Hi folks, Audra here.
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?
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I must admit, a couple of the books I read raised a brow, but I was reading for all the same elements I’d expect in an unpublished manuscript.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?