Tuesday, August 18, 2009

AND THE WINNER IS . . .

I am a contest slut.

There, I said it.

I didn’t used to be a contest slut. It just sort of happened.

It started innocently enough . . .

In February of this year, I entered a contest . . . and then another and another. I’ve lost track of the number of contests I’ve entered since then, somewhere in the neighborhood of eight or nine. Not so many, when you consider the number of romance contests there are out there. Still, it’s a lot for me. I don’t do contests, and the last thing I won (before this year and my foray into contest slutdom) was a prize at a birthday party in the fifth grade for carrying the most dried beans across the room on the blade of a knife. Seventeen, in case you’re wondering. I won a set of jacks. For those of you too young to know what jacks are, it’s a game we played in the Dark Ages before there were Nintendos and Game boys.

But, I digress. Back to the subject at hand: contests. They are a kind of pleasure/pain. I love the anticipation of the unknown, throwing my work out there to see what happens. Terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

On the flip side, I hate waiting around for the results, especially when other people on the contests loops are announcing they’ve made the first cut, and I’m left sitting at home sulking and singing the ‘I suck’ song.

But, I LOVE finding out just when all hope is lost Obi Wan Kenobi that I made the cut after all! And then the whole anticipation/angst cycle starts again as I wait to find out if I’ve won or placed in the top three.

Heady stuff. Who knew I was such a masochist?

Oh, yeah, and then there are the critiques. I started entering contests for the feedback. By and large, I have found the feedback to be constructive and helpful. Of course, you can’t bend and twist with everything every judge says or you lose your voice. What one judge likes, another may hate, and so on. But, I have had some very good suggestions out of contest judges to make my work stronger, and that is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Making the work stronger?

Nah, it’s all about the happy dance you do when you find out after months of waiting that you’ve finaled or won. Let’s face it, writing can be a solitary, lonely business, and it’s nice to receive validation of your work.

While writing this blog and toying in my sad and needy way with the idea of entering even MORE contests, I e-mailed a member of my writer’s group for advice. Do I need contest rehab? I asked this wise woman. Should I enter this one or that one? I asked, while secretly hoping for permission to enter all three. This woman, a regular on this blog who shall remain nameless, but whose initials begin with LOUISA CORNELL, informed me in no uncertain terms that I am a mere piker compared to her. I think the number she tossed at me was something like NINETEEN contests entered in one year, but that was only the ones she FINALED in, so the actual number was really more.

So, maybe I’m not such a slut, after all. Maybe I’m just a little loose around the edges. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few more contests to enter before I can earn my bustier and thigh high boots.

27 comments:

Karen Beeching said...

I used to do this too, Jeanie. But I haven't entered a contest for a couple of years. After a while I couldn't do anything with the feedback because it was so subjective--scores all over the place and based on things like manuscript title or the supposedly "unjudged" synopsis. It became a waste of good money. I believe contests work great, but I get better results now just querying agents/editors directly.

Although, I'm very excited to hit the published contest circuit once I hit that milestone! And I may still do the Golden Heart this year. Not sure yet.

It is such a good feeling to get that call or email on the final!

Jeanie said...

You're right, Karen, it is frustrating to get contradictory feedback from judges. I've had some snarky comments, and I once had a judge tell me my heroine was too Southern! As if. I hope to enter the Golden Heart this year, too, . . . if I ever finish this @#$@ book!

Melissa said...

Loved your post Jeanie. You made me laugh as usual. The 2009 Golden Heart was the first time I entered a contest and yes, receiving the call telling me I was a finalist was a fine feeling. Getting that call in particular from Terry McLaughlin – who is terrific, may have been the best part of the Golden Heart experience for me. But the real benefit so far has been ending up at my first national conference and meeting Pam and Jeanie, the blogger extraordinaire today. Meeting and hanging out with these two writers made a difference for me – is taking me in a new direction. I am now looking at contests, writers groups, and blogging with a new sense of hope. Lots of firsts this year – this is my first official blogging to a site for writers.

Back to Jeanie’s observation about the loneliness of the profession. I have been isolated and pretty much out there for years. By the way, I did not receive any feedback on the Golden Heart entry other than lots of nice greetings and some introductions at the conference, “Congratulations you’re a finalist.” I think comments as a part of the Golden Heart contest would be helpful and appreciated. I need feedback. As a writer I crave feedback!

– And Karen’s response strikes a chord.
I think I may try a few contests and also start seriously querying editors because after pitching at the RWA, I’d rather write a query and synopsis any day.
Melissa Jackson Brister

Tammy Lynn said...

Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie....watching you do the "happy" dance after a final in a contest is worth every "I suck!" phone call I get after you think you didn't final. Who am I to talk? I'm taking lessons from you and Louisa since I plan to enter the ranks of contest slutdom later this week.
{:0)

Jeanie said...

Melissa, I love your story about getting the call that you'd made the finals in the Golden Heart. You have to share that. It's hilarious. And I'm so glad I met you and Heather at the RWA! Ladies, this nice woman saw me eating by myself and asked me to join her and her daughter, and, boy, am I glad I did! That's one of the best parts about the RWA, meeting so many wonderful people who are passionate about writing!

I'm glad you're branching out and trying new things, Melissa. Blogging is certainly new for me. It's scary to get out of your comfort zone, I know.

I can't believe you didn't get feedback from the GH! I'm surprised. But, what a rush it must be to have been a finalist in that contest!

Jeanie said...

Tammy, come on in. The water in the contest pool is fine! Thanks for always being so supportive.

Melissa said...

Can’t share that story…hilarious perhaps, but certainly embarrassing. Not that comfortable yet out of my comfort zone! I was surprised at I did not receive feedback – maybe it’s in the mail. As for the rush…definitely... but both daughters tell me I am not fully processing it yet.

Jeanie said...

Melissa, you're probably right. The feedback is in the mail. As for the delayed reaction to the news, I undertand. I'd be in shock and awe, too, after a call like that. I'm so glad it happened for you, and that you're getting into your writing groove. There are more good things ahead for you, I just know it!

Karen Beeching said...

Just a side note, the Golden Heart only gives scores--not feedback.

Unless something has changed recently.

Melissa said...

Someone said that in D.C. - I guess I need to try to find out where mine is - I don't know maybe it's best not to know if you were number 8 out of 8!

I'll send Carol at RWA an email. She is another nice person I met, very helpful and good at her job.

Jeanie said...

Thanks, Karen, for the info. Interesting. I guess it's like agents, and every contest is a little different.

Karen Beeching said...

I entered the Golden Heart 150 years ago and they only sent a score back to let me know I placed high (whatever that means among 1000+ entrants). I think with the amount of entrants it would be too difficult to organize otherwise. I've seen others on the Yahoo groups state it has always been that way. I don't know what finalists get back, or if it's any different.

Maybe sometimes that's better. I don't think I would volunteer to judge the Golden Heart each year if I had to comment on manuscripts and fill out a huge scoresheet. That's a lot of pages. It can take a lot of time it you judge many others like the Daphne and Linda Howard, etc., which I do.

Jeanie said...

Those are all good points, Karen. The logistics of a contest like that must be a nightmare. You are right. Requiring feedback would probabaly discourage people from judging.

Melissa said...

Karen thanks, you’re right of course; it is way too much to expect judges to comment on a thousand entrants. I was actually being selfish and thinking if they only commented on the finalist’s entries it would be an extra incentive in placing. I probably misunderstood, but I thought each of category was judged by a different judge.

But again I am new to this and know nothing about the score sheets or the process. It’s probably asking way too much especially from those who volunteer their time and talent.

What would you say the benefits are from judging contests for writers?

Jeanie said...

I've never judged a contest, but networking with other writer/judges and contest coordinators would be one benefit. It's a small community, really, and it's nice to make contacts and friends in other chapters. Also, I think being on the other side might give you perspective into the process and your own writing. Help you hone in on things you like and dislike about your own writing, and also point out your strengths and weaknesses as a writer when compared to others. I know when I sit down to read a good book, and I'm drawn in by the voice and the language, it inspires me to improve my own skills as a writer.

Karen Beeching said...

I agree. It would be nice to get feedback at least for the finalists. But if I understand it correctly, the people judging the finalists are editors. Real ones! So yeah, they rarely comment. No surprise since they often don't have enough time in a day to get their usual tasks done.

I highly recommend judging. It gives you a good perspective of what it's like to be an editor/agent. And when you come across the one that really stands out as brilliant, you know it. And you think, wow, that's what it's like for them. You don't hate the other entries (it's not personal), but if you had to pick ...

Melissa said...

Thanks Karen and Jeanie - for your thoughts and perspectives and letting me participate. Certainly confirms what I suspected, there is much to learn. Now back to my writing with a renewed respect for all who write and those who are published.

Carla Swafford said...

Actually at one time the Golden Heart judges did give feedback. Kind of like the chapter contests do. But alas too many entries made it impossible.

See, I've been doing contests for a long time, just nowhere near the quantity Louisa does. Can't afford it.

And please call me contest diva. LOL!

Christine said...

I enter contests very judiciously. I enter my local chapter contest to support SM, but also because I get excellent feedback.

I enter the GH because it's a great goal and forces me to finish/polish the MS to the 50th word--great focus.

I enter the Maggies because it is an excellent contest for feedback and to final in it is sweet. Woot!

I enter certain contests because of the editors who will judge the final round.

But I generally keep it to 4 or 5 contests per year. The rest of my postage and effort and money goes to on-line courses (great feedback), querying, and submitting requests.

Jeanie said...

Very wise, Christine. I have yet to take an on-line course. For some reason, they intimidate me. I am a little computer challenged, so that may be part of the problem. But, there are several out there that I'm considering. Incidentally, the word verification that came up on my screen just now for this post is 'bembu.' Mighty close to 'bimbo,' isn't it? Do you think the cosmos is trying to tell me something? Hmmmm.

Audrey said...

As always, Jean your blog is a fun & informative read! Hopefully, I'll actually finish something one day so that I too can join the ranks of contest slutdom.

Jeanie said...

You will, Audrey, you will!

Christine said...

Jeannie: I started small--Nicole North for sexual tension and sex scenes; Terry Spears is fabulous; and I did April Kihlstrom's Book in a Week (very good for me).

Getting ready to take Mary Buckham's writer's university month long course -- sexual tension etc.

The courses are what you put into it. If you want to lurk and learn from other people's critiques, you can do that. Or you can post your assignments and get specific feedback about your writing. I've done both, but found that posting gave me awesome feedback--so I usually go that route.

Cari Hislop said...

Contest-Slut...I love it! I've never actually entered a writing contest...maybe I some more torture!!! Your post has definately made an impact...I shall go away and ponder the possibilities...

Thanks for making me laugh!

M.V.Freeman said...

Jeanie,
You make me laugh...I'm not really a contest person, but I am going to try.

Jeanie said...

Ah, I see I've recruited at least two more to the ranks of slutdom, maybe more. Welcome to the dark side, ladies. My work here is done. Get those PayPals sharpened and enter those contests!

Louisa Cornell said...

I am so pleased that my apprentice slut, Jeanie, has recruited so many of you to the ranks of contest slutdom. All we need now is a Huggy Bear Lookalike to act as our pimp and we are all set.

Trust me for every one of those finals I have a file folder with contest results where I didn't final, but got lots of really good input on my manuscripts. The trick is to read it all with a grain of salt and only use those things that have that lightbulb moment effect on you.