Thursday, April 7, 2011

Don't Take It Personally

Hi folks, Audra here.

Contest season is in full swing, especially with the long awaited announcement of the Genesis semi-finalists tomorrow!! For those who entered, hold your breath just a wee bit longer. The end (or the beginning) is in sight!

I do believe I'm about to share a very timely post.

I’d entered unpubbed contests for the better part of the last twelve years. Yes, my friends, that’s right. Twelve years. Many of those years spent in dismal depression when the finalist call didn’t come.

Really? I didn’t final?

But I followed the rules taught by my critique group and had been writing a full two or three years…
Really? I didn’t final?

Forgive me, I’m reliving moments that flash through all novel writers’ lives at one time or another. Especially since finalists for the Golden Heart and Rita have recently been announced.

WooHoo, Seeker Pam Hillman being a Golden Heart finalist.

WooHoo, Seeker Mary Connealy being a Rita finalist!

And huge congratulations to all our friends of Seekerville who have finaled in contests so far in 2011!

Yes sir, congratulations to all our finalists. But wait, to everyone who didn’t final in the last contest(s) you’ve entered? I’m here to assure you – It’s Not Personal. Judging is so subjective. It's not about you. It's how your book or entry hits the judge on any specific day.

This is the first year I’ve been eligible to judge the Ritas. It’s been an eye opening experience to say the least. I’ve read books for as long as I can remember, so judging a published contest is not big deal, right?


I loved judging unpubbed contests, mainly YA, and put much thought into giving unbiased feedback. Hey if someone was going to shell out $25-$40 for a contest, I was determined to do my best for their manuscript. Just as I prayed the faithful judges would do for mine.
Rita Award
Now, I’m honored to judge books written by debut authors like myself as well as time-honored veterans of the romantic fiction world.


So. Excitedly, I opened my box books from RWA to judge my first Rita contest. I received a nice assortment. I’d requested contemporary romance to avoid conflict of interest in the Inspirational category : ) Quickly glancing through the titles and authors, I discovered I wasn’t familiar with any of them. Hmmm, I was in for a learning experience.

Just because these books were published did not mean I could take their content for granted. Or judge based on my reading preferences. I must admit, a couple of the books I read raised a brow, but I was reading for all the same elements I’d expect in an unpublished manuscript.

How did the author handle Point Of View? Passive writing? Conflict? Opening hook that pulled me in? It’s amazing how a couple of the books didn’t have the elements I would have expected an unpubbed manuscript to display.

In the eight books I judged, most of them were entertaining. One had me rolling on the floor laughing until the last page; one I cracked open to read at 6pm and couldn’t put it down until 9:30pm when I finished it; one I felt the tragedy of the events that unfolded within the first 3 chapters and rooted for the hero until the words The End.

To the same extent, I read a 350 page book that skipped through life like a butterfly in a spring field, and one book offered such heavy local dialect, I had a hard time understanding what the characters where talking about.

Obviously, I can’t reveal the title, author or score I awarded any of these books, but what I can say, I gave each published book the same attention to detail I’ve always given my unpubbed entries. The good news, out of the eight books written by authors previously unknown, I discovered 3 authors I’m eager to follow as their careers continue.

Unfortunately through this process, I also learned something about reviews. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks after I'd returned my

scores to the RWA office that I thought of looking up the Romantic Times reviews. Hey! Let’s see how I compared to the professionals...

Weeelllll, let’s just say I didn’t see eye to eye with the experts. Objective? Subjective?

Let's just say thoughtful and honest.

And on that note, I think I'll open the floor to discussion on judging romantic fiction - published and unpublished. Leave a comment for an opportunity to win a copy of Doctor in Petticoats in honor of our very own Mary Connealy finaling in the Rita. AND an additional opportunity for a four pack of April Love Inspired books.


  1. I didn't know the Genesis finalists were being announced tomorrow!!! Wow, who's nervous????? Raise your crowns.

  2. Finalists? I thought it was semis...

    Ah well. I'm not expecting too much... I'd be thrilled, obviously, but not feeling optimistic about the chances...

    It was one of "those days". You know the ones. Where you question everything you ever believed about your abilities as a writer and are just waiting for Simon Cowell to show up and tell you not to quit your day job. [So I'm mixing things up there. You know what I mean.]


    That's very interesting Audra. That your assessment was that far off from the others. I've got to admit, you've got me wondering who had you laughing ;).

    There's lots of caffeine sitting here for anyone who wants it. I've got caffeine patches. I need them. The 3yo still isn't in bed. If he was, I would have been in bed 2 hours ago. Probably crying off "those days". And then I would have missed a few emails that I know were God-ordained [even if they were about things like chocolate cake] and I've snapped out of my funk a bit.

    And breakfast. I've got jerky in favor of Tom and Mandy Linscott. Cuz I'm reading Sharpshooter right now. Can I trade it for the new one if I win ;)?

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

  3. Audra~

    Great post! I've never entered or judged a contest. Currently, I don't know enough to judge anything. Someday maybe I will. It sounds like a great time.

    I'm definitely in for Mary's book. I've mentioned how much I want it, so I won't again. (I really, really do)

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  4. I didn't know the finalist would be announced tomorrow either! Gulp. Yeah Tina, I'm nervous. But I'm also grateful that those judges took the time to go over my work and give me some honest feedback I can work with.

    I totally agree though. Judging is subjective. (As I wrote on a post here once, if you want to hear how wonderful you write, send the ms to your mother. If you want honest feedback, send it to the contests.)

    Here's to those who braved sending their babies out into the harsh contesting world. :)


  5. I haven't had to judge contests like this, nor have I entered such writing contests, but I'm glad to know there are judges like you who put a lot of thought into your scores and want to help other writers! :)

    I have judged at our local Fusuikan Martial Arts tournament a couple of times in the past, and it certainly is a humbling experience. There's a lot one can learn from "judging" in any field!

    I would LOVE to be entered to win Doctor in Petticoats--I haven't had the opportunity to read that one yet. Thank you! :)



  6. Coffee's set.

    Last year I judged a batch of entries kind of like what you described, Audra. A couple of them opened with introspection/non-action scenes that had me yawning. A couple more had me confused. One was well written but the story didn't really appeal to me. I tried to be objective and gave it the highest score, but nothing over the top. The next time I saw that title was on the list of finalists running across the screen at ACFW Conference.


  7. Such an interesting post today Audra. Like Amber said, knowing someone takes the time to truly be objective and judge to the best of his/her ability means the world. Thanks for doing that.

    Judging can be so subjective. Many things come into play. I'd think it wouldn't matter much if we're talking romantic or otherwise.

    Congratulations to all who ENTERED (you brave souls) and kudos to the winners.

    CarolM - no caffeine right now - I'm headed for bed. Helen, I'll have a little dab in the morning!

    Would adore to have DIP - may at maythek9spy dot com

  8. Good luck to everyone who entered the Genesis. Audra, I love your dedication to judging. I love judging contests and I think the process helps with my own writing.

  9. We've discovered in our family that we tend to love movies the critics hate. :)

    Great post, Audra!! I feel the same way about judging. I guess it's the Golden Rule of judging. I want to give it my best, just like I'd expect in return. So if I'm having a hard time liking an entry and I'm tired, I put it down and try again later. I've often found I feel differently after I'm rested--which is scary!

    I think I'll just tuck a note inside my next contest entries asking the judge to nap before reading. [grin]

    Can y'all believe I'm here this early?? :) I'm actually getting Helen's coffee while it's hot!

  10. Audra, how cool that you got to judge the RITAs. Sounds like it was an eye-opening experience.

    I wish all the Genesis entrants the very best and hope they're able to get some sleep Thursday night.

  11. I'm not usually on the computer this late (1:30 am local time), but I can't sleep. I think the packed boxes are creating an anti-sleep zone in our house...

    You were right, Audra - this is certainly a timely post! I entered the Genesis contest for the first time this year - actually my first contest ever - and it's good to be reminded that the judges are nice, normal people who are donating their time to give me some helpful criticism of my writing. That's much better than what I could be thinking about them!

    My contribution for the late-night snackers is warm milk with plenty of vanilla, butter and prescription for a good night's sleep!

    See you all in the morning - and please enter me for both drawings if possible. If not, then Mary's book. I just finished Petticoat Ranch last night and loved it!


  12. It is the SEMIfinalists (the top 20% of each category) which are being announced tomorrow--there are still two more rounds of judging. Finalists (top 3 in each category) will be announced May 13.

    Still . . . an early congrats to all of the semifinalists tomorrow! I judged in this year's contest, and we've got some great contenders!

    Audra--what a great post. I needed this reminder not only as a writer (whose stuff is out there for ANYONE to comment on subjectively) but as a contest judge as well. In last year's Genesis, I gave my highest ever score in the seven or so years I've been judging this contest. I was certain the entry was going to win the category. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it would win. So I wasn't at all surprised when it was announced as a finalist. When I met the author of that entry at the conference---days before the winners were announced---I told the author to contact me WHEN she had a contract and send me the full manuscript so I could endorse it for her. First and only time I've ever done that! That's how much I absolutely adored that entry. And guess what---she didn't win. Wasn't even the first- or second-runner-up! I don't know if I was more disappointed for her or for me---I almost took it personally that she didn't win, because if I'd liked it so much, everyone else should have, too. After all, don't I have refined reading taste? Wasn't I trained in graduate school to be a discerning critical reader? What did it say about my judging ability that the manuscript that I felt was only a couple of misused commas and misspelled compound words away from a perfect score ended up not winning?

    But this post reminded me that the judges of those other manuscripts in that category probably felt the same way about the winner and other finalists as I felt about my 99 manuscript. And that's probably how still others felt about entries I might have only scored in the 70s and 80s.

    So thanks, Audra, for helping me clarify that for myself before this year's semifinalists and finalists are announced---that I can't take it personally as a judge when the other judges don't agree with me. I like what I like, and they like what they like.

    I'm going back on low-carb today, so I've brought ham, cheese, and spinach frittatas.

  13. Oooooh I'm excited to see the semi-finalists and pulling for one in particular. Not mine btw

    A great reminder. Yet knowing how subjective judging is doesn't change our disappointment. But it's part of the process for most of us!

    And coming here where we all commiserate helps too.

  14. Im not an author but this year our bookshop has been asked to judge some aussie books they dont want authors but the readers to give an opinion I have 3 at present the first was so good I didn't want to put it down. Im on the second and the manager said when I read it let her know what I thought as she hadn't been able to get to far into the book. I am struggling as there is just to much background in the book but she also said someone told her it took til halfway through for the story to start moving. But it does feel good to be given the chance to give an opinion.
    I may not have been in writing contest but I do know what its like to be waiting for results of a type of contest. Applied for a scholarship to help with study costs for this semester and after 6 weeks found out I should know by next week. I figured I didn't get it cos of the delay found out they only meet yesterday to discuss them. So a few more days on tender hooks!

  15. I'm excited to see who the semi-finalists are!

    Great post!

    I'm planning on doing my own post very soon. About my own experience. I learned SO much entering the Genesis contest. In the two years I entered, I never finaled. But I have a 2-book contract with Waterbrook/Multnomah - so there is HOPE for those who don't final!!

  16. I didn't know the semi-finalists were going to be announced tomorrow either! But no, I'm not nervous. I entered to get some good feedback and see if I did better than last year. ;)

    Now Audra, did I read you right? You read a book in 3-1/2 hours? Wow. Impressive!

  17. Great post, Audra!

    I like to think of contests as a pre-cursor for reader reviews. There will always be someone who loves the story and the way it's written and unfortunately there will always be someone who doesn't.

    So, contests are a great way to get our skin toughened up for that first great and the first not-so-great Amazon review.


  18. Audra,
    It is a timely post. I just turned in entries for a unpubbed contest and just received entries for a pubbed contest. Judging pubbed books for me is a bit harder. This is only the second time I've done it. I think my favorite part of judging unpubbed contests is find that great story. The one that gets a perfect score. It hasn't happened very often but when it does it's so sweet!

  19. Good morning all!

    And oops! CarolM is right. It's SEMI finalists being announced tomorrow.

    soooo sorry for the typo!

  20. Writing contests are not for the faint of heart, Andrea. Over time you build a thick skin to comments - hopefully - but when read with the correct attitude, the feedback helps.

    Now, with published books, all I can say is I look for the elements of writing that appeal to me. So I hope those authors don't take MY scores personally.

  21. I really enjoy Mary's books. Would love to read this one also.
    I don't know if I'd want to be a judge - can you say pressure?


  22. Hey Pammer! You are so right. My mom loved my stories, even way back 16 years ago, LOL!

    Very good for the ego; not so good for reality.

    AmberS, I couldn't even imagine jugdging a Martial Arts events. Now that's a situation where you have to be quick on top of your game at the moment rather than reading a few chapters, setting is aside, mulling if over, going for coffee, etc.

    Good for you!

    Helen, isn't that the way it goes? There are times when I know my score was the one tossed out when I saw a title had finaled.

    Just goes to show you!!

  23. Oh, boy. I thought it was the semi-finalists who would be announced May 13, so I hadn't planned on getting nervous until May 1. The good my stomach will churn for only twenty-four hours.

    I've only entered two different contests, twice each, but the feedback is great. I had one entry last year that got two really good scores and the third was terrible. I just considered that person truly did not like my story for one reason or another. But I find I pay more attention to the suggestions by low-scoring judges than I do the others.

  24. My buffet today consists of multiple varieties of oatmeal in honor of the multiple varieties of judging categoies, LOL!

    Actually, I've concentrated on losing the winter poundage and have been experimenting with whole grains this week.

    We have cinnamon and apple with a dollop of FF cream on the side, maple and walnut, a tasty blend of pumpkin spices and apples.

    And my personal favorite: raisins, cherries and almonds mixed with cinnamon and brown sugar...


    Of course, if anyone would like to contribute the basic bagels, muffins, and omelettes, feel free to do so, LOL!

  25. I remember a contest I judged recently. When I turned in my entries, I assumed one of them would likely be a finalist (if the other judges agreed with my assessment). However, when I saw the results, I discovered that I'd reviewed three finalists.

    For the entries that I didn't think would final, I had not given them bad scores. However, I'm guessing I'm the judge whose score was tossed.

    I have Doctors in Petticoats (hilarious book), so please only include me in the LI drawing.


  26. KC, no coffee for you at bedtime, but in the morning, pour a cup and start the day off right!

    Suzie, I'm with you. I've learned so much about my own writing by judging the work of others. At time, it's very humbling.

  27. Missy, rise and shine...or were you just drifting off to bed? For being twins separated at birth, we certainly tend to keep different hours, LOL!

    I agree though, if I'm tired, watch out. That's one of the draw back to placing your entry in a contest, you have no control over the judges' mood!

    Have no fear though, our Missy is always in a great mood. I'd want her as my judge any day!

  28. Keli, our newly SOLD friend of Seekerville, you'll have your chance to judge the Ritas soon and I know you'll do a marvelous job!

    Jan, congrats on entering the Genesis. It's a great contest and the feedback I've received over the years has always been informative.

    Here's chocolates for you!!

  29. Mornin' Kaye, and you bring up the flip side of my post. The JUDGES can't take it personally either!

    Missed that teaching moment, didn't I? LOL!!

    You're absolutely right about rooting for an entry that in your opinion was close to perfection and it doesn't win??? What's up with that?

    Thanks for perspective!

  30. Yes, my nerves are roiling for tomorrow. On the bright side, I won't need any coffee.

  31. Audra,

    This post is timely for me because I've be reading over comments from judges in contests I entered years ago.

    Strangely enough, I view the comments completely differently now than I did when I first ripped them open when they came in the mail (Yes, several of them were before e-mail entries, which was not all that long ago.)

    I do think we lost something by going to electronic. Something about seeing a judge's handwriting adds to the experience, for me anyway.

    By the way, do you all print out every mss with the judge's comments when you get electronic contest entries back? I haven't in recent years. Maybe I should have.

    How long do you keep the judged entries?

    I guess I tended to focus on the number score and I had some formatting issues early on. So in some cases the comments on the writing were better than I realized. In other cases---not. I do think where the judges marked if they are pubbed or not matters. The pubbed appear to be much more critical, but I value their comments the most. I want to be liked, but most of all, I want to be pubbed. :)

    I think this idea that the judges are subjective carries through to editors and agents and is a very good point! I found the most difficult thing from comments was knowing whether to change something or just look for someone else who liked it better. lol

    I know, if you see the same thing more than once, consider changing it. But, it isn't that simple because often none of them agree.

    I'd love to win either of the prizes today!

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo

  32. Deb Marvin, chocolates for you! Everyone needs a cheering section and all the SEMI finalists have one here in Seekerville!!!

    AusJenny, in a way, your application is being judged, too! Prayers go out for your success, too!! Scholarships are soooooo great. Ask my kids : )

  33. Katie, you bring up a wonderful point. Never finaled in the Genesis and yet awarded a two book contract with an upstanding publisher.


    Judges do their best, but hey, it's only opinion.

    Sherrinda! Good luck in the Genesis! I'm rooting for you!

    Yes, 3 1/2 hours. It was a short contemporary and stole my attention from word one. Wow.

    Lots of RPP!!!!!

  34. Great post, Audra and so timely! I've been judging contest for years and always feel such a responsibility to the writers shucking out their hard earned money to get feedback on their project.

    And you're right--contests are so subjective. I've had a few interesting comments on my entries--one actually told me to ditch writing stories based in WWII because they would NEVER sell. All I can say is follow your heart--God put that story in you for just the perfect time and yes, there are going to be people who won't like it. But that's okay--we're not writing for the masses, we're writing for the Lord.

    And I have a similar story to Kaye's--read a manuscript a few years back for the Genesis and LOVED it! Great new voice, a kind of historical chick lit. I told her it was just a matter of time until she got that contract, just knowing she would win.

    She didn't, but she did get a three book deal!

    So see, winning isn't everything.


  35. Katie, the Genesis never like me either. I finaled once way back in um, well before it was called the Genesis.

    And I always point out this time of year that I won the Maggie beating out several of my Seekerville sisters, and they all sold before me and in fact were on their multiple books before I sold.

    Contests are WONDERFUL, or not. hehehehe.

  36. Jenny, I hope you get the scholarship!

    Cathy, I've been amazed when I looked at contest entries years later. At the time I got them back, I thought the judges were mean and had picked me apart. Later, I tended to agree with them! LOL

    Obviously, entering tons of contests has toughened my hide. :)

  37. With the GH and Rita finalists just announced and the Genesis semi-finalists coming up, what a timely post.

    Entering writing contests are the closest thing to gambling I've ever done, I suppose! lol

    I'm heading out the door to work, but here are just a few points from a multi-(30+)-finalling contester.

    One of my GH finalling ms. came in dead last out of 50+ entries. Truly.

    I went 7 years between finalling in the GH, and I entered 1-2 mss every year. I've finalled 4 times total. Won once.

    Of those 30+ finals/wins, I've entered twice that easily. Not so many in the last 3-4 years though.

    My contest log (you know I have one) records a 6 mss losing streak, and this was AFTER 3 GH finals, and finalling/winning most of the major contests.

    Oh, and I entered STEALING JAKE, my 2011 GH finaling mss, tried out for the GH 4 times before it made the cut. NEVER GIVE UP.

    I'm not sayig this to brag (well, a little. I am proud of those finals, in a humble sort of way! lol), but to hammer home Audra's message not to take not finalling personally.

    You win some, you lose some.

    But you do neither if you don't enter.

  38. I'm so expecting to win and I didn't even enter.


    In judging and reading, stories are so varied. Some I have to plug away through, and it takes me awhile. I still try to say something, nice, but honestly I have a hard time on a couple. And was surprised when that airy went into finals. Just goes to show how different taste and writing style and why it's important to read others styles, and learn,but always be true and write who we are.


    Tina II

  39. Audra, I am just a reader, and I greatly appreciate all of you great writers!!! I have Mary's book (but not #3 so plan to read all at one time!) but count me in for the other offer. Thanks!

  40. Hi, Audra! Checking to see if Blogger will let me make a comment!!!

  41. Audra,

    You have your finger on the contest pulse!! This is my first time entering the Genesis and apparently it's a little different this year. I heard they didn't use to announce the SEMI finalists? True or false? Anyways, will be waiting with bated breath for myself and some writing friends for tomorrow.

    Thanks for the reminder though just how SUBJECTIVE this industry is. We really cannot take it personally. (Remind of this tomorrow!) Everyone's taste is different.

    And judging IS difficult. I've had entries where I really did not like the story concept, the writing style, etc. But I persevered and tried to focus only on the writing. Was it good? Just because I didn't like the story, didn't mean I had to give the person a bad score. That is hard to do, and unfortunately, some judges don't bother. They don't like it, they tear it up.

    Here's hoping that will not happen tomorrow and all the Seekerville friends who entered will be in the top 20%!! Best of luck to everyone.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

    PS. I have Mary's book but I'd love to be entered for the others.

  42. Hi kids,
    I'm at work now, so contribution to this fantastic discussion will be spotty at best. Thanks for your patience if I have to make a quick getaway!!

  43. A quick reminder, we have a guest on Saturday so today might be a good day to also mention to us you want in on the weekly first five pages critique and Audra's book giveaway.

  44. It makes me happy to hear how cheerful you are after 12 years of entering contests. This is my first year entering contests and I suspect my expectations are waaay too high. Thanks for the reality check. And Katie, good to hear you're publishing without finaling! Don't take it personally . . . Don't take it personally . . . Don't take it personally . . .

  45. Kristen,

    Good way to view contests! Waiting for reviews is just as nerve-wracking as waiting for contest results!

    Lindi, I agree with you. I think judging pubbed contest are difficult because most of the time you can't leave comments and you can't make suggestions to change something!!

    Patsy, take the plunge into judging. You learn so much!

    Sandy, sorry about the low scoring judge. I've had to do that a time or two and really hate it. I never score low out of a mean spirit, but the receipienct probably could care less.

  46. So... does anyone know what TIME to expect this announcement?

    My stomach is already in knots, despite being almost certain to not semi...

    I'm in for the 5 page critique...

  47. Audra ...sounds like you put a lot of thought into judging...I hope I have a judge like you for my ms:) I'm new to the writing thing...however I have judged many different voices of singers(part of my job:) Makes me really appreciate anyone who is judging manuscripts and takes the time and effort to read the varied and unique writing out there!

    Please enter my name for Mary's book or for the Love Inspired book:)

    lornafaith at gmail dot com

  48. Hey, ladies! Sorry I've been in and out. Between personal issues and trying to meet my self-imposed deadline for the completion of my revisions, I've been a tad busy.

    Congrats to those in the awards finals!!! How exciting is that!

    I'd love to be put in the drawing!

    And as far as the Genesis goes, what's up with that? I didn't even know they were beyond the semis. Do they only give feedback to those making it into the semis? Guess I still have a long way to go, but I'm working hard on it. Ast. editor, Linda has been super! She's been working with me, showing me what still needs work. So, that gives me encouragement.

    It's hard when you have so many readers who have loved what they've read so far and are begging for the book and then still be held up. But, I'd rather do it right and do it well than have a mediocre work published. :D

    Think its time for a cup of tea before I hit the revisions again. I'll check back in later!

  49. Thanks, KC! It was hard for me to take the step of entering the Genesis. Wasn't cheap, either, since I wasn't an ACFW member, yet. :D I was really hoping for some feedback, but oh well.

  50. I should learn to read through the posts first. So it IS semmis being announced! When will we know?

  51. Great post, Audra!

    I find it hard to judge contests. If an entry is exceptionally good, then it's fun to read and easy to give high marks. But when the entry isn't up to fianaling yet, I try to be encouraging yet kindly 'critical.' The writer is paying a lot of money for constructive feedback and it's the judge's job to give her her money's worth. I think we try to be totally fair and objective, but writing and publishing is subjective and you can't get around that.

  52. Blogger ate my comment earlier.

    Baby sleeping.

    Audra, loved this. So true. I was sage two hours ago. Witty, too.

    All gone now.

    Leaving cookies, though, frosted snickerdoodles in honor of Gabe and Melanie. Ya' gotta love snickerdoodles.

  53. Blogger hates Melanie, too?

    Go figure.

    Two bright, fun, somewhat sarcastic women.

    Well. One out of two, anyway.

  54. Walt, love the pic!

    It's great when your assessment of an entry jibes with the other judges. I'm grateful for the contestant : )

    Hi Cathy, I tend to focus on one issue at a time, too, in my judging and in my being judged. There's nothing worse than receiving an entry from someone who is obviously new at novel writing and everything should get a 2 or a 3. I can't do that people. I focus on one or two areas that need help and hope the other judges can offer insight into the rest of it.

    Frankly, I remember be burned at the stake a time or two and seriously considered quitting. I won't do that to anyone's dreams.

  55. Patty, I love your attitude! And it is frustrating when you find a gem among your entries that you really believe deserves the eye of an editor then doesn't final.

    BUT, God IS greater than man : )

    Hey Tina! Tell me how that expecting to win when you didn't enter thing works for you! I'd love to save the cash!! LOL!!! Too cute!

    Jackie S, us writers appreciate the readers more than you'll ever imagine!!!!

    Melanie, we can hear you...can you hear us??

    Sue, got my prayers going for the nerves of all the contestants. And good for you in perservering through an entry that just didn't trip your trigger. You've got to do it. But I know it's not easy.

  56. Two years ago, someone in my local group asked if there was a list somewhere of Genesis winning books that had been published so they could go look to see what kind of writing Genesis judges were looking for. There wasn't anything like that, but I went back through the archives on the ACFW website and looked up the names/titles of all of the finalists and winners over the years and discovered something very interesting---a higher percentage of non-winning finalists have gone on to be published than winners. In other words, my research showed me that it was more likely for a runner-up to get published than the winner.

    Does that mean that it's a curse to win a contest? Absolutely not! But it also means that not winning isn't a sign that you'll never get published. Take it from someone whose first published novel came in 2nd place in Genesis in 2006!

    And as far as judging goes and giving low scores . . . in my case, the lower the score I give, the longer and more detailed the critique I send back. It helps that I have been judging this contest so long and can go back to previous years' score sheets and can copy and paste the explanations I've already written up on showing vs. telling or deep POV or why not to use embellished dialogue tags, etc. But if I'm going to tell someone their manuscript isn't almost-ready or ready to be published, I want to make sure they understand why. Two years ago, I gave my lowest score ever---a 32. And I felt HORRIBLE about it, but in good conscience, I couldn't give it a higher score than that (and a 32 might have been generous). I sent ten to twelve pages of notes back, in addition to the comments throughout the entry itself. I found out through the entrant's thank-you note that it was the first thing she'd ever written, and that she'd never heard of things like limited third-person viewpoint or dialogue tags or any of those terms and concepts most of us take for granted after years and years of study. I contacted her back and ended up being able to mentor her for several months until she felt comfortable moving on to taking classes and working with critique partners.

    The amount of feedback I send is in proportion to the score I give: the lower the score, the more detailed of a critique I do, including recommending craft books and published novels in the genre that would be helpful. Basically---I do what I wish judges had done for me the first couple of times I entered a contest and received fair to middling scores without much explanation as to why.

    I eagerly anticipate judging Genesis every year. And somehow, I forget from year to year just how hard it is. The training tells us that we shouldn't take more than 30 minutes per entry. I usually average about 2 hours per entry, simply because I feel like the writer deserves that kind of attention.

    So has anyone heard anything yet? Have they started calling folks to notify them that they're semifinalists?

  57. Hi Audra:

    Your post makes me wish I had entered these contests! It’s like having a lottery ticket before the drawing. You never know!

    I do love to get comments that point out something that I was doing wrong and which will be done right from now on.

    I just had a very detailed critique by Sandra Byrd. I can’t wait to implement the changes and enter some contests! Sandra was so nice she said she hoped she didn’t discourage me. No, I’ve never been more encouraged. If anyone ever gets a chance for a Sandra Byrd critique, enter, enter, enter!


    Please put me in for a 5-page critique.

    Also, my wife is now a very big Mary Connealy fan! Please enter me for “Doctor in Petticoats” – she can read the type just fine. I’m going to wait for “Deep Trouble” in Kindle.

    vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  58. Wow, Amber judges martial arts contests.

    I'm now afraid of her.

    Audra be very careful if you don't pick her as the winner. She might be dangerous.

  59. I'm going to refrain from my usual ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER

    attitude, which can be, no doubt, annoying.

    Instead I'll say this, which is also repeating myself (you will NEVER catch me when I get Ahlzheimers, I've been repeating myself and forgetting stuff all my life)

    I think anyone can learn the skills to be a successful author.

    It takes work and perseverence more than some spark of artist genius.

    What is HARD, what is almost impossible, is the ability to sit for long hours makin' stuff up.

    Most people can't do that.

    So if you CAN do that, and chances are the fact that you're hanging around Seekerville means you can, then you can be a published author is you stick with it and work hard.

    Has anyone else noticed that an author can actually live long chunks of her life without being required to smell all that good?

    A non-sequiter

  60. After reading Kaye's comments, I sure hope she was one of my Genesis judges! The biggest reason I entered was for helpful criticism!

  61. I'm so glad to hear your perspective, Audra! I have picked up popular books and not been able to finish them. This left me wondering what all the reviewers had been so excited about. Then I've read a Love Inspired book that didn't receive much fanfare and loved it! I guess the same goes for contests.

  62. Sarah, keep the faith! And NEVER take it seriously!!

    Lorna, wow. I couldn't begin to judge anything like singing...rabbits and goats maybe, but not voice. what a talent!

    Um, Linnette? Maybe go easy on the caffeine, sweets. LOL! Sounds like someone wound you up.

    The semi finalists will be announced tomorrow so I guess check the website constantly!!

  63. Pam Hillman, known to strike fear in the hearts of fellow Golden Heart contestants.

    What can I say?

    You are consistant and thorough if not enduringly determined.

    And an amazing writer, too.

    With spreadsheets.

  64. Kindly critical. I like that Cara!

  65. I didn't know semi-finalists were announced tomorrow.
    Eeek! I'm SO nervous...

  66. VINCE!!! Tell Linda THANK YOU!!!!

  67. Thanks for the timely encouragement, Audra.
    I've only judged unpubbed contests, but it was such a great learning experience. Kind of confirmatin to me that I had a little skill on what to look for in a good story. But it is subjective.
    I learned so much through the process.

    Tina R. - tomorrow? What's happening tomorrow? ;-)

    CarolM - weren't you paying attention to Mary's reprimand on Monday? Don't think about it! She's reminded me for the past year and a half that if I set my sights low, I'll be pleasantly suprised if something better happens.
    Otherwise, it's wasted energy ;-)

  68. Wait a minute.

    Do semi-finalists get calls? I thought it was an email notification deal though I don't know why I think that...


    If I can't sleep tonight, can I blame it on Mary? Or Ruthy? I'm not sure why but they seem like likely suspects.

    Or maybe Kaye. I think I have a book of hers sitting here that I haven't read yet. Because that's probably what I'll be doing if I can't sleep. Reading.

    Or watching NCIS DVDs.

    Not writing.

    I hope Kaye is one of my judges too... Or other ones equally as wonderful.

    So how does this notification process work exactly?

    Back to entering someone else's made up world instead of my own...

  69. Hey, if I drop off a new deliciosa treat called "Praline-topped brownies" will you stop thinking about tomorrow?

    Strains of "ANNIE" are running through my brain right now....

    Try these guys. Chocolatey brownie goodness on the bottom topped by a caramel praline cream cheese frosting.

    And when you eat it in Seekerville, it's always Atkins friendly. ;)

  70. Mary -

    That's a very interesting perspective. I understand where you're coming from though I'm not certain I agree entirely - mostly yes, but I think there'd be a few exceptions. But mostly I agree.

    And that gives me more hope than I had.

    Thanks :).


  71. LOL, Audra! No...not enough caffeine. I think it's a combo of working on these intense revisions and reading RUTHIE'S amazing book in between!!!

    Oh! And because I was trying to NOT think about Genesis like Mary instructed us just Monday and then I read this little reminder today. (clearing throat) But,I'm okay. Really. watching for my book review on Reunited Hearts. :D I. LOVED. IT. Great job! Can't wait to read the next in the series!!!

    Ugh! Time to go make a casserole for supper so I can get back to my lovely revisions!

  72. Any news on the semis for Genesis? Sorry. Now that it's been brought up, I can't stand the suspense....

  73. Oh it is SO subjective! I am continually bombarded with this fact. Thanks for sharing this post today, Audra. :)

  74. Vince, keeping in mind your awesome post of yesterday, a couple of the books I judged for the Rita were definitely lacking in RPP. Definitely makes you think hard about the product you're producing for the public!

    Mary, when you say writers/authors sit for hours making stuff up...hmmm, I remember punishing my children for that stuff.

    Talking back to the voices I hear inside my head doesn't sound any better, LOL!

    Renee Ann, good for you! I can't believe how many people continue to read books they don't really enjoy just because the author is famous!

    Be unique! Know what you like! Hopefully that translates into cute cowboys in the mountains of Colorado, LOL!

    Pepper. Sweetheart. Why do you listen to Mary???

  75. Pepper -

    I know. I know. I can't help it. I really don't think I'm going to semifinal but at the same time I'm tied in knots...

    Wish working out was what I did when I feel like this rather than wanting real brownies instead of the ones Ruthy brought...

  76. NCIS DVDs? CarolM, I love you.

    Ruthy, the brownies sound oh-so tempting. Gotta think about squeezing into shorts, but really, will one cyber brownie hurt??

    Linnette, have one of Ruthy's brownies and forget the casserole. Don't you just love cyber time??

  77. Casey, just keep thinking, "it's not about me...whew!"

  78. I hope my low score comment earlier didn't come across as being a slam at the judge. That wasn't what I meant.

    I was trying to say that I actually paid greater attention to the comments given me by that low-scoring judge. Though the tone left me with the impression she/he didn't care for the story line, that was okay. There are still gems in anyone's suggestions that shouldn't be dismissed.

    Have I just made it worse?

    Mary, I laughed at your post from the other day until I had tears. I would love to be in the drawing.

  79. Audra thanks for letting us into the head of a judge! Great post!

    Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

  80. Audra,
    Good stuff today, as always!

    My Georgia RWA chapter hosts a March workshop where published authors critique the members' beginning pages. We meet together on a SAT to go over the reviews face-to-face. I had two extremes this year. One manuscript was ready for submission...actually ready for publication. The writer was struggling with rejection and merely needed encouragement and affirmation, which I was eager to provide.

    The second writer was just beginning and needed clarification on POV, scene breaks, building suspense, etc, but she had a strong voice and a unique turn of phrase. She was interested in improving her craft and wrote me later about how much she had learned when we discussed her story.

    Both writers are on the road to publication, and both are winners in my book.

  81. As I read the comments today, I thought of a number of manuscripts I've reviewed from Seeker friends that have hooked me from the first line! So everyone needs a congrats today!

    Good job, Seekerville!

  82. Seekerville trivia...

    I won the Touched By Love contest in 2005 that led to my First Sale!

    One of my first-round judges was Mary Connealy!

    I didn't know her at the time, but we became friends, as I recall, because of the contest. My win was announced at the FHL meeting that year, held during the RWA National conference. At that same national conference, the Seeker sisterhood was born.

  83. Eva, I don't know if you want to thank me...the inside of my head is a spooky place to be, LOL!

  84. Debby, I'm with you on the level of talent reflected in Seekerville! There isn't a day that passes where we don't have strong conversation and opinions.

    I'm amazed and proud of the Georgia RWA chapter. The folks in your neck of the woods know how to support their members.

    I've never been to Georgia, but can I join???

  85. Audra, YES! Join GRW! In fact, move to GA. Missy and I would be thrilled!

  86. Hey! Don't blame it on me.
    Blame it on Audra. She started this.

  87. Sandy, we always assume good intentions here on Seekerville.

    Except when Ruthy's talking.

  88. I'm just starting Missy's book.

    I'm all the way in. I want to smack her hero around when he's trying to PROTECT his daughter, and I want to smack his daughter around when she's defying her father.

    Her heroine, faith is almost a referee. were going for Pro-wrestling when you wrote the book, weren't you, Missy?

  89. Audra -

    I'm actually watching this week's NCIS right now...

    Not a fan of Tony and the new chick. Or Ziva and the dude. In fact, I'm betting they end up arresting him at some point ;).

    Course I'm all about the Tiva so... =D

  90. Oh my gosh! You've been peaking in my e-mail box!
    I got a contest critique today from Great beginnings, two different judges and it was great to see feedback. Most of it rang really true- except they kind of disagreed with each. Does that make sense? It actually does. The things they both pointed out that they didn't 'like' were things I also didn't like...
    And a very funny point when I wrote how the heroine looked and the judge wrote 'BUT it's dark'! Hahaha! So, so true.
    Anyway, I feel good. Not becuase the comments were good, but because Tina says 'no guts, no glory' and I ENTERED. I feel good about that!

  91. Haha, darn you auto correct! Peeking, not PEAKING!

  92. Blame it all on Mary...what did I start??

  93. Virginia, you can peak or peek at anything you want to...or we'll do it for you, LOL!

    Isn't it confusing when you get adamant opposing comments from judges? You have the right attitude my dear. Obviously something is wrong, but who know what it is??

  94. Hey Genesis entrants, one and all. I'm praying for you!!

    (Not about to tell you what I'm praying, hee,hee)

  95. Audra, a fantastic post. It's all subjective. I entered RWA contests where one published author gave very high points in all areas and another unpublished author low points. The third judge also published somewhere in between. And this has happened again recently. So I didn't final there either. The sharing of everyone's experiences today has been helpful. This is such a fun place to be. I'd love to have a copy of Mary's book.

  96. Best wishes to those of you who entered a contest!

  97. Virginia, look at the places where the judges disagree and see if what you've written might be taken two ways. It might be a sign that it's a passage that needs to just be polished a little without massive changes.

  98. Greetings Mary,

    Good luck with your RITA!! Hope to meet you in Tulsa. Keep up the good work.

    Your new fan,

  99. I've finaled in Genesis three times. I've had scores all over the map for the same entries. I've also judged four years. I learn nearly as much from this side of the relationship as the other.

    I was tickled pink to be able to REMOVE my Genesis entry this year due to a novella contract with Barbour. None of my finaling entries other years were in contemporary romance, which the novella is. But I've still learned a ton from all the genres I've written and read!

    So yes, finaling in Genesis is AWESOME but isn't a guarantee of anything. And like Kaye said of the averages, I never actually won my category, either.

    Just color me thankful...and willing to win a prize this week ;)

  100. This is an uplifting post really. Though I've never entered any writing contests, I have heard the same thing about editors as judges-- much of success is landing on the right editor's desk at the right time. And, of course, we all know that God makes that right time.

    I'd love to be entered to win Mary's book, or the others.




  101. I forgot to put my email address in my comment for the drawing of Mary's book.
    belindapeterson at tds dot net

  102. Haha, Audra! The brownie was good, but so was my casserole. :D

    I'm doing a line by line revision and got through 21 pages today! I have 195 pages to go by the end of the month!

  103. Question for those of you in the know...

    Linnette and I were just discussing this elsewhere...

    Does everyone in Genesis get feedback? [How much depending on the judge of course...] Or just semifinalists/finalists? I was thinking it was everybody but I don't know why I thought that...

  104. Pat, sometimes it's amazing what judges pick up on. What detail they chose to have issues with, or issue kudos to your brilliance.

    Aren't we the same with our own work? Like Missy said, she can look at a contest entry one way when she's tired and with a completely different attitude when she's rested.

    I do the same with my mss. I have to write at night during the week since I work during the day. Sometimes I jump to the the grumpy parts in the novel b/c I know I"ll write them well that evening. LOL!

    Valerie, congrats on the novella sale. What an awesome reason to withdraw from a contest!! With the Genesis behind you, you're on to The Carol!

  105. Whitney, you speak wisdom. Everything is in God's time, so it takes the burden off of us. BUT we're still responible to use the gifts and talents He's given us so we're prepared when He says the time is right!

  106. Carol, if judged properly, every Genesis entry gets a score sheet and a comment page. The judges are also encouraged to comment throughout the entry.

    It's a spiffy contest and run well.

  107. AUDRA!!! I'm late to the party, but with all these comments, I'm betting you didn't miss me, girl -- WHOA, huge response today, my friend, and no wonder!! LOVE the subject matter because as you know, we are all just a tad touchy about judges and what they do to our babies, but you are SO right!!

    There have been several books that have won tons of awards, one of which I bought to read because I was expecting great things. But I was shocked to discover that I was not in sync with the judges AT ALL on this particular book, so it is just a matter of taste and market.

    But you're right, it's SOOOOO hard not to take personally, even more so than bad reviews, in my opinion because reviews are generally from the reading public versus judges who are usually peers with writing experience.



  108. Julie, it's never too late to join the fun! Besides Cinderella, the clock hasn't struck 12 yet, LOL!

    Debby had mentioned trivia earlier and since the semi finalists for the Genesis are announced tomorrow, I went to the archives and reviewed some of the past winners of the Genesis.

    Go look through the various year and notice all the Seekers!

    Especially 2005! I was a finalist with Cara and Julie in Historical Romance!

    And Julie! Wasn't that the year you got up in front of the entire conference and confessed your method of landing an agent??

    LOL! Wow. Time flies.

    Anyway, go check the archives and test out Kaye's theory, too. Lots of folks came in 2nd and 3rd and sold waaaaaay before I did!!

  109. Well, having never entered a contest (yet) and I definitely haven't judged one. I do appreciate the fact that you chose to judge a genre different then your own so there would be no conflict of interest. I also value the fact that you treated the books as you would have wanted your books to be treated. Sweet!

    I would love a chance to win Mary's book. Thank you for the chance.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  110. Thanks for the interesting post, Audra. I've entered many unpubbed contests, and even won a couple. But it's nice to see what goes on on the other side of the fence. What pressure!

    Put me down for the book drawings. I'm at

  111. Great post, Audra. I judged the RITA for the first time this year and it was a HUGE eye-opener. Two were from Best-sellers, four were from mid-lists, and I'm not sure how the other two ever got published. I also judged an unpubbed contest and found the writing fresher, more original, and more compelling than any I judged for the RITA (but not as polished, perhaps). Go figure. I much prefer judging unpubbeds--probably because I identify more closely with them, and also because I make the assumption that these are writers who are asking for help, encouragement, an honest--but--kind assessment. I WANT them to make it, so I do all I can to help them toward that goal. I tried twice for the GH, and barely made it into the top 25%. Now I have three books on the shelves (two of which are RITA finalists), two in production, and one gestating. I wouldn't have gotten there without some great feedback from contests. Keep entering. Keep evaluating. Keep writing. Never give up. And remember, take EVERYTHING--good and bad--with a grain of salt, and NEVER personally. Good luck to all who entered the Genesis.

  112. Audra,

    Thank you! I trained in Jujitsu for 13 years, and I'm a black belt. :) I haven't done any classes since my senior year of high school, though... I'm keeping busy with school and writing/blogging/reading. ;)

    But yes, you definitely have to pay attention at martial arts tournaments! It's really embarrassing and not good when you miss something and have to ask to see it again...


  113. Mary,

    Hahaha, you should be afraid! ;) Just kidding!

    But seriously, though, the fact that I'm a black belt should get me some priority in these giveaways, right...? ;)


  114. I got the semi-finalist call yesterday! Congrats to all the others who are still in and to those who entered as well. No guts, no glory! My first time entering, and I'm pretty psyched. :)