Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Writing Contest Judge--The Who and the Why

Who? Me? Judge a Writing Contest?

Imagine this scenario:

You’ve been reading critically for years. You’ve picked up many a book and thought, “I can write better than this.” Then, you tried writing and found out that it’s a little harder than it looks. So you’ve been studying the craft of writing, and you understand the basics. Your local or online writing organization is asking for judges for the annual writing contest. (You are a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, your local writers group or a critique group, aren’t you?)

You're having coffee with your friend, who is a published author. She surprises you by suggesting,“You should be a first-round judge.”

Your mouth drops open and you search for words. “But . . . but I’ve never done anything like that before.”

She smiles. “There’s always a first time. Remember how nervous you were to hand me your first chapter to critique? You’ve come a long way since then.”

Your mouth is dry and your breathing feels a little shallow. “I don’t know . . .”

“Remember why I took my daughter away last weekend?” She waits for your nod, then laughs. “Yeah, we had the birds-and-bees talk. I didn’t think I could do it, but you reassured me that we’d both survive. And we did. Thanks.”

You laugh, feeling more relaxed. “I don’t think many parents like giving that talk.” You look into your mentor’s eyes. “You really think I’m ready to judge?”

She nods and pats your hand. “Absolutely.”

Qualifications of a first-round judge:

--Understands the basics like POV, grammar, pacing, genre, character development, and continuity.


--Follows contest rules.

Two of the Best Reasons to Judge:

--To give back to the writing community.

---To increase your writing skills. You often learn how to improve your writing when you spot mistakes others have made.

When your local or online writing organization asks for first-round judges, don’t think of reasons why you can’t. Be quick to volunteer. Sure, it’s intimidating, but you’ll learn on the job. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

~Roxanne Sherwood

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