Monday, May 13, 2013

Survivor: Contest Island Edition

Janet here. Always fun to have friend Cathy Shouse in Seekerville. Today she is sharing tips for surviving contests and some exciting news for the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest!

When I joined the Indiana Romance Writers of America several years back, I had only one immediate regret. I would no longer be eligible to enter their Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest, which has a great reputation for giving helpful feedback and for contributing to the success of finalists.

Although I have never entered the IGO, I have entered many contests. Today, I'm thrilled to be here to make three important announcements about the IGO!

First, my fabulous chapter members realized how the industry is changing and took the time to revamp our Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest. Seeing the growing area of e-pub, the IGO now offers two acquiring editor judges for the finalists in each category, using both traditional print editors and e-pub editors.

Second, the 2013 IGO contest now has an inspirational romance category! Don’t you just love to root for a debut of any kind? Entries are accepted from May 1, 2013 to July 1, 2013.

Third, Indiana RWA members also took a look at the scoresheets and fine-tuned them to provide entrants better information and feedback.

As anyone who is experienced with contests knows, the scoresheet is critically important. So, I'm going to let you in on the highlights of this year's IGO scoresheet. But first, I'd like to share some of what I learned as a writing contest newbie. The good news is that even if you make many mistakes in your contesting attempts, you will still learn at lot. At least I know I did.   

My Top 5 mistakes:

1) Not reading the scoresheet before entering In my first contests, I didn't know to look over the scoresheet ahead of time. I know Seekerville has emphasized this very point, but it cannot be over stated. Once, I received my scoresheet back and they offered 5 possible points for the strength of the hero's character. My entry was in first person P.O.V. and gave very little about the hero's character by the end of the excerpt. I got 1 point in the category.  Not only did my score suffer, I got no comments to help me strengthen the hero. Had I known what they were judging me on, I could have inserted more about the hero early on. Needless to say, that change would have also made my story stronger. And by the way, an entry should fill up the maximum pages allowed, even if you have to change your chapter lengths just for the contest. And end on a hook if you can. Ending in the middle of the sentence as I did early on? Um, no, not a good idea.

2) Not following formatting rules/Submitting at the last minute.

If I had a dime for every contest entry I rushed into the Post Office in the last hour of the last day to be in time to enter, or hit send within minutes of the midnight deadline, I could afford that return trip to London I've always dreamed about! By continuing to tweak until the last moment, there have been some formatting "issues," should we say? Back when we had paper entries, paragraph indentions sometimes would get "lost" from the software to the printed copy. But my worst experience was when I had typed an underline across the page while writing the manuscript, and Word not only refused to allow me to remove it, but morphed it into some double line thingy. Rather than forgo entering, I printed the entry with those lines in it. The judge wrote in large print by those lines "What is this?!?" The temptation to respond back "I wish I knew!" was oh so strong! Another time my hero Wade had a name change mid entry. "Who is Wayne?" the judge wrote. The bottom line: Format, Format, Format. And give yourself time to polish the work.

3) Confusing contest categories/Not writing within a specific category

It may be fine to mix genres in the publishing world (although maybe not, because contest categories have an uncanny resemblance to how publishers like to label and “shelve” books) but it can hurt you in contests. Entering the wrong category is the kiss of death to getting a good score. I once entered in a suspense category a manuscript that was a mystery, or even a slightly mysterious romance. After wandering around way too long, my entry ended with "Do you think someone killed Aunt Madelyn?" One judge scrawled after that last line, in all caps, "IS THIS THE SUSPENSE!?!" Oops! And yes, I have noticed the tendency for judges to SHOUT at my entries!

Here’s some advice straight from the horse’s mouth, or more specifically, from IGO contest coordinator, Lynne Greeley: Our chapter has educated our members on the definitions of the categories because there are always a lot of questions, especially with entries that should be paranormal. If a story uses time travel, for example, then it’s a paranormal—even if the entire story is historical.  

By the way, our chapter members judge every first round entry, and we are trained within an inch of our lives! J

4) Being afraid to enter, and missing out on some much-needed encouragement

Despite some low scores and judges who implied my middle name was Clueless, I only regretted the contests I didn’t enter. By entering, there were judges who said "You have talent." "Don't Give Up." “Keep Working on Your Writing.” They recommended titles of writing craft books for me to read, and some even signed their names, letting me know these were real people making the comments. (Waving to Ruth Logan Herne!) People who cared. People who wanted me to keep on writing and improving—and I did.

 5) Letting some of the judge’s comments crush me. 

Keeping every contest judge's comments in perspective is critical. “I would not read this.” “The character is shallow.” “This isn’t funny.” At the time, I thought I was taking the comments okay, but looking back, my confidence and motivation took a serious hit. I am the personality type which tends to pay WAY more attention to the “suggestions” to improve than to praise. (Just ask my husband!), That slowed me down. Discouragement and doubt are enemies of a writer. So, having writer friends help interpret what the judges are saying, and what they aren't saying, is important. I wish I had made a priority of getting advice from more experienced writers after those much-awaited scores came in. Keeping one's perspective is so important, both good and bad. I once received almost a perfect score from a judge. Unfortunately, she made almost no comments, and now that I've been a judge and know how hard it is and how time-consuming, I have to conclude the judge had possibly not read my entry. And, sometimes, a judge scrawling across the page is simply a judge who is having a bad day so the criticism is perhaps not that constructive. Don't give judges unlimited permission to take over your brain. Just keep learning!

Okay, Lynne insists on stepping in again here. Sheesh, she wants to take over this post, I tell you!

Lynne says: Even some of the most critical judges taught you something. Sometimes it hurts to read what the judges write, but often if you take a step back and a day away, you realize what they were trying to say. Bottom line . . . Believe in yourself.

Now, I really am going to let Lynne take over this next part. These are the highlights of the 2013 IGO scoresheet. I encourage you to review these carefully, polish that entry, and get some important feedback for your WIP (Work in Progress) or polished manuscript. 

Each category in the IGO contest has a separate scoresheet specific to the category. To see the actual sheets, go to

Here are the various sections on the Inspirational Scoresheet for IGO.

Professional Impact – (10 Points) Does entry meet the category definition? Is it formatted correctly?

Reader's Initial Reaction – (15 Points) Does the opening scene capture the reader? Are the characters believable and intriguing? Is the plot effective and not confusing?

Writing Mechanics/Craft – (50 Points) This is a BIG part of an entrant’s score. Is the entry free of typos? Does the author show not tell? Are the senses used to create a vivid experience? Do the scenes flow smoothly? Is writing clear and distinct?

Central Romance/Characterization – (30 Points) Are the characters active? Do their actions affect the course of the plot? Is the romance believable in relationship to the inspirational elements?

Secondary Characters – (20 Points) Do they add to the story and are they well defined? Do they affect the plot?

Conflict & Motivation - (25 Points) Are the motivations of the characters genuine and not forced? Are internal and spiritual conflicts strong enough to carry this story? Do the conflicts challenge the characters, follow the tenets of the faith or show growth into love?

Plot – (15 Points) Are the events believable? Is the plot free of logic lapses? 

Point of View – (15 Points) Does the POV enhance the story? Is it free of head hopping? Are POV transitions clear and smooth?

Setting – (10 Points) Is there a clear sense of time and place? Does the setting add depth or conflict to the spiritual experience or journey of the characters?

Dialogue – (30 Points) Do the characters have distinct voices? Are dialogue tags used correctly? Does dialogue move the story forward?

Synopsis – (40 Points) Another big point section! Bottom line on the synopsis is that after reading it, there should be no questions left about the story. All questions, plot...everything should be answered here so the judges can see how your story will move forward and conclude.

Lynne has left now and I’m back. Wow. With this scoresheet and her expertise, I may have to lapse my Indiana RWA membership to enter IGO 2013!

Well, I’ve pretty much spilled all my guts contest secrets. So now, it’s your turn. Do you enter contests? “What do you like and dislike in contests? What would your dream contest be?”

Cathy Shouse is the author of Images of America: Fairmount, and has published hundreds of stories for newspapers and magazines such as Family Fun, Indianapolis Monthly, and The Saturday Evening Post. A former contributing writer for Focus on the Family, she's written a novel, Recipe for Love and serves on the planning committee for Midwest Writers Workshop, an annual writing conference in Muncie, Indiana. Follow her on Twitter @CathyShouse, and visit her at or

Janet again. I’m sure lots of us have contest stories to share. I’m making omelets with all the fixings this morning so grab a plate and let’s talk contests. Those who comment have a chance to win a copy of The Bride Wore Spurs, Love Inspired Historical, April 2013.


Melissa Jagears said...

Yep, the most critical judges, though they may not have said things in a nice way, sometimes were the only ones to point out a major flaw no one else seemed to have the guts to say. After muttering under my breath at them for awhile, I could see why they said what they said (sometimes merited, sometimes not).

I may not have taken their advice, but I addressed their problem if I could, or decided I don't care if someone has that problem, I'm doing it anyway. :)

Put me in for your book, Janet, Thanks.

Jackie said...

Thanks for sharing these tips, Cathy.

I recently went back and read over some feedback from the last contest I entered.

It's easier to tackle after a little time.

Have a great day!

Mary Hicks said...

I'm bookmarking this article to use as a check-list for the next contest I enter. Confessing I haven't entered very many—any? But I plan to! Thanks for sharing Cathy.

Debby Giusti said...

Thanks for providing such great contest advice! So true about the score sheet being an important tool that should be reviewed prior to submission.

Loved your comment: "Discouragement and doubt are enemies of a writer. So, having writer friends help interpret what the judges are saying, and what they aren't saying, is important."

You're so right! Too often we focus on the negative and fail to see the praise that's offered as well. No matter where we are in our writing journey, it's important to know our strengths and weaknesses, both of which can often be gleaned from contest critiques. As you mentioned, if we're too focused on the negative, a writing partner's review of the judge's comments can sift out the positive praise we may have overlooked.

Sounds like you're a very busy lady, Cathy, with all you do within your RWA chapter! How lucky for Indiana RWA to have you as a member.

Cathy Shouse said...

Melissa, I have saved some judge's comments for years, and learned more each time I read them. As I learned more about craft, I understood more of what they meant.

Nice to see you here! Don't I know you from the 1k1hr FB group?

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Melissa! Good that you consider judges comments then make up your own mind. Judges have preferences like all readers but the great thing about contests for me was the help I got with craft and plot, issues that are less subjective. Contests toughened my hide and gave me a fresh perspective. In the early days, I was so close to my story I couldn't see the problems. Sadly that still happens.

Thanks for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs.


Cathy Shouse said...

Hi, Jackie,

Thanks for stopping in and congrats for having the courage to enter a contest! It isn't for the weak of heart. Plus, I think the more work you do on your writing, the higher hopes you have for good scores. It takes determination to keep contesting!

Cathy Shouse said...

Hi, Mary,

If you follow those tips, you will start out ahead of the game.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jackie, you're smart to let the suggestions sit. I guess time helps heal all wounds. Hopefully you received positive comments too. A few smiley faces sprinkled in helps.


Cathy Shouse said...

Hi, Debby,

So nice to see you. I'm wondering if published authors enter their books in contests and how that works.

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Mary H! Proud of you for deciding to take the contest plunge. When I wrote in a vacuum without a critique partner or contest feedback I felt like I was spinning my wheels.


Cathy Shouse said...

Good morning, Janet. Love your comment on smiley faces! Am I the only one who misses comments in the judge's handwriting and the personal feel of that? We lose something with electronic entries, although we gain a lot, too.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Debby! Great points! The scoresheet can be used as a checklist to make sure that a chapter is ready to enter.


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Cathy. I often have trouble reading others handwriting so electronic submissions would be helpful for me. But as a judge, I did like to critique away from my computer.


Debra E. Marvin said...

I agree, all comments should be sifted. I'm always most frustrated when comments are opposing. Most recently I had "pacing too slow" "Slow down the pace"
I have to get past those things to find out what's really going on.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Cathy! I learned a long time ago, knowing the scoresheets are a great way to "pimp" your contest entry. But I hate changing it for different contests.

Still, I enter...and hope!

Kav said...

OOooooohhhh -- this is great contest intel!!!! I entered my first contest (I was a scaredy-cat for way too long)and just got my results back. It was the Duel of the Delta and I am so thrilled with the scores and the advice from the judges. A very positive experience for my first contest entry. Now I can't wait to apply their suggestions and send it out again and see what happens.

One of the things I got dinged for is my Canadian spelling. I'd never thought about Americanizing my written language, but I guess it makes sense if you're targeting an American publisher. :-( It just feels wrong Mrs. Whittlesea, my grade eight English teacher, will haunt me if I write labor instead of labour.

Annie Rains said...

Thank you for the tips!I haven't entered a contest in a while. I needed some motivation to get back in the game. I'm very bad about entering at the last moment for contests. And I rarely read the scoresheets ahead of time. I'll have to use your advice for my next entry :)

Julie Lessman said...

WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, CATHY!! And thanks to Janet for inviting you here. :)

I think contests are absolutely CRITICAL to a writer's future in so many ways, so I am glad to see a blog focus on them such as your excellent blog today.

Also, TERRIFIC changes on the part of your chapter for the IGO -- I would enter in a heartbeat because you guys obviously are contestant-friendly, which is SO important in the changing world of publishing!!

Before I was published and immediately after, contests were lifeblood to me, helping to shape and fine-tune my writing, so I cannot recommend them enough.


Missy Tippens said...

Cathy and Lynn, thanks for sharing! Cathy, I love your list of mistakes. I've made all those! Especially the getting crushed part. I really had to toughen up as I entered more and more contests.

Missy Tippens said...

Kav, I'm still beaming proud of you for entering your first contest!! :) Yeah, I guess for U.S. contests it's probably best to change the spelling, even though it goes against everything you've been taught. :)

Although, I'm pretty sure I never counted off for that when judging. I just figured the entrant was from Canada or the UK.

Missy Tippens said...

Jackie, I agree!! I got to where I would glance at contest scores, then set them aside for a while. I could be much more objective later. LOL

Cathy Shouse said...


It's tough when judges are in opposition. One found my scenario about cooking for a funeral dinner amusing, the other---well, not so much.
I guess I learned that humor is tricky. It turned me from trying to be amusing, but I'm not sure that was the right decision.

Cathy Shouse said...


So sorry for your struggles! As a judge, I would not count of for Canadian spelling. It's obviously a correct spelling.

I do find judges will sometimes do something that I think is overly picky, and up to interpretation. Our personalities do show through!

Brenda Maxfield said...

Hi Cathy!

Yes, we're totally pumped about IGO this year! We spent a good portion of the day last Saturday going over the critique guidelines.

Entrants will get valuable information and feedback whether they place or not.

I hope everyone enters!

Brenda Maxfield

Cathy Shouse said...


I'm with you on both counts, entering last-minute and not reading the scoresheet. We would both be wise to change our ways. LOL

Jeanne T said...

These are wonderful tips, Kathy. I'm with you—I've learned some great things from judges whose scores and comments were less than encouraging.

The thing I want to remember is that the only contests I'll regret are those I don't enter. :) Great thought.

I'm not at a place right now where I'm ready to enter a contest, but I will be brave again when I have something ready to submit. And I'll refer back to this post as a reminder of what to remember before I submit.

Great post!

Cathy Shouse said...


If contesting is part of what helped you polish your writing to what it is today, then we all should be contesting. :)
Do you know approximately how many you entered? I do sometimes feel like a contest "stalls" me, waiting for those comments. Did you rotate manuscripts? Just wondering how you managed it all.

Cathy Shouse said...


Thanks for commenting.

I'm getting encouragement from all of you pubbed Seekerville authors telling us how much contests helped you!

Gina Welborn said...

Great tips, Cathy!

Many RWA contests post their score sheets on the website. If your manuscript is one of those iffys, and the score sheet isn't posted, then e-mail the coordinator and ask for a copy.

If, say, your hero doesn't make an appearance in the entry pages (and that is NOT necessarily a bad thing), and if, say, the contest score sheet has a group of questions about the hero, THEN that contest MAY not be the best one for you.

FWIW, I'm currently judging a published contest. Totally irks me when an author (or maybe the publisher) enters a romantic book in a romance category. When the leads begin the story in love and nothing emotionally hinders them from hooking up, then just because they say "I love you" does not a romance make.

Carol Moncado said...

I've sort of sworn off contests for the moment. :p

Despite the double semi-final in Genesis, I've gotten absolutely BATTERED in them in the last few weeks [where one of the same manuscripts that semi-finaled had more than one 0 and the only 5s were for formatting and grammar - and that was the best judge].

I know me. If I look at the score sheets too soon, I'll bawl like a baby and never crawl out of the hidey hole. So I usually send them to someone to look over for me /waves to Christina, Joanna, and Penny/ and give me the high points.

Though sometimes [like that 0 - written by a judge who admittedly doesn't read inspy and thought there needed to be a lot more sexual tension] it's easier to sort of shrug them off but... Besides that, I have a trip to Orlando to pay for in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS!!!!

Anyway... I'm off contests until at least fall. Then we'll see ;).

[Oh - and thanks to those of you who have been praying! Our friend, Steve, is going home TOMORROW!!! This morning the blood clot was GONE and a stent has already been put in and he's being moved to a REGULAR room! He still will have a few weeks of down time - he did have a heart attack last week after all - but SO MUCH BETTER than the open heart surgery we were trying to mentally prepare for!]

Cathy Shouse said...

Thank you for stopping by, Brenda Maxfield, my Indiana RWA sister! I have to put in a plug for Brenda's two "Clean Teen Reads:" The Lance Temptation & Along Came Jordan.

Cathy Shouse said...


It takes wisdom to know if you are ready for a contest. There is a financial investment, so preparation is key.

Cindy Regnier said...

Cathy - Wow and thanks. I love contests - sometimes. Other times not so much. I find no point in entering them if I can't get comments back but when those comments do come back, sometimes I'm not ready. The best advice I've found is to read the comments right away - feel all defensive and hurt feelings and whatever other junk comes out of that - then put them away for a week, maybe two, maybe more. By the time I read them again I can accept the criticisms as learning opportunities where I couldn't in the beginning. Thanks for all the tips! (As I wait for Genesis scoresheets:)

Cathy Shouse said...


So true! Not every contest is for everybody. Also, the final judges can play a part. If a person isn't really interested in the final judge seeing the entry (assuming one gets that far, which I haven't), then perhaps reconsider. However, I personally believe that we can't choose who will enjoy our work, it's so subjective. That unknown judge might be just the one that will love our work.

Cathy Shouse said...


It's hard to figure how you could be a semi-finalist with two entries and they do so poorly in another contest. Just proves how subjective it all is!

I personally think it's important to get to a "real" editor contest through So You Think You Can Write or other opportunities. There's no replacement for remarks from a person who makes the decisions. And, a bonus from reading all of those comments from contests means that an editor's comments don't hurt as much. That is what I have found, anyway!
Hang in there!

Cathy Shouse said...


I hope the tips helped! As painful as the contest remarks can be, I agree that having no comments is also difficult. The incredible silence of my Golden Heart score--just a number--was wholly unsatisfying. I mean, I'm glad I did it, but--

Then, my writer friend and I argued about whether then number assigned was actually bad or good! EVERYTHING is open to interpretation. LOL

Julie Hilton Steele said...

I entered my first contest to get ride of my fear-of-entering-contests phobia. One high score, one middle, one low. But I had aha moments from the comments. So it is all good.

But I am wondering, with my limited financial resources, what contests to enter and maximizing what help they can give me.

I am so glad you all are adding an inspirational category. I see them disappearing in other chapter contests.

Peace and thanks for a great post,


Janet Dean said...

Hi Debra, conflicting opinions are tough to dicipher. Pacing is like walking a fine line between enough details to add emotion and richness to your scene and too many details that slows the pace.


Cathy Shouse said...

Julie Hilton Steele,

Today's economic realities have us all pinching pennies. Following the tips I've given will go a long way to making sure you get the maximum benefit from the contests you do choose to enter.

An asset with the IGO is that we judge 55 pages. I'm finding that the amount of writing you can enter to be judged is shrinking. I always factor in how much of my writing the contest is willing to judge, doing kind of a page by page cost analysis. Paying $20 for a review of 5-10 or even 25 pages is more "expensive" than paying more to have 55 pages read, a nice chunk of writing! Try to get the most bang for the buck!

Best of luck to you!

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Kav! Congrats on entering your first contest and on those positive results! Love that you're using the advice to revise and then sending it out again. Smart to do that a few times before submitting to an editor. You rock!!!

Grinning at the idea of Miss Whittlesea haunting you over using American spelling.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Annie, glad you're considering getting back in the contest game and using Cathy's advice!


Janet Dean said...

Julie, I couldn't agree more. Contests brought the Seekers together so obviously we see their benefits as vital. The bonus--we found each other. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi Brenda, fun to see the enthusiasm you and your chapter has for your contest! Pleased you've added the inspirational category.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jeanne, I entered before I was ready because I had no clue. LOL But, I got so much help from that first contest that the next to lowest score didn't even bother me. Much. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Hi Gina! Excellent advice to use the scoresheet to determine if that contest is for you!

Thanks for all you do for FH&L!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Carol, you can feel very proud of the double Genesis final!! Contests can be tough. But we can be tougher. Still, when we're reeling a rest is a good idea.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Waving to Cathy. Hi and welcome to Seekerville. Amen to your points for contests. I can't tell you how many entrants have sent their work in the wrong format.

Don't try and sneak in those extra pages by changing font size, or sneaking in the last part. Many contests throw those entries out.

Have fun today and thanks again for sharing those tips.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Cindy, thanks for sharing your contest survival strategy. Hope the Genesis gives you helpful feedback!


Mary Connealy said...

When I sent Petticoat Ranch into contests before it was published, the feedback was so weak for the hero....well, the hero fell over a cliff right at the start and was unconscious for about the first fifty pages (oh, maybe thirty).
So as far as the hero scoring he go ZERO....and why not? How was anyone to judge an unconscious man.
To fix that, directly in response to the contest comments, I rewrote it so he woke up very briefly, just enough to have a POV scene, then pass out again.
That's the way it ended up in the book, too.

Mary Connealy said...

When I'm judging I get caught with this dilemma a lot...judging characters who aren't in the book yet.

I often say something like, "You're creating a great heroine and I expect your hero will be great too, but I just have no way to judge that because he's not here."

Same with the faith thread if it hasn't been mentioned.
Often it will appear, the hero too, in the synopsis if there is one, but still......don't make it tougher on yourself.
Get the hero and heroine together asap.
In longer books they don't need to get together by page three, or whatever the rule is for shorter romances. But still, if it's a romance, and you're trying to catch a contest judge, an agent, an editor....get them together!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Peaceful Julie, Looking at the scoresheet is one way to help you decide where to invest your money. Once I'd improved my craft, I looked at who the editor judges were if I was a finalist. For me the money I spent was returned two fold with the excellent advice I received. Far less espensive than a paid critique or edit.


Janet Dean said...

Good advice, Sandra. Thanks!


Jan Drexler said...

I fell in love with contests through Seekerville. After all, if they helped these lovely ladies on their road to publication, they must be valuable, right?

I've gotten some of the best and worst suggestions from scoresheets, and I've learned to evaluate every comment - Will it improve the overall story? Will it change my voice?

The most interesting experience I've had is when I received a call telling me I finalled in a contest I didn't remember entering. The poor woman. I hope I didn't sound as spacey on the phone as I feel like I did!

Thanks for coming by Seekerville today, Cathy!

Janet Dean said...

Mary, I love how you took contest advice and remedied the problem of no hero for the judge to judge, but more importantly no hero for readers to fall in love with.


Mary Connealy said...

KAV the only thing I'll say about Canadian spelling is, it give the book a flavor. It reveals to the judge that either you're Canadian or (more serious) your characters are ...when they aren't.
So that's confusing if you've created Texas cowboys who 'think in Canadian spelling'.
A reader will be distracted from the story. Don't think of it as betraying your teacher. Think of it as giving your book and characters a voice. Just like if you wrote someone from Georgia saying, "y'all"....even if you never talk that way. And that extends to their thoughts in their POV, too.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jan, you have me giggling. I can just imagine how thrown that caller felt. LOL When I finaled in the Golden Heart the first time, I was president of my chapter and thought RWA was calling me about some issue with my paperwork. :-)


Cathy Shouse said...


Hopefully this advice will help you see fewer formatting problems in contests you judge.

Thanks for backing me up on this. :)

Cathy Shouse said...


That makes me feel better, that you also had a hero MIA and had judges remark on it. I love how you fixed it! And that it worked out for publication.

Excellent story. Thanks for sharing it!

Cathy Shouse said...


I can relate to getting a call seemingly Out-of-the-Blue.

I was so excited about an essay I wrote for a specific Family Fun magazine, so sure they would want it, that I sent it Priority Mail. Ridiculous, I see now.

It was many, many months and they called and asked if I would sell it to them for $1,200. After I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I said, "Yes, I would." Inside, I'm thinking. "You betcha!" haha

Call Stories come in many forms, don't they?

CatMom said...

Thanks for sharing these excellent contest tips with us Cathy (and Lynne)! Now I'm thinking it's time to dig out my feedback from the two contests I've entered and refresh my mind on those suggestions.

Please enjoy the warm peach muffins I just baked (made with Georgia peaches, of course *grin*) and thanks again for taking time to share with us today.
Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

P.S. No need to enter me in Janet's drawing--I already have that book (and LOVED it!!). ~ PJ

Cathy Shouse said...

Heading out to do some nonfiction work, some interviews to fund my next contest entry. (Not really, but it sounded good!) This is more to help pay the mortgage. Ha

Seekerville is always such a fun place to be! Keep the comments coming to win Janet's fab new book (Which I just received for Mother's Day, BTW).

I'll hop back in later.

Glynna Kaye said...

Great tips, Cathy! And it sounds like top notch upgrades to the contest. The contests (like this one) with longer entries that include a synopsis are great territory for honing your skills at proposal writing--AND for getting your 'proposal' in front of an editor if you're a finalist and your book is suitable for the finalist judges!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Patti Jo! I'm loving every nibble of your Georgia peach muffins! Thank you and a huge thanks for your sweet words for The Bride Wore Spurs!!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Glynna, I'm thinking not that many contests ask for a synopsis. This is a great opportunity to get feedback on the entire story!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh how I love contest posts. Thank you, Cathy!

Now you must convince the coordinators to allow published authors in categories they have not sold.

Vince said...

Hi Cathy:


Just mention contests and the comments just come flooding in!

The perfect contest would be a planned series on contests, spread among chapters of RWA and ACFW, (like the PGA golf tour among different golf courses) over the period of a year. It would offer specific contests to deal with given areas in the writing pantheon:

1. the first 3 pages
2. first kiss
3. first meeting between H/h
4. the black moment (up to six pages)
5. the epilogue (and how it acts to double the HEA emotional reward to the reader.)
6. the ambience enhancers (bible quote, about the author, dedication, acknowledgements) done right these can greatly enhance the reading experience
7. synopsis (up to five pages) and plot (up to 15 pages) both in same contest. They are not the same thing.
8. first 5,000 words (like a 5K race)
9. first 10,000 words (like a 10K race)
10. first three chapters (up to 50 pages – a marathon)
11. Hooks and cliffhangers: the first page of the first three chapters and the last page of the first three chapters.
12. Dialogue only. The dialogue only from the first three chapters – not more than 20 pages of dialogue. Just dialogue and name of character speaking. No tags allowed.
13. Only description: five pages of physical description as found in first three chapters.
14. Query letter and synopsis.
15. The blurb: 1000 words as a coming attraction…not really a synopsis or summary but a grabber to get the reader hooked.
16. Head hopping Allowed! An advanced contest that allows up to six POV changes in one chapter up to 25 pages. The idea is to head hop without confusing the reader. (Do you think you are good enough to do this? Try it and see!)
17. Rewards Per Page (I’m dreaming here). Up to 25 pages. Rewards on each page must be underlined.
18. Series Creation: outline a series of books: minimum of three, maximum of six. Give précis of each story and why series is stronger than any single book on its own. (Sell the series)
19. Meet the Characters: how each of the four major characters are described as to their personality and physical description. Taken from first three chapters. Maximum of 10 pages.
20. My Best Work: five pages of passages from the first three chapters. What the author thinks is her most notable and stellar writhing. Make it quotable and memorable.
21. Make me laugh: up to 20 pages form anywhere in your WIP that you think is funny and that will make the reader laugh.
22. Write a three page script for the trailer for your book. Like a screenplay. Make the reader want to read the book. This is like a coming attraction for a movie and not really a summary of the book.

These are just a few. I’d like to see a Tour of Contests. It would be great to publish the names of those who enter the most tour events.

Make the contests bigger than any single contest. You could even have teams. Maybe combined scores in the same contest or combined scores from different contests.

So, that’s my dream contest. Of course, I’m a marketing guy. (Sell the series...not the individual contest!)

BTW: I think it should be a law that all contests require a synopsis…even if it is only one page. Everything should be judged in context. Not to grade it downwards but to give the material the best chance to be appreciated by the judges. (That's something my stuff really needs. ☺)


Carol Garvin said...

Thanks for all this great advice, Cathy.

I've entered very few contests and I know I'm missing good opportunities for insight and learning. I frequently print out Seekerville's monthly list with good intentions, but it always seems like there's something else I should be doing. I find it hard to push myself away from the w.i.p. and take time to polish a segment to meet specific contest criteria. I know... I need to get more self-disciplined and *make* time. :)

Elaine Manders said...

Thanks for the heads up on the IGO. I've about convinced myself to enter that one. Judging your own entry against the scoresheets before entering is a good idea, of course our opinions are subjective too.

I think Debra mentioned getting opposing comments. I've entered 4 contest so far and the same thing happened every time. Two judges scored within 1 to 3 of the max score and the third judge scored 1 to 3 of the lowest score. At first I was frustrated, but now I know I have a story you're either going to love or hate, but if 2/3rds of the readership love it, I like the odds.

The main reason I enter contests isn't even for the feedback. It's to force me into producing my best effort under a timeline, in the proper format, even including a synopsis. For a lazy person like me, that's good practice.

And there's always a chance I'll please that third judge.

I already have Janet's good western read.

Christina Rich said...

Great post on contests. I miss entering them and get excited when others do.

Melissa Jagears said...

Yes, Cathy, I'm on the #1k1h group usually way late at night all by myself or with Virginia Mary Munoz Carmichael.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

I LOVE contests!!! I just got score sheets back on a YA I entered a few months ago. I entered a contest that allowed published authors, as long as they entered in a genre they weren't published in...

(OK, I just got the chance to go over the comments. I was caught up in something else.)

Two judges were nice, said nice things and gave nice scores. One gave a low score and then went through the pages LINE BY LINE, asking questions and revising words and leaving comments.

It was AWESOME. I mean, people pay big bucks for that kind of manuscript help!!

And since I'll be working with Franny Billingsley (National Book Award finalist for 'Chime') in September, I really, really wanted to get a good handle on this YA story.

I love contests and tell everybody I know to enter everything that looks like it might help you learn something new/ meet the editor of your dreams. :D

Pam Hillman said...

Cathy's advice is spot on! Get a copy of the score sheet. Make sure you enter the correct category. Check and double-check all the rules.

And right before you hit send, close your eyes, take a deep breath, relax, (feel free to say a prayer at this point) and check off the rules one by one again. Don't rely on your memory to confirm that you adhered to a particular rule (like saving the file as docx instead of doc, or removing your name from the header, etc). No, actually print the rules off and go LOOK at those areas that are specifically noted and physically check them off your rules.

Then hit send. (and you can pray here too.)

Pam Hillman said...

You know, speaking of OCD ...(that stands for Over-analyzing Contests Disorder, btw), I don't think I was ever DQ'd from a single contest, and trust me, I entered a LOT of contests. lol

kaybee said...

Agree with Julie Hilton Steele, am on a limited budget and can't enter every contest that comes along, but also believe in their value -- got great affirmation and some good advice, including from our own Mary Connealy, in last fall's First Impressions. If you get good feedback, it's not a waste of time or money -- if you have the time and money.
Kathy Bailey
Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire

Anita Mae Draper said...

The 2009 Indiana Golden Opportunity was the second contest I ever entered. I didn't final, but I was so encouraged that I added a note to my contest spreadsheet that says, "Enter this one again!!!"

That was the start of several years of contesting. And although I didn't always agree with the judges, being on the contest circuit taught me that it's all subjective and helped to thicken my skin for Rejections.

For all those contest years, Seekerville was my #1 site for contest info.

And although I didn't want to go off-topic, I can't keep it in any longer... as a result of those contests and friends like the Seekers and my blogmates the Inkies, I can now officially say that yes, it happened...

I got the call. I have a 27 pg short story coming out this Oct in a Guideposts Books release.

Phew. Finally. :D

Cathy Shouse said...

Catmom/Patti Jo,

I've saved some contest notes for several years before and still learned from them. It can be difficult to overcome some issues, I think.

Transitions, from location to location, have always challenged me.

BTW, I love peach anything! Just finished the jam from our Georgie vacation.

Cathy Shouse said...

Glynna, thanks for supporting my point about the advantages of contests that allow for entering longer page counts.

Cathy Shouse said...


Those chapter members have worked pretty hard. Now, you're wanting pubbed authors allowed to enter outside their categories?

Sounds like a lot of work. You can tell them what you want. I would suggest waiting until next year, or next decade. LOL

Cathy Shouse said...


Has anyone ever told you that you are an overachiever? haha

Here's my favorite of your suggestions: 11. Hooks and cliffhangers: the first page of the first three chapters and the last page of the first three chapters.

Cathy Shouse said...

Carol G., I admire you for continuing so diligently that you don't want to be distracted by entering a contest.

In the early years, I probably could have used a 12-step program for contest addicts. One can definitely overdo it, and my 6th mistake was procrastinating on the W.I.P. while waiting for the judge's comments to come in.

Anyone else get addicted to the contest rush?

Cathy Shouse said...


I totally agree with you! I've entered contests just to create a deadline and make myself polish something!

That may not be the best reason to enter, but you can make it work for you.

Cathy Shouse said...


I have to be honest. There's something wrong with someone who's published getting misty eyed that their contest days are over.

Just sayin'!

Cathy Shouse said...


hope the 1k1hr is working for you! I always enjoy those to spark my word count--no contest required! HA

Cathy Shouse said...


You get the award for Best Attitude/Sportsmanship with contests.

Confestion: when you said a judge went through line by line and said what was wrong, I cringe. I will channel your attitude the next time that happens to me!

Cathy Shouse said...

Love your definition of OCD, Pam! Just as one can underanalyze, there is the danger of over analyzing.
Personally, I never know how much to "pimp" an entry. If one attracts the final judge, gets a request, and the partial or full are not a continuation of the beginning, it's no good, either.

Cathy Shouse said...


Advice that ignores the time and money aspect is not very balanced. Sorry about that.

That is why it's important to know what you're doing with a contest before entering very many (which I clearly didn't do, based on my failures. Even then, it got me started with someone outside of my head reading it.) If we set our objectives and a budget, such as how much we allocate per 6 months, or whatever, we'll make better use of our dollars.

Cathy Shouse said...

Anita Mae,

Congrats on your upcoming release with Guideposts! And thanks for sharing that contests were part of your learning process.

I'm glad the 09 IGO was a good one for you. I think 2013 will be even more helpful to those who are eligible. Our chapter has many published authors and they are firm yet encouraging. It's a win-win for entrants.

Janet Dean said...

Wow, Vince, you're on a contest brainstorming roll! Some great ideas, too. I wonder what the entry fee would have to be to entice chapter judges to critique 50 pages!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Carol G, once you enter a contest, you'll probably find yourself wondering why you didn't enter sooner. Still, readiness is key.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Elaine,

Readers love/hate reactions may be hard on us authors, but I've heard that's far better than writing a book that leaves our readers feeling indifferent.

I'm delighted you mentioned using contests to practice meeting deadlines. Great point!


Janet Dean said...

Hi Christina, I'm with you. Published or unpublished, I find the possibilities from entering a contest exciting!


Cara Lynn James said...

Great contest information, Cathy! Most of the feedback I got in contests was really helpful.

Don't be afraid to enter contests!

Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Virginia. Congratulations on the YA contest feedback!! You're like a contest "poster child" with your teachable attitude and excitement.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Pam, Great advice to check over every rule and then pray before hitting "Send." I never entered an electronic contest. Things have sure changed since I sold.


Walt Mussell said...

I'm always in for a Janet book (though I'm embarassed to admit that I haven't downloaded it yet).

I just got back my scores from one contest. It was a first try for my India WIP. The scores were middle range to good, but more in the middle range. However, I did not review the score sheet (I should have) and it blew me away when I saw it. I focused on who the final judge was only.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Kathy B! You make a great point about the importance of being selective when entering contests. We spend a lot of money on supplies, contests, How To books and classes, conferences and mailing costs. Need to pick the contest that fits our goals best.


Janet Dean said...

Anita Mae, your great news has us hooting and hollaring here in Seekerville!! Congratulations!!! So happy for you!!


Sherida Stewart said...

Thank you, Cathy. Great advice. The IGO looks like an amazing contest--55 pages! Wow! That will be some serious critiquing. I'm so pleased they've added an inspirational category. I'll try to think of JUNE 1 as the deadline to trick myself into polishing earlier...a problem from my last contest entry. I'd never done an electronic entry or had a Paypal account. :( Took forever to get the five pages submitted!

I've entered two contests--won one and fell to the lower end of another, but both good experience. And, Pam Hillman, I DO have contest least for awhile.

P.S. Janet--I have your lovely book on my TBR shelf, so don't need to be entered this time. Thanks!

I'm back from a camping trip--no internet access for a week--so plenty to catch up with here. Fun to see pictures of Jenny in the USA. Congrats to Anita and Jan! Looks like some good results from the Happily Editor After pitch session for many Seekerville friends. Yay!

Thanks again, Cathy--I'll be poring over those scoresheets (and thanks to a judge, I now know it's "poring" and not "pouring"! :)

Cathy Shouse said...

Thanks for chiming in Cara! Glad all of your comments were helpful.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Walt,

I'd say you did great in your first contest for the India story. I'm curious how the scoresheet blew you away.

Thanks for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs.


Janet Dean said...

Cara, like you, I've been fortunate. All my contest feedback was helpful and not contradictory.


Cathy Shouse said...


The final judge is important, for sure. Can you give more detail about the scoresheet blowing you away?

I take that to mean that there were some changes you could have easily made if you had read the scoresheet.
That is always how I felt when I submitted without reading it. I am still amazed at how different the scoresheets can be between contests.

Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Sherida! Love your enthusiasm for contests! My excitement over pubbed contests doesn't compare to the excitement I had with unpublished contests. Those judges were my first readers and I was thrilled to have their input, good or bad, because I knew their feedback could bring me one step closer to publication.


Kayleen said...

Wow! This is more complicated than I thought. Thank goodness for posts like this that break it down. I'll mention it at both of my Christian writing club meetings. Kudos, Cathy and keep trying to win!

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Nice to see you here again, Cathy. Many thanks for the heads up on the IGO contest with plenty of time to get an entry ready. And thanks for the scoresheet info and the emphasis on paying attention to it. So glad they're added an inspirational category. Entering them has improved my writing and helped to toughen my hide. And major congrats to Anita.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks, Janet. You've all been so supportive and I wanted to give you all a shout-out without disrupting everything and taking time away from your guests, but it's been 4 days already and I figured enough already...

Seekerville of all places should hear it from me period. :)

btw, I caught Nelson reading my copy of The Bride Wore Spurs the other day ... will have to see what he says about it.

Jenny Blake said...

hi im in Williamsburg now couldn,t get to seekerville as hotel said it had adult content. IT barred having great time but very tired.

Nancy Kimball said...

I am SO late to this party but SO glad I made it. For a few reasons.

1. You guys are giving me TONS to incorporate into our upcoming Category Five Contest. Thank you!

2. What I've learned for myself is I never, EVER make changes based on contest feedback unless more than one judge picked at the same issue. It's all valuable but what I really had to learn to discern if
this score/feedback was rooted in a reader preference or is it a problem in the writing itself?

This happens a lot with the pacing element. A LOT. Because as a reader I prefer minimalist setting and action description and will skim when there's "too much". But that's not every author's style or every reader's preference and I'm aware of that when I judge. But if the work has a shootout and the hero is reloading his revolver under fire and then for three paragraphs recalls how if he had only not gotten on that train and left behind the love of his life three years ago this would all be different now, and then flashes back to the actual departure scene and how much he misses his momma's biscuits, well Yes, that is a craft pacing problem.

3. When I was announced as a semifinalist for Genesis, it was with the exact same MS nearly unchanged that I'd entered in First Impressions and failed to final in. The First Impressions judges were not "wrong." A judge is never wrong. That's the thing I had to learn. Because they are first and foremost a reader. Welcome to "the market." That doesn't mean I have to change anything based on their feedback, but a judge is never wrong. They are a reader and you will learn a whole lot about target audience and genre expectations this way, even though it's a painful learn.

4. Twice now I've used professional editor Michael Ehret's Contest Prep Package (Google Writing on the Fine Line and click his editorial services tab) and considered it worth every dollar. And I don't think that's cheating because at this stage in my career, I've learned enough through contests and craft study that I'm entering contests to final. And I'm judging them to help others the way so many have helped me.

I hope that helps at least one writer because it's what I would have wanted to know the first time I got my first contest entry back three years ago and the scores were all less than 50% and one judge said "start over". Talk about ready to give it all up right then! So hang in there. =)

Vince said...

Hi Janet:

The Rose City RWA had a 50 page contest last year and the fee was $50 for non RWA members. It seems the other 50 page contests I’ve seen in the last year were also $50. The 2013 Golden Rose opens for submission on June 1st. No details are out yet. Tina will have them before anyone, I am sure.


Mary Connealy said...

Vince, I know, speaking as a contest judge, that a 50 page entry is almost overwhelming. It's so much work, especially if you judge multiple entries and a judge almost always does.

It's such a big job that it would be a deal breaker for me. So, I think finding judges would be tough.

Natalie Monk said...

Hi, Janet! Hi, Cathy!
Contest judges have helped me learn SO much!

I received very kind comments from the last contest I entered, so I hope that means I'm improving. Or maybe the judges wanted to take it easy on this newbie. :) My scores are coming up, though, so I'm learning.

One thing I love about contests is the anonymity. You know you're going to get hard, honest feedback, because they have no idea who you are and may be as blunt as is necessary.

Another thing I loved about the score sheet from the last contest: the judges checked off their qualifications from a list provided on the sheet, such as "published by a large publishing house," "self-published," "trained by contest coordinator," etc. It helped the entrants know where they were coming from and also put some weight behind their words of experience.

Thanks for these wonderful tips!

Myra Johnson said...

Fantastic info, Cathy! Very comprehensive discussion about the ins and outs of entering contests! Janet, thanks for having Cathy visit Seekerville!

I'm arriving late--on the road the past couple of days returning home from our #1 grandson's high school graduation. A lot of family time last week, plus some kicking back and watching the world go by. Very much needed. Now I need to get myself back into working mode this week. I have a feeling it won't be all that easy. ;-)

Janet Dean said...

Hi Kayleen! Nice to see you here!


Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

No, no, no! He/she didn't tell me what was WRONG with each line, but added comments, asked questions, fiddled with words.

It was like having a beta reader give you a good edit.

The tone was always polite, excited, curious. I'm not a fan of the mean critic. This was definitely a friendly, in-depth critique. I didn't mind the low scores because there was so much there!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Pat Jeanne, getting those rhino hides may hurt but they keep us in the hunt.


Janet Dean said...

Anita Mae, announcing The Call is never considered an interruption!

Hope Nelson enjoys The Bride Wore Spurs! Keep me posted.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Jenny! I love Williamsburg and all the history! We went there on our honeymoon and on our 25th anniversary. Traveling is tiring. Hope you're able to sleep!

Adult content?? The hotel must be thinking of some other Seekerville site.


DebH said...

Wish i knew you were in Williamsburg. I'm in Virginia Beach - about an hour drive, depending on traffic. You there long? So close and yet...

Jenny Blake said...

AM meeting carrie in williamburg tomorrow for the afternoon.

Julie Lessman said...

Awe, Cath, what sweet thing to say -- THANK YOU!!

Do I know approximately how many I entered? Well, the number has to be in the 60s over all, but I do remember that in the beginning, I entered seven contests without finaling once, then prayed over every judge's comments, gleaning from them what I felt God wanted me to, and you know what? I finaled in the next seven contests, if you can believe that, so YES, contests are HUGE in shaping a writer and honing their skills!!

I didn't rotate books, just entered each one in its copyright year, which was always a year apart, so that way I got to enter a number of contests each year. I will tell you, however, that I stopped entering contests on the 2nd series because it seemed to get harder and harder to final, even though I felt my work was getting better with each book. My hubby feels a lot of my failure to final on my 3rd and 4th books is because my books have gotten more passionate with each book, which he feels is something a lot of Christian judges don't like. So I just stopped entering contests altogether except for those my publisher entered me in (the Carol, the Rita).

I did, however, break my no-contests rule this last six months with my e-book, A Light in the Window, which my hubby wanted me to enter in various e-contests. But other than that, I don't intend to enter any in the future -- it's a lot happier for me that way! :)


Chill N said...

What an excellent post! So many words of wisdom. Those newbie lessons are hard-learned but long-remembered, aren't they?

I found one of the best ways to understand contests was to take some really good judge's training and judge contests. You gain a whole new perspective doing that. For one thing, after you've judged then you understand judges' scores are based on experience and training, but also on opinion. You, as a judge, are not all-knowing and neither are any of the judges who score your contest entries :-)

Thanks for a super, sharing post!

Nancy C

Janet Dean said...

Nancy said: A judge is never wrong. That's the thing I had to learn. Because they are first and foremost a reader. Welcome to "the market."

Wow, you've said a mouthful, Nancy! Editors also aren't wrong. They just have different tastes, connections. Once writers have basic craft down pat, they have to keep submitting until they find an editor that loves their voice and the stories they tell.


Janet Dean said...

Thanks Vince! More pages mean more money for the chapter but 50 pages is still a lot of work for judges.

You're right on. We can count on Tina to keep us informed.


Janet Dean said...

Congratulations, Natalie, on those rising scores! Isn't if fun to see your hard work validated? Especially from judges with credentials.


Janet Dean said...

Hi Myra! Congrats to your graduate! Know you're very proud of him.


Janet Dean said...

Yay, Virginia! All that positive, thought provoking feedback is exciting!


Janet Dean said...

I agree, Nancy C, that being a judge helps us have perspective on judges' feedback. Excellent point!


Cathy Shouse said...


Judging that many pages is a huge commitment on the part of the judges. Chapter members feel they can do a better job by reading that much.

Cathy Shouse said...


I didn't mean to make it sound complicated. A person learns a lot if they just send it in. They get better scores and learn more if they know how to prepare and take the necessary steps. Thanks for spreading the word about IGO!

Cathy Shouse said...

You aren't too late. I hope you had a chance to read through some of the comments. They're so informative. I love these "discussions!" Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone!

Cathy Shouse said...


Thanks for remembering me. It's been a while. Janet was very kind to let me post early in May. You have plenty of time to use some of these tips for the IGO.

Good luck!

Cathy Shouse said...


What a detailed comment. Thanks so much for adding to this conversation. I found your point #3 the most interesting. You are wise not to make changes willy-nilly, which is what I did early on. I wish I hadn't.

It is so hard to know what to do with the comments. That's why I suggest getting advice from others who are more experienced with contests.

Cathy Shouse said...


You're right. Reading those 50 pages is a real commitment for a judge.

Cathy Shouse said...

Thanks for sharing your contest history, Julie! Seven must be a significant number for you. That's our daughter's softball number, too. (Not that it means anything here.:)

It's human nature to try to figure out why the scores don't turn out and it can get complicated, can't it? You might have hit upon something with the sensuality "issue" LOL

Cathy Shouse said...

Chill N,

Judging has taught me a lot too! I run across a lot of people who struggle with what I do. Then there are others that just amaze me and put me in awe.

Cathy Shouse said...


The judges will often check if they are published or not. I haven't seen them get really detailed about what published means.

Cathy Shouse said...


Congratulations to your grandson! This is the graduation season and I love it!

Thanks for stopping in at all, as busy as you must be.

Cathy Shouse said...

I hope I haven't missed responding to anyone's comments. If I missed you, I apologize.

Thanks for another great time at Seekerville! Now, send us your babies--I mean, entries!

Mary Preston said...

I can see how entering contests could be invaluable, but I doubt my heart could take the strain!!!!

I'd love to read "The Bride Wore Spurs" thank you.