Tag Archives: essay contest

Contests: Entering or Judging – which is harder?

As we wrap up this week of Father’s Day essays,  I thought I’d reflect on my experience as a judge vs. a contest entrant.

I have submitted entries to scads of writing competitions: short fiction, genre fiction, essays, first chapter of a novel, 3 sentence contests, 100 Words or Fewer* contest and even a contest to win a free on-line writing course (Which I won. On my second try…)

However, the essay writing contest I judged here was my first opportunity at wearing the hat of a “judge.”  Both experiences are challenging and rewarding.

When entering a submission to a contest, I’ve learned a few things to help gain some control over how my piece will place.

First, I note the deadline. If I won’t have enough time to do my research on the contest and the writing and revision of an entry, I will most likely pass on the contest.

Second, I notice the entry fee. Free is always acceptable! : ) But, I’m not opposed to paying an entry fee under these circumstances: if the prize(s) justify the fee (fee is 10% or less of the first place prize); if  I will receive a critique of my entry or a subscription to a writing newsletter or magazine at no additional cost.

Third, I reviewthe site, blog or publication hosting the contest. Is it reputable? Would I be proud to have my work published there? Would it fit my writer platform? In other words, I wouldn’t want my work to appear in a magazine or site that doesn’t produce the best (spell-checked and grammar-checked) writing.

Also, while reviewing the site, I read and study the previous winning entries. If the judge gave comments, I take those to heart, as well. Compare the winning entry with the guidelines and see how closely they were followed: the word count, the genre or topic, the pacing and flow of language and the overall take-away effect on the reader.

Last, but certainly not least, I will study the judge’s profile(their background, their blog and/or website) AND the contest guidelines. If the word count is 1,000 max, I stay under 1,000 words. If the instructions say No Attachments, I don’t send attachments, even as a back-up to the entry I typed in the body of an email.  When the judge sees that electronic paperclip, they might not even open my email!

Which brings me to my role as contest judge.  The basics of judging were easy. One entry I received was over 700 words, it was immediately disqualified.  One entry was submitted as song lyrics. As original and fun as that was, it was not an essay, therefore, also disqualified.

Some entries were submitted with poor grammar or spelling. I’m sorry, but Microsoft Word can correct that with one click of a button.  If English is your second language, be sure to have your piece reviewed by someone who speaks perfect English to point out any small errors in sentence structure or word choice.

The entries that made it past the basic review, were well written, but some missed the mark on the take-away feeling I was looking for.  I wanted to know how your dad shaped the person you are today. Some pieces were beautiful and showed a great portrait of Dad, but didn’t tie back to a central theme, they just kind of petered off.

I admit it was difficult judging, knowing what writers put into their work and the pins and needles feeling while waiting for that announcement.  You don’t know, as a judge, how your decision has affected those writers. It could have been their final straw at writing.

Though, I hope, those entering writing contests learn from their losses, gain confidence and endurance to trek a little longer on this path of creativity.  And submit their work (and their hearts) again and again.

*P.S. Come back tomorrow for the link to the official announcement of the winners of the 100 Words or Fewer Writing Contest. I won First Place! : )

4 Comments

Filed under Advice, Believe, contests, emotion, Fiction, Get Published, Inspiration, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, Voice, writing inspiration

Father’s Day Essays: Honorable Mentions, Pt 2

The second Honorable Mention Award goes to…

Patricia Wigeland, for her essay entry on her “Pappy.”

Pappy
       Pappy.  That’s what we three siblings called our father.  Maybe not the most intellectual man I’ve ever known, but definitely the wisest.
      Once, when maligning myself for something foolish done as a teen, my father chuckled saying, “Every one makes a foolish mistake once in awhile.  If they say they never have, they are either lying or fooling themselves.”
      “Pappy, you’ve never done anything foolish,” I had countered.
      “I did.  Once I bought a treasure map from a man for one hundred dollars when I lived in Utah during the Second World War.”
      My father then bought a horse and rode out, map in hand, to seek his fortune.  Taking food and water for himself and the horse plus a pistol for protection, he traveled for five days, the map as a guide, but found nothing.  Turning back, he became painfully aware he had misjudged the needed amount of water.  The horse stepped in a crevice after a snake spooked it and broke a leg. Pappy had to shoot the horse.
      Wandering through the heat, he found himself followed by a vulture for two days.  Walking until he found a river, he followed it to a bend and a miner’s cabin.  The miner took him in, gave him shelter for a few days and a horse to ride home.
      “What did you do with the horse?” I asked, amazed by the revelation.
      “I brought him back,” Pappy answered, “because whatever else you do, you live up to your obligations. The miner saved my life. It was my obligation to return that horse.”
      His wisdom wasn’t about never making a foolish mistake; it was about the consequences and a person’s obligations to correct them.
      Pappy passed away at one hundred one years old.  I guess he had the right idea. 
* * *
BIO:  I’m just an aging country girl from Iowa looking to make a career change to writing before I get too old.  If all else fails, I will have at least added writing to my personal “bucket list”.
~~~~~~~
I enjoyed Pat’s essay for its  story within a story format and the added adventure of following Pappy on his foolish gold hunt. Great lesson learned: fess up to your mistakes and do what you need to make things right.
 
Please come back tomorrow when I share an essay on my own Dad.

6 Comments

Filed under contests, Creative Essays, emotion, Non Fiction, writing inspiration

Father’s Day Essays: Honorable Mentions, Pt 1

The first Honorable Mention Award goes to…

Judith Quinton, for her essay on the memory of her father.

“My father, who art in heaven”

I don’t intend to be sacrilegious: My daddy died many years ago, when I was barely 12.

Losing my daddy, who adored me, was the shaping event of my life.  It made me who I am today. It made me who I was in all the intervening years between his death and now.

Daddy was bigger than life, a Texas farm boy who became a stellar preacher, and the hole his departure left was deafening and cold, swallowing me like the Grand Canyon had, on the pack mule trip he and I took when I was 10.

I thought I would never recover the sky again after they closed the massive lid of his casket and lowered him into the hard clay ground on a muggy June day.

Gone was the man who nicknamed me “tree frog” when I was a baby because of the clucking noise I made with my tongue.  The one who built a home-made cage for my real pet frog and helped me catch flies for it. Who stood above me in the pulpit every Sunday, sharing funny stories and vivid life-lessons. Who taught me to love roses and traveling and reading and charity toward others. Who made me and everyone else laugh at his Tall-Texan jokes.

Life after Daddy became a search for his replacement. . .in every guy that happened along.

But I never found Daddy again. The gaping hole he left didn’t close until I was 40 years old. That’s when I fully grieved his death for the first time—at a healing retreat at advent season.

That’s when I finally said goodbye to Daddy. . .and realized his greatest gift to me: the early lesson that life is a series of losses and it’s what you do with them that really matters.

 

BIO:  Judith Quinton has been a free-lance writer, editor, and newspaper columnist for the past 30 years. Since 2007, she has published many of her writings on her blog: Zany Life + Crazy Faith at www.jlomowriter.blogspot.com.  This summer she will be launching a new professionally designed site by the same name at www.zanychick.com. She also looks forward to the publication of her spiritual memoir, 40 Days in Ordinary Time, in early fall.
~~~~
I loved the poetic imagery Judith uses in her essay here:  ” tree-frog”; “the hole his departure left was deafening and cold; ” would never recover the sky again.” Her daddy’s bigger than Texas personality is apparent, as well as the hole he left after passing.  I’d be very intrigued to read an essay on Judith’s “awakening” experience at the healing retreat…
 
Come back tomorrow for the second essay that was awarded an honorable mention.

3 Comments

Filed under contests, Creative Essays, emotion, Non Fiction, writing inspiration

And the Winner is….

… Luci !!!!

Congratulations! You’ve won a copy of Stephanie Riseley’s book: Love From Both Sides: A True Story of Soul Survival and Sacred Sexuality.

Please email me at mjcwriter “at” comcast “dot” net with your mailing address

And thanks to all who stopped by and commented.

If you’d like a chance to win another FREE book, come back tomorrow for my first ESSAY writing contest announcement and find out what book will be the prize!


1 Comment

Filed under Author Interviews, contests, Give Aways