Wednesday, April 4, 2012
A Day in the Life of a Contest Judge
Then when you finally get your entries back, you may find yourself wanting to chuck them in the trash can. Or shoot darts at a picture of the judge's face.
Before you get carried away, though, let me present some perspective. In the last couple years, I've been on the other side as a judge. And things on this side are much tougher than I would have expected.
For someone like me who has been on the receiving end, I'm extremely conscientious of the feedback I provide. But I'm also juggling my own writing (or in some cases during contest season, putting it completely on the back burner so I can judge).
Plus I'm also a stay-at-home mom of young children. Need I say more?
Here's a little snippet of what might happen when I open an entry to judge...
*Reading first sentence* Wow, nice hook!
"Mommy, I want a snack."
"What's that, honey? Oh, a snack?" *going to pantry to get some animal crackers* "Here you go."
Okay, let's read that first sentence again. *typing comment in entry* Great opening!
"Mommy, Mickey Mouse is done. Can I watch Little Einstein's next?"
"I'm sorry, honey. What'd you say? Oh, sure. Take the remote and watch whatever you want." (Don't judge...I'm desperate at this point.)
*finish typing comment in entry and read second sentence*
"Mommy, the TV isn't working."
At this rate, it takes me three hours to read an entry and provide meaningful feedback. At least, I hope it's meaningful because I've had so many interruptions. For all I know, I may have said the entrant needs more description when they had too much of it.
As hard as it is to imagine sometimes, judges are people too.
And while we truly want to help develop other writers' skills, we have interruptions and agents or editors who still expect us to meet our deadlines.
When you get your contest entry back, read through the judges' comments with a clear mind. You may (hopefully!) find some great nuggets to take your writing to the next level.
But if something doesn't jive or comes across as mean, remember who's on the other side of the comments. They may have just gotten a snack for the tenth time during your entry, and they're taking their frustrations out on unsuspecting you.
Perspective is so important, no matter what stage we may find ourselves. We would all benefit from remembering there's a person behind the words--no matter which side we're on--and filtering everything with wisdom and understanding.
So let's talk...What side of contests do you sit currently--entrant or judge? If a judge, how do you balance your other responsibilities with contest entries? If an entrant, how does this perspective change the way you receive contest feedback?
*Feedback photo by Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
**Time photo by Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Sarah Forgrave is a stay-at-home writer-mom who feels blessed to pursue her calling and passion. She writes contemporary romance for the inspirational market and is a contributor to the webzine Ungrind.
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