Monday, March 8, 2010

Judging Contests

Last week I judged five entries in The Passionate Pen Contest.

This week I am judging 200+ poems, short non-fiction, and short stories for our local writing group, Jackpine Savages. On Sunday, the five judges will meet in a marathon session and decide which submissions will be published in our annual 'Talking Stick' publication.

Judging is volunteer work I am happy to do for selfish reasons.

I entered two contests five years ago, hoping I was a diamond-in-the-rough. Depressing scores dunked me into vats of cold water. I realized how much I had to learn about the craft of storytelling. I immersed myself in local classes and on-line workshops. I studied novels and writing books.

Then I volunteered to judge contests. I wanted to assess the caliber of current competition, gauge what was 'in' in story lines, and learn from rising stars.

After multiple contests, I can say with certainly that I read and re-read each entry hoping to be dazzled. Most of the time I am not. The plots are usually great. The characters well developed. It is the execution that is weak. The errors are the kind I have made--and I am working hard to keep from making now.

Marie Force is a judge for the BMW of contests: the Golden Heart. She has a list of ten craft errors she sees most often. She is willing to share it if you contact her at Please let her know you are "calling" from this blog post.

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