Friday, July 11, 2008

Erica Vesch ~ Three Time Genesis Finalist

First of all, thank you to the crew here at Seekerville for letting me guest blog. I enjoy reading all the Seekerville posts.

Contests. They can be so addictive. For someone with contest fever, it takes quite a bit of self-discipline to limit the contests one enters. I had a bout of contest fever four years ago, when I was a green-as-grass fiction writer. I entered every contest I could find (good thing it was only three at the time.)

I made several mistakes right out of the box.

I entered three contests simultaneously. Instead of entering one contest with my raw, first-draftish pages and waiting for the feedback before submitting it elsewhere, I chose the shotgun approach. Not surprisingly, the scores all reflected the same suggestions and results.
I entered a manuscript that was not ready. I’d never let anyone with any knowledge of the craft see my work. Why should I? It was amazing, staggeringly-beautiful prose. It needed no one else’s input. I didn’t enter for the judge’s comments, I entered to win. (Sigh.)
I was too proud, too thin-skinned. When I got my contest results, I was humiliated and sure the judges got things all wrong. How could they call my baby ugly? Obviously they were unqualified, uncaring, and…the list went on. I had to kick a few cabinets.
I didn’t take the judges’ advice right away. I held back my own progress as a writer by ignoring the advice I’d paid for by entering the contest.
I took my contest results to my face-to-face crit group where I let them liberally apply the balm of sympathy, believing them when they told me my ms was beautiful and the judges were simpletons.

Licking my wounds, I went on a contest hiatus for two years. When I finally got my head on straight, and started reading books on craft, and joined a stellar on-line critique group, I realized how foolish I had been in those early days.

During this hiatus, I worked hard, wrote four more novels, went to a conference, and learned everything I could. Finally, the sting of those early critiques wore off, and I was in better shape for entering contests.

At the urging of my critique partners, I entered the 2007 Genesis Contest. I was so nervous! It was hard to keep my mind off the contest and get on with the next work. But I must’ve managed it, because when the call came that I was a finalist, I was caught completely off guard. I blathered like an idiot…Uh, really? Cool…um, thanks! Yikes.

I went to the ACFW Conference last year, and in my registration packet, I got a pale blue ribbon that said “Finalist” on it in gold letters. I wore that like a badge of honor. Then, the first night at dinner, a man at my table asked what the ribbon meant. I told him I was a finalist in the Genesis Contest. When the man found out it was a contest for unpublished authors, he shrugged and turned away like it was no great accomplishment. (This was his first conference.) Sigh…he busted my bubble for a moment. Then I realized he didn’t know how hard it was to enter a contest, to put your work out there for someone else to judge, and how difficult it is to final in a contest like the Genesis.

When the banquet rolled around, I was keyed up. For some reason, it had escaped me that the winners had to go up on stage and make a little acceptance speech. My mind began to race. What if I won and had to say something? The only thing that entered my mind to say was “God is good, all the time.” Yes, that would work.

And then it happened. I didn’t place. In fact, I was the only one in my category that didn’t place due to a tie. Deflated once again. But as I sat down I realized that my little ‘acceptance speech’ was just that. I accepted that God is good, all the time.

This year I am a two-time finalist. I’m planning on being at the conference, and I have my ‘acceptance speech’ all ready, whether I win or not.

Erica Vetsch lives with her husband and two children in Rochester, Minnesota. She is a home-school teacher, bookkeeper, and fan of western movies. She belongs to the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Writer’s View, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, and the Minnesota Historical Society. Erica is a three-time Genesis Contest Finalist. She has recently completed her seventh novel. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Calvary Bible College and has been a librarian and high school history teacher.


Camy Tang said...

Good luck this year, Erica! I mean that honestly--we still don't have final round scores back so it's anybody's contest right now!
Camy (your friendly neighborhood Genesis coordinator)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Top o' the mornin' to ya', Lass!

Erica, so nice to have you here in Seekerville, and thanks to Mary for posting you in the wee smalls so that I could comment before the work bell tolls.

Congrats on double finaling in Genesis. I've had that honor, as did other Seekers, and it's wonderful how ACFW now presents the awards. Well deserved!

And the conference should be another great experience. I hope it brings you happiness and a contract, or at least something to keep you warm in Minnesota this year. A cup of hot chai would be a plus, huh?

Speaking of cozy set-ups, there's a new cappuccino bar arranged to your left and fresh English tea brewed alongside. I was having a 'British' moment when I headed for the kitchen. And I've put out breakfast Danish from a local German baker, these babies melt in your mouth. Try the pineapple/cheese variety. Oh my stars, to die for.

Not that I'm wishing anyone dead UNLESS they've beaten me in a contest recently. And then you don't necessarily have to DIE, but a short-term incapacitation wouldn't be a bad thing, now would it?


Welcome aboard, Erica!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Good morning, Camster!

Camy and I live on opposite coasts and lead opposite lives. I get up when she goes to bed.

It's like the myth of the wolf and the swan, right? We only share a few seconds of time together as we pass in the night, LOL!


Janet Dean said...

Erica, welcome to Seekerville! Congratulations on three Genesis finals!!! I was a finalist once, but my book sold before the conference, disqualifying me. I can live with that. :-) But I remember the thrill! It's a great contest. Applauding Camy and all involved.

Your openness about how much time you lost by ignoring contest judges' advice may help writers new to the journey. Thanks!

Ruthy, the pineapple cheese Danish is delicious! I'm blaming you tomorrow morning when I step on the scales.


Jessica said...

Congrats on your finals! I used to live in Rochester, MN. That's so cool.
Anyways, it would be awesome if you win. Thanks for the post.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks for the encouraging post Erica. I laughed when you shared your experiences. We all have such misconceptions when we begin to write. I'm glad you found ACFW. That didn't exist when I started, but I found RWA. It is amazing what networking and workshops on the craft do for us. smile. Hang in there and congratulations. God is good. Best wishes at the conference.

Julie Lessman said...

Erica -- Welcome to Seekerville, although this isn't your first time because you are a regular on the comment side, I know -- but it's really nice seeing you on the blog side too -- thank you for your wonderful post!

And, gosh, I read your post and suffered withdrawals -- remembering both the contest fever I went through and the path to recovery! Thanks for telling it like it is and CONGRATS on your many Genesis finals! Here's to a win!

Cat Schield said...

Hello Erica from a fellow Minnesotan. I live in the Twin Cities. Congrats on your double final. I know you'll get a chance to make that acceptance speech this year.


Erica Vetsch said...

Thanks so much to Mary for inviting me to blog here on Seekerville. I can't think of another blog that has such a friendly, open, helpful attitude and prolific commentors!

I'm off to the library to write today, but I'll check back in when I get home.

Thank you all for you good wishes!

Mary Connealy said...

I just had an ah-ha moment when I read Ruthy's post.

She's really making this food.
No, it's not imaginary. She's sitting there in West New York drinking tea and eating pinapple/cheese Danish (made by German's oddly enough, I'm calling them German's instead of Danish)

So she isn't being an imaginary good hostess...she gloating!!!!!

Erica and I met when she came to a book signing I did in Minneapolis. (or was it Rochester?)
And we share the same agent. I'm looking forward to seeing you at the ACFW conference this year. It's coming soon!!!

Lorna said...

Erica, keep practicing that acceptance speech because I have a good feeling you're going to need it. Thanks for sharing your experiences, too.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Wonderful story Erica!

I haven't entered a contest in a long, long time. The one time I did, the critiques were varied so far on the same issues, it only succeeded in confusing me LOL!

Now, some of the things the judges commented on, I'm learning to work through (POV, etc) with the help of my lovely editors.

Good luck and God's blessings on your writing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Of course I'm actually making this food, Mare!

Not exactly gloating, mind you...

That would be rude.

Let's say...

Relishing. Sweet cheese. Tender pineapple. Blended together in an old world style rarely duplicated.




Myra Johnson said...

So glad to have you in Seekerville, Erica, and congratulations on being a 3-time Genesis finalist!

Duh -- like Camy would tell us if the final-round results were in. Even her Seekerville sisters have never been able to bribe her for even the tee-tiniest hint -- and you've seen the kinds of goodies Ruthy is always dishing up!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra, that's a good point, Camy's good about keeping Genesis cards close to her chest...

But after a frozen strawberry daquiri or two, amazing info comes tumbling out.

But I can't be bribed to squeal, no way, no how.

(Send a check for $19.95 to loganherne and you too can be added to the insider Genesis/GH/Golden Rose list)



Melanie Dickerson said...

Congratulations on being a double finalist this year, Erica! That's really exciting! I'll be at the conference this year (yea, me!) so I'll be cheering for you.

I can so relate to contest mania and not being able to stop yourself from entering every contest you see. That was the malady that gripped me earlier this year and robbed me of all my money and my sanity. And so far I've only finaled twice. So I think I'm cured now. Have no desire to enter any more contests for a long, long time.

Donna Alice said...

Hello Erica!! So you HAVE to win this year right??? I'm hoping for you and can't wait to see you have to give a speech. :)

I'm going to clap and clap because I know what your first efforts look like and how far you've come!

CJ said...

I'll cross my fingers and will light a candle for ya, Erica

Tammy Doherty said...

You're writing my story - LOL! except I first started ignoring judges 5 years ago and only smartened up last year. I'm still smartening up, too :D

I think we shared interests on the ACFW loop - are you a Louis L'Amour fan?

I'll be rooting for you, long distance. I had that contest fever this spring and still have to fight the urge. Poverty does have benefits (i.e. can't enter anything!). My new highest aim is to make it to a conference, preferably ACFW. God is good and He works all things in His time - ya, ya..I'll keep repeating that until I finally listen & accept.

Best wishes for you in September. Even if you don't win, you may catch the eye of the publisher of your dreams. (sigh, I really am a hopeless romantic. I'd better go read that Julie Lessman & Mary Connealy book delivery I just received)

Georgiana said...

Erica, love your honesty! LOL, didn't enter for the comments, but entered to win ;) I think we've all been there. I'm pulling for you since I know your entries are fantastic!

carla stewart said...

Waving at you, my friend, Erica. Congrats on the double final. I'm looking forward to seeing you again in Minnesota!!

jess said...

Great post, Erica. Written from the heart. Wish I could be there to HEAR that acceptance speech. I'm rooting for you. :)

Tina M. Russo said...

Good luck to you,Erica. You've paid your dues and I am believing for a win and a sale. Thanks for being our guest in Seekerville.

Ed J. Horton said...

Great post, Erica. Sometimes, too often really, I suffer from the virulent thick-head, thin-skin ailment. And wouldn't you know, every time I think I've finally shaken the nasty bug a new bout of stupid-spasms spiral me into relapse. Argh...will I ever learn?

Okay, I'll admit it, feeling a little insecure I went back and re-read the email announcing the finalists. I was relieved to see we aren't in the same category. :)

Best wishes towards becoming a double Genesis winner!

Erica Vetsch said...

Tammy, I am a Louis L'Amour fan. Or as a gentleman at a dinner I recently attended called him: Lewis La Armor.

I'm getting so excited to go to the conference and see so many of you lovely people.

Anita Mae said...

Hey Erica, nice post. So, you're one of the people who beat me out of the Genesis this year, eh? :-)

This is my 1st year entering the contests.

And it'll be my 1st year at the ACFW conference. I'm getting very excited.

I'm looking forward to meeting you as well as reading your book(s) in print.

Ann said...

One of the coolest things about coming here: reading about other folks farther down the road who survived thick-headed-thin-skinned-itis ;-)Maybe there's hope for me.

Ruthy, I'm gonna start bugging you for recipes. They sound so good!

Praying for dry weather here. We can't get the wheat in via pontoon boat.

Missy Tippens said...

Erica, I'm a day late but wanted to say how much I enjoyed your post! Thanks so much for hanging out in Seekerville.

Best of luck with the Genesis this year!!