editor’s desk.

Current issues of RWR list contests. We update them in Seekerville on a regular basis thanks to Tina’s scouting efforts. Mull the possibilities, my friends. Eye the upcoming choices. Browse the net. Study the score sheets. Then make an informed decision based on what you’ve learned.

At the very least, contests get your work out there, in someone else’s hands. That’s a pretty good start. They toughen your writing and your spirit. In this profession, both are intrinsic to your success.

To enter or not is a personal decision. Either way, best of luck to you. It’s never easy to take those steps forward, but standing still shouldn’t be a viable alternative.



  1. Hello, my name is Tina and I am suffering from contest burn out. Got a cure? (besides self medicating with Lamar's donuts)

  2. Excellent comprehensive post on entering contests, Ruthy! No one is a better cheerleader for getting our work out there than our tyrant. Great job!

    Hey, I'm looking forward to Saturday's visit with Cindy, but no way am I wearing a bathing suit. Before you give me grief, I am wearing clothes. Capris and a sleeveless top, both nicely pressed. :-) At least I don't have to use a flat iron like Miss Adelaide.


  3. Tina, I have the cure for contest burn-out.

    A contract, LOL!!!

    You and me, babe, we did that whole switch genres thing, trying to find our niche, and we've been slapped down repeatedly, but we're tough. We're too old not to be, LOL!

    But donuts help, although we don't have Lamar's here. I read about them online though, and I hear those babies are addictive. My theory is that addictions are fine as long as they leave you safe to drive with.

    And those Stephany's Chocolates...

    to die for.


    Tina is my rock solid cheerleader bud who never lets me stay in the basement too long, even in tornado (smackdown by judges) season. She's always got a hand out and a helpful ladder to the nearest accessible window.

    God bless her!

    And I saw Carla Capshaw's little note to you the other day, my friend. Soon. Promise.


  4. Janet, we did a virtual vacation with Janet Edgar before she went home to heaven, and we ALL wore bathing suits, although some of us had full length suits on. I remember someone actually tore a whole in her knee riding the surf or some such thing.

    Come on, girlfriend.

    And in Seekerville, no one has cottage cheese thighs or dimpled buns. The virtuality component smooooooooths everything. Pretend it's a bathing suit shoot by Glamour Shots... Those photogs can make even the oldest among us look good. Amazing thing, Photo Shop.

    Imagine how many 'silk' screens it would take to level out these wrinkles?????

    I don't think America makes that many pantyhose!

    But you can wear your capris, and don't come without your make-up. We don't want the deliverymen scared away or flinching.


    And I heard that Johnny Depp MIGHT be stopping by today, maybe helping people get in that romance writing mood????




  5. OK, I'm leaving a comment so Mary can't make fun of you, Ruth. Here's the comment:

    Couldn't you write a long post? Sheesh...I finished War and Peace before I got to the end of this post. But, of course, I only read the cover...

  6. If you guarantee I'll have smooth thighs, then count me in, Ruthy.
    :-)I'll wear sunscreen under my make-up so as not to scare Mike, if he dares appear this weekend. Not all the Seekerville babes are virtual, Mike.

  7. I'm not afraid, but maybe you all should be. After all, I will appear topless if I show up. Scares me and I only see it in the shower!

  8. Oh, I sooo needed this hefty dose of Ruthy today -- especially the part about taking it on the chin -- even IF it comes from a certain Seeker who shall remain nameless ...

    Honestly, Ruthy, nobody bottom-lines it better than you and I LOVE bottom-liners (not to be confused with bottom-feeders, mind you).

    And, Michael, I believe I may just show up to see that topless wonder. Ahhh ... it's sooo nice to have a man around the blog! :)

  9. OK, I'm willing to hang out Saturday if there are nice daquiris with little umbrelleas in them. As for contest burnout. It's sort of like interview burnout. You try your best, think you fit the role perfectly only to be told they didn't think you were a good fit for whatever reason they concoct. Push through. Know in your soul that you are the best out there. And rely on good friends and family to provide the necessary chocolate and kick in the butt to get out there and try again!

  10. Mike!

    Did anyone read more than the cover of War and Peace???

    Or was it the cover of my post, LOL!!!!

    Long-winded, long-suffering, long-in-the-tooth.

    I just don't know enough to hush up, honey-chile.

    Thanks for stopping by. Mike's one of my 'pimp' friends...

    I use him and others to make myself look popular to the general masses.


    It works.

    Fake it 'til you make it and all that.


  11. Amanda, you've nailed it on the head, girlfriend. Contests, proposals, etc. are just like interviews and you have to be tough to hang in and figure God's got a plan and you just need to ride the waves to get to the shoreline.

    But sometimes the high waves make that shoreline indiscernible, so we ride high on faith.

    Never a bad thing. So glad to see you here!

    And Mike, Janet's gorgeous with or without her make-up. They just have wimpy delivery guys in the Midwest.

    And Mikey's coming shirtless to the pool? Good thing, 'cause we would sooooo make fun of you if you wore a tighty whitey. (Although feel free to put it on when you're out of the water. Seriously. And no Speedos, Mike.)

    Janet, they've got some really good waterproof make-up out now, don't they? Clinique, I think...



  12. Hi Ruthy, it's me, Kimberli and I have a question. First, sorry I haven't been around. I waited until y'all were busy watching the mailboxes for contest results and I shipped off Unpubbed Island. Yep, that's right, after four years of trying, I was slapped beyond the Yellow Brick Road. But I haven't stopped writing, nor will I. I'm just taking a spending-free (for the most part) hiatus to improve my writing and so far, so good. Go me!

    Now my question. It's silly because as I type, it makes total sense, but I have to ask. When entering past contests, I polished my work in its manuscript form as best I could and then sent it in. Are you saying to win a contest, one should target a win by restructuring the ms so that it contains the main point(s) of plot, conflict, and characterization at the beginning (aka, the entry material)? Sorry to be so dense, but I didn't find you good folks and others like you until this year. Thanks.

  13. Hmmm...Speedo...Me ...

    Ain't happening, even for fun, those days are LONG over (if they ever existed...maybe in high school, don't recall).

  14. I'll show up on Saturday too! My wedding is 3 weeks from Saturday and, according to my sister-in-law, it would be good for me to get some sun on my stark-white upper body. We Irish girls have two shades of skin: white or burnt. :)

    Great post Ruthy! And thanks for all of your help with the wedding plans. 2 weeks until I'm back in NY and away from the tornado warnings of Minnesota! Tell me again why people choose to live here? It's either -100 degrees in the winter or there are natural disasters trying to kill you. Craziness...A day in the sun and the pool sounds perfect right about now. And let's just pretend that I've already gotten a pedicure, okay? :)

  15. Great points, Ruthy. Make an informed decision but don't be afraid to try.

    Tina, I agree. A contract is the solution at this point. In the meantime, just push through the burnout and keep plugging away. You'll be there before you know it!

    Hi, Amanda and Mike!

    Kimberli, welcome back! We missed you!!

    Hi, Beth. Good to see you here, too. I have to say that I used to wish my freckles would grow to the point where they would meet so I would look like I had a tan. :)


  16. Kimberli, missed you girl!!! So glad to have you back.

    And, since you've been brave enough in the past to post some beautifully written things, I know you've got talent out the wazoo and feel free to ask the other Seeker Sisters...

    I don't blow sunshine at anyone, Cupcake, not ever. And I mean EVER.

    So, it's okay to get blown out a bit, because:

    A. It toughens us.

    B. This business isn't for wimps.

    C. We truly appreciate the blessings of publication when they come our way and we thereby don't act all smug and fulfilled because WE understand how iffy that road to publication is and...

    D. If it doesn't kill you, it'll only make you stronger, woman.

    E. It happens to all of us, pubbed and unpubbed, and don't believe for a minute it doesn't. You're in very good company, my friend.

    So, to your question:

    Yup. If you go back in the archives I've got a post on 'pimping your entry' and that goes into detail of what most (not all, certainly, but many) judges eye up when they weigh up manuscripts.

    In that post I mentioned my friend Andrea Wilder (shameless plug here, Andrea's book FEARLESS, put out by Dorchester is a wonderful historical with paranormal elements and a to-die-for hero... fairies... I love the idea of fairies and leprechauns and my Celtic blood feeds right into that)and how she tweaked (or pimped) her entry to the Marlene contest, ended up winning (among other contest finals and wins) and landed on Alicia Condon's desk at Dorchester, and then her first contract.

    But the opening she sent Alicia in full book form was the 'real' opening, the one that allows the story to evolve naturally and doesn't trigger quick explosions of the full story line.

    But in contests you often need those micro-bursts because you're up against the best of the best unpubs that entered that particular contest, so ya' gotta shine.

    So, yes, Kimberli, it's absolutely A-Ok to re-work your opening to be the strongest contest attention-getter you can muster while your 'real' manuscript lays things out in a more reader-friendly fashion.

    Does that make sense?


  17. What wrong turn did Mike take to end up here. Welcome. I thought we cured you of Seekerville.

    One thing I want to emphasize from Ruthy's post is-and I quote:Tweak it, pimp it, lay the entry out in full twenty or thirty page glory, making sure you touch on important topics that don't necessarily happen in the 'real' twenty pages.

    The thing is, while you're tweaking, you're learning. You need this in the first pages. Not a deluge of it but a bit. A hint at least. You need your hero in there. You need a flash of the GMC (I seriously don't quite understand GMC Goal Motivation and Conflict but respect others who DO understand it...perhaps I'll write a post about it someday explaining what I THINK it is)
    So you're learning how to be the best writer you can be.

  18. Is the world ready for Mary's posts on what she THINKS things are?


    Inquiring minds better flee.

    Contests aren't the end-all.
    Contest judges aren't all genuises.

    So far this year, I'm 0-4 in contests. That sucks. And knowing my entry came "this close" to finaling doesn't freakin' ease the sting of not finaling. Oh well.

    Despite not finally and while the feedback wasn't awesome, I was able to garner enough from the scores and comments to improve my story. I wonder if I would have spent that $75 on a editor, would I have gotten an equal, more, or less amount of helpful feedback?


    What actually cracks me up about my last contest endeavor is that one of my judges said "this synopsis is awful; scrap it and start over."

    Considering Camy critted that syno, I'm now wondering if that judge is syno-stupid or Camy was just being nice to me.

    My newest contests strategy is to use one in hopes of getting an editor to re-look at a rejected story. Hopefully I revised the critter (umm, the manuscript opening, not the editor) enough that the editor will be willing to re-read the whole ms. Of course, my plan hinges on finaling.

    There's aways a catch.

    Like me in a bathing suit. ;-)

    Now on to something truthful...

    Last week one of my TBL final round judges returned her packet. Let me say, this (Seeker) judge turned in the most amazing scoresheets I've ever had the privilege of reading. I'm torn between being excited for the entrants and being envious that one of the scoresheets isn't for something I wrote.

    Yes, judging is subjective. And one of the worst things about entering a contest is getting back scores and no comments.

    But occasionally a judge generously takes the time to point out specific weaknesses and strengths, while offering viable suggestions for improvement.

    Ruthy, I'm following Tina's and your genre-switch course in my next contest endeavor. We'll see how I far as a contemporary writer.

    Do modern folk use "henceforth" and "alas"? Hmmm. I might need to do some word changes. Yikes.

  19. Mary, that's a great point. Tweaking, quirking and/or pimping our opening helps us to become more adept at planting seeds of the story, foreshadowing, setting up plot points, and using words sparingly.

    I'm still firm on the GMC being some kind of Envoy or Jimmy or some such thing.

    No disrespect to the wonderful Deb Dixon intended, of course.

    And if Mary does a post on GMC, wear head cover and battle armor because the end times might follow.

    Just sayin'.



  20. Hey, Bridal Beth stopped by to pester her sainted mother.

    Hi Beth!

    We're busy at our place getting things ready for the big day. Can't wait to see it all put together. Sweet, petite Bethany, decked out in bridal organza and satin, her Cinderella gown trailing down the rose-toned aisle...

    Anybody got some extra Valium?

    With a Kahlua chaser, perhaps????

    Seriously, I love weddings and we're putting Beth's on as a team effort which has thwarted my early morning attempts at writing, but how many daughters does one woman get?

    Thanks for stopping in, kid. Love you.


  21. Gina, love seeing your pretty face!

    Hey, kid, I printed off those pages last night. Since I can't seem to get to them on the computer, I'm doing them tonight come...

    Well, you know.

    Kid, a piece of advice Andrea gave me and it helps. Promise.

    Stay away (far, far away) from contests who want synopses, judged or unjudged.

    Here's why:

    Even unjudged I've (and others of my ilk) have had people deduct points for the synopsis because it didn't make sense to them.

    Hello? What part of unjudged didn't they get??? And then they admit to taking things off because the synop doesn't 'work' for them.

    Oh Mylanta!

    So go for ones with no synopsis requirement. Tina's a great one for going over synops and she was the one who showed me the error of my ways and moved me from a 'creative' synop to a more technical document that seems to be more to the point.

    An editor either loves your writing or doesn't. The synopsis is a basic outline, and no editor that I've come in contact with limits you to a four or five page synopsis on a 400 page book.


    So steer away from them if at all possible and don't feel bad about it. Our job as contest coordinators is to 'work' the contest to help the authors, not hinder their chances. If synopsis judging or not judging gets in the way of that, scrap it, right?

    More and more contests are getting away from them, so seek them out.


  22. I entered my first contest this year - the Genesis - and I was pleased with the feedback.

    I thought I did fairly well since my scores were above avg but I didn't final.

    My CP's also entered and we all switched scoresheets so that we would know what to watch out for while we critted (sp on purpose) each other.

    I was floored when I saw that one of my CP's had rec'd a score in the low 90's and still hadn't finaled!

    Talk about putting my writing into perspective.

  23. Hi Ruthy, I have no comment because I'm currently sitting in a waterside taverna on the island of Lefkas in the Greek Ionian Islands. I finally found an internet cafe with wifi that allows me to use my own computer. Sorry-I just had to share.

  24. Yeah, avoiding contests asking for them is my preference, but sometimes ya have no choice but to send on in.

    With my next contest of choice, I had to send in a syno. Only problem is the ms isn't finished and I'm not a plotter, so how was I supposed to know what happens over the course of 350 pages?

    Cool thing is I think the synopsis is fairly decent. And I feel pretty good about having a roadmap for writing the rest of the story, which I should be working on but...

    I'm waiting on my 5-yr-old to pee in a cup.

    Thrilling, I know.

    TMI, I know.

    It's for her school physical. The pee. Not the cup.

    Just between you and me, pediatricians are worry-warts. The gal today was "concerned" because the muscle that connects Rhyinn's neck to her shoulders "seems a tad too big." She named some adverse condition.

    I ignored it.

    The chitlin carries her 15-month sister around the house. She's a strong critter so, of course, that muscle isn't going to be soft and supple.

    And the doc was happy to share with me that Rhyinn is in the 10%-ile in weight and 25%-ile in height. Her bones are inflatable.

    For some weird reason, the pediatrician didn't find that humorous.

    Oh, Ruthy, I've made some changes to those pages you printed. Nothing major. Just some tightening and clarification things. Read if you feel inclined. Use paper to line birdcage if you don't.

  25. Cat, don't mind me when I say I'm ignoring you.

    Temps in the 100s in Virginia is wrong. I'd move to Florida or those lovely Greek isles, but I hate to pack.

    Did I mention I'm ignoring you?

  26. My goal for entering contests this year was to see if I improved from last year. Glad to report that I did. I didn't final anywhere but did do my "personal best." (So far)

    Beach parties and weddings sound a lot more fun than baling hay today.

    I'm so glad that's over with!

    Have you all entered more and more contests as you went on, or discovered favorites adn stuck with those?

  27. Ugh, Ruthy. I either missed that post or I skimmed over it. Or maybe I wasn't ready then, who knows. Now I see how I could have changed my entries to make them more judge-friendly. I'll find the post and bookmark it for future use. Yes, Scarlett. Tomorrow is another day.

    Thanks for your kind words (you too, Mary.) FYI, smoke from the Pocosin (pa-ko-sun) wildfires is permeating every inch of eastern North Carolina ( coincidence ;o)

    I agree about the resilience needed and earned in this writing life. I hated dropping down to the serious-hobbyist category, but I can't justify the cost (over $1,000 ytd, and hubby is now a pastor.) If not for that, I would continue on as is while I grow, but we need that money for gas, lol. So, I thought it best to vacate my spot on Unpub Island and work hard to improve my writing.

    But I'll be back, so don't go drinking my frozen daiquiris. If you do, at least save me the umbrella.

  28. Oops! I meant Missy. Sorry about that. (No offense, Mary :o) Thanks for the welcome back, but I'm always here. Just lurking, muahahahaha.

  29. You tagged your blog 'making fun of judges' ??
    Which reminds me, I've got contest entries to judge.
    YIKES I'd forgotten them.

  30. I'd have said kind words, Kimberli, but as always, Missy beat me to being kind. That show-off!

    And I'm going to ignore that whole sick twisted Greek Island thing too. That must be spam. I don't know no one who travels that far from the old homestead.
    Well, Janet maybe. But no one else.

  31. Ann, that's always been my motto: Keep entering to do better against myself. Never against others.

    Well, unless it's in the final round. lol

    Just KIDDING!

    Oh, Gina, my word veri is "Me thinking"

  32. Okay, wait just a cotton-pickin' minute.

    Who charged Kimberli $1K to be on Unpubbed Island????


    You PROMISED you wouldn't do that!

  33. Anita Mae, welcome to Seekerville!

    Genesis is a great contest and I know what you mean about the scores. Above average is solid, my friend, what a great way to start.

    Your surprise over your friend's scores is not uncommon. In lots of contests the winning scores will be only slightly below perfect. Roughly that translates to this:

    The story grabbed the reader for the full entry, was fairly flawless technically, left the reader wanting more and got a little bit lucky in the choice of judges.


    What's luck got to do with it?

    Well, if you have a judge that loves heroines that bemoan their own fate (whiner types), and your heroine is a bit despairing, then you've struck a chord from the outset.

    If you write snarky heroines who need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps (guilty) and your judge is a snark like you, then you've struck a chord.

    If your hero just lost a spouse and your judge is recovering from a similar loss and your feelings reflect his/hers, you've struck a chord.

    Now if THREE judges all like your stuff, then it's obviously crossing indiscernible lines and that's a winner.

    So proud of you getting your stuff out there! You go, girl. And I think the way you and your crit partners are handling the scoresheets, getting a feel for what each person in your group needs, is wonderful and lesson to many crit groups. Good job all around.


  34. Cat...

    I've got nothin'.


    I'm trying to NOT be jealous.

    Thinking wedding...

    Pulled pork...

    Dishes, dishes and more dishes.

    Why on earth would I want to lounge on a beach and sip anything????

    Have fun, sweet thang! Enjoy some well-deserved time off.

    And thanks for coming ALL THIS WAY!!!!!

    Don't you love the Internet?

    When it works.



  35. Hey, Kimberli...

    No one loses their spot on Unpubbed Island by walking away, girlfriend. Your spot is here, reserved for you (such as it is, LOL!!! Tina, um, can you pass me some more of that yummy coconut milk, please?????) until the day you sign a contract.

    Slowing down is okay, and I know what you mean about the money outlay, so practice, study the market, and use the dollars wisely when necessary.

    My part time jobs have been to fund my writing 'habit' (crack cocaine has GOT to be cheaper) so that it doesn't affect the household budget which is strained like an 'e' string on a fiddle these days.

    In God's time.

    But no way, no how do we fill your spot on the Island. It's yours until you don't need it anymore.



  36. Ann!

    Hay-baling. Always hot, dry, itchy heavy work. Yeah, wedding is easier. The Greek Islands????


    Better yet.

    And hey, girlfriend, that's a wonderful goal to reach. Improvement is on a scale, kind of like the Richter scale except the earth doesn't actually have to crumble into pieces to have you improve and/or final. Keep up the good work.

    We lose 100% of the contests we don't enter, but I'm in total empathy with those among us who need to re-group or re-evaluate. We all do that. It's necessary. And it's a good part of growth.

    Glad to see you here, 'Ann-Without-An-E'.

    Ruthy (Who's not really nearly as much of a tyrant as they make me out to be. Usually.)


    I could use one of those donuts right about now. Are they as good as they say they are? Are they light and fluffy and loaded with sugary goodness???

    I'm starving.

    Guess Who in WNY

  38. Mary, you like my tags????

    Okay, maybe making fun of judges was slightly extreme, but I'm allowed because I'm on both ends of that spectrum and I know there are people with Ruthy dolls who delight in sticking my facsimile doll with pins.

    Long pins!

    There's probably a whole new market open for frizzy-haired, slightly wrinkled apple-faced dolls. The more I judge, the more my dolls sell. It's an ingenious marketing strategly like no other known to modern man.

    And I'd ignore Cat too, except that I really like her, and we've come to final in the same contests and still like each other.

    Which is exactly how the Seekers all met and grouped.

    Sisterhoods. Great things. Wonderful bonds. Strength in numbers.

    I'm getting all ver klempt here. Someone pass the Kleenex. And the donuts.


  39. Pammers, you raised a perfect point that I think all Seekers would agree on.

    We work to best ourselves, not each other or any of you. Well. Except Gina. But no one else, LOL!!!

    It's a strategy that worked with raising my kids in both athletics and academics, and it works for me as well.

    I don't need to 'beat' anyone although I joke about it all the time.

    My goal?


    Road to the goal?

    Crooked, twisted, winding, and definitely a slippery slope. Along the way I gain some ground by finaling in contests and lose ground in others.

    But we never stop traveling the road.

    Although some walks are s-l-o-w-e-r than others.

    And that's okay.


  40. Some lose 100% of the contests they do enter. I'm not necessarily talking about me, I'm just saying....

    Pam, I forgot to check out Editors & Preditors before I moved to Unpubbed (made the correction) Island. Where do you think Ruthy got the money for the daquaris?

    And Ruthy, thanks again for your encouraging words. I promise not to have my mail forwarded. I'm looking for a job to support my unpaying job, really, but I live in the country. I applied for the three I found that didn't involve a hog-house, a chicken-house, or driving a truck (I suppose the dead hogs and chickens have to get to the market somehow) but it seems that God prefers I stay home and write. I can live with that, but hmm, why? Like you said, in His time.

    The phrase "Ecclesiastes 3:11" is on the back of my business cards.

  41. Kimberli, I knew I liked you! I have Ecclesiastes 3:1 on mine.

    Our time and season will come, my friend.

    In the meantime, Tina blogged a while back about picking up extra cash ON the Internet by writing.

    Also writing for magazines.

    If you've got regular access, check it out.

    Although nothing can beat hog-truck driving with a front seat full of dead chickens.


    Let's make soup!!!!


    I'm holding out for just the right school-bus driving arc-welding position. I keep watching but them thar jobs get snatched up quicker'n a greased hog gets away at the County Fair.

    Speaking of the County Fair, hogs and chickens, is Audra alive????

    We'd hear if she um, like, DIED or something, wouldn't we?????


    Might want to check that out.


  42. Okay, so hubby's been debating selling my big black surburban and getting me a...*gag* mother-van.

    Excuse me for a sec.

    Mylanta is calling.

    I'm back. If I utterly have to, I can drive a mother-van, if I utterly have to, I can drive a mother-van, if....just what makes that little ol' ant think he can move Gina into a mother-van, well, he's got high hopes, he's got insane hopes, he's got it-ain't-ever-gonna-happen hopes.

    Anyhoo...he did some researching the gas mileage and whatnot.

    So, yesterday on the way home from family dinner at Pasta Luna (buy one adult meal and you get as many free kid meals as you have kids), he started telling me about his research.

    MPG x price of gas x 15k a year = some number

    400 divided by 25 know, I was, like, gettin' overloaded with numbers.

    And then he had the audacity to say, "So you know how much that comes to for a mini-van verses a SUV that gets 5-7 miles less a gallon?"

    Hello, didn't he realize he's talking to ME?

    I looked at him and said, "Honey, you're going all Pam Hillman on me. Just cut to the chase and give me the answer 'cause my brain is too confused to compute anything."

    Needless to say, driving an SUV costs him $10 a month more than if I drove a mother-van. Whew!

    Kimberli, don't look at total cost for contests. Look at it in relation to just one a month.


    Pardon me, I must channel Pam.

    25 x 12 = $300

    And if you only enter one contest every other month, that's $150.

    Granted, not being a member of RWA adds usually $5 more to your entry fee, but with so may contest going e-format, you're saved postage. Entering hardcopy costs roughly $15 in postage, paper, and binder clips. Well, I suppose there's ink cost, but I never add that in.

    Most writers don't enter 12 contests a year.

    If you're looking for specifically for feedback, then enter a contest and wait until you get that contest's scoresheets back. Revise, and enter another contest. Doing that is about 3 months between contests.

    And now if you're targeting a specific final round judge, then that can limit your contest options.

    For example...

    Melissa Endlich of Steeple Hill is the final round judge for the Maggies (June 2). She is also the final round judge for OKRWA's Finally A Bride (July) and for the Golden Network's Golden Pen (Sept). Logically, entering two or more with the same manuscript wouldn't make sense unless...

    1) you made significant revisions to the entry and figure your odds of finaling are greater OR figure if both mss final, then maybe if she didn't care for the first version, she'll like the second better

    2) you really want feedback so finaling isn't your prime objective

    3) you really want the credential of finaling because finaling, not the final round judge, is your prime objective

    Now if your ms isn't targeted toward Steeple Hill and you feel the ms is finaling-quality, then entering a ms where a Steeple Hill editor might not be your best choice.

    Consider the Golden Rose (Aug 3) because Andrea Doering of Revell Books is the final round judge. This is a great contest because it's the same entry format at the GH, except you actually get feedback from the judges instead of just five single scores.

    Just off-hand, I'm guessing Steeple Hill editors are the final round inspy judges for about half the RWA chapter contests, leaving the other half to be spread between editors from Revell, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Bethany House, etc, or agents. Oh, Wild Rose Press seems to be final judging a couple.

    This year the Lone Star had a HUGE number of inspy entries compared to last year. I'm sure that completely had to do with the fact Charlene Patterson of Bethany House is the final round judge.

    I'm not saying you MUST enter a contest. Taking time off until you feel your ms(s) is/are reader is fitting. In fact, I've judged an entry or four this year where I thought taking time off to learn craft would be perfect for the entrants.

    If you only enter one contest this year, consider...

    1) the Indiana Golden Opportunity because the scoresheet is very detailed

    2) the Golden Rose because it's the same page length as the GH (55 pages)

    3) the Golden Pen because the first round judges are Golden Heart finalists and/or published authors so your odds not getting a stupid judge are pretty good

    My word verification is naughty. No, not "naughty" or a phonetical variant. But something naughty. Or maybe just French. If I turn my head to the left, it looks more Latiny.

  43. Oh, Mary, I received scoresheets from two more final round judges.

    Just in case you were wondering...

    Not that there's a prize for getting your scoresheets in early, anymore than there is a prize for being the last one.

    Of course, that doesn't mean the coordinators won't talk about you. But look at it this way: at least we're talking about you.


    Must go parent. Drat!

  44. Since Mary forgot she was judging, Gina-kins, you'll be waiting a bit on those.

    And sage advice to Kimberli.

    Smart girl.

    And no mother-van. You've got panache, woman.



  45. Gina, you crack me up!

    I'm with you on the preference for the SUV, though. I had a mom-van for years, and I'm loving driving my Expedition (notice I didn't say I'm loving the $90 fill-up!)

    Great contest suggestions, by the way. I looked back at my contest spread sheet (yes, I've channeled Pam, too), and realized I didn't write down when I got requests! (I should have kept track of that.) Without that, though, the best I can figure is that the mss I finally sold got a request from the Finally A Bride Contest. That editor judge is the one that I originally sent it to (before she left the company). So I say that's a great one to enter. Plus, the silver cake server is a cool prize. :)


  46. Thanks for all the info, guys.

    Gina, you've picked me up. I think I'll go back to the list and see what I can enter. :-)

  47. Gina said: Most writers don't enter 12 contests a year.

    Um, I guess I shouldn't admit how many contests I entered in the first, oh, four months of this year. I'm still waiting to hear if I finaled in the last three, but I only finaled in two out of, well, cough-cough, I'd rather not say.

    Contests are great. Everybody should enter them, even if you have to get a part-time job, like me, to pay for them. But enough is enough, okay? So I'm starting a drying out period now. Doesn't mean I can't come and hang out with the Seekers, does it?

  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

  49. Ruthy, What are you thinking? I don't get into the water. So no need for waterproof makeup unless you all make me cry cause I'm laughing so hard. Can't wait!

    Slather on the sunscreen Saturday, Beth. Can't have the bride peeling on her wedding day.


  50. Melanie, you can always hang out with the Seekers!!! When are you coming to Atlanta? Maybe the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference this fall? It's a great weekend, lots of editors and agents, Missy and I will be there, maybe some of the other Seekers (Cara, maybe?) . . . so think it over.

    Ruthy, thanks for starting all the fun!

  51. Mel, don't you dare feel bad, you goose. None of us final in all the contests we enter, dahling...

    We just don't belabor the non-finalings in front of the public eye, LOL!

    And it IS good to take a break now and again, re-fuel. Summer time is tough when you have kids because you're outside so much.

    Now if you're a Southern belle you've got no excuse because you're inside as much as ever in the heat of the summer, so no excuses guys and gals. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

    But giving up entering contests doesn't mean necessarily giving up writing. Remember Carla's wonderful post the other day (Carla Capshaw) and her work on her gladiator story which didn't exactly get zipped to the editor bing, bang, boom...

    Nope, that baby took a while and still got published.

    Writing takes time. I remember Tina noting sacrificing milk money for postage, losing sleep, mailing your proposal in a timely fashion and then waiting a year until they get to it. The hurry up and wait component is part of the business, at least until you've gained a foothold.

    Anita, you hang in there.

    And thanks to all of you guys, both the talkers and the lurkers for a fun day. May the road rise to meet you...

    May the wind be always at your back...

    May the sun shine bright upon your fields...

    And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.


  52. Thanks, Debby. It would be so fun to go to Moonlight and Magnolias. The thing is, I spent all my money I made substituting on contests, and I doubt I can make enough by October to pay for a conference. :-( But I'll be trying to save up for the ACFW conference next year, so I hope you'll be there in 2009!

    Thanks, Ruthy! You're so much fun!

  53. OH MY GOODNESS...RUTHY this post reminds me why I love you so much. You love people enough to give it to 'em straight. LOL!

    REALLY awesome post!

    I've got caramel sweet rolls and a carafe of coffee here...dig in.