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Friday, August 28, 2009

Do Writing Contests Crush Your Spirit or Encourage Your Creativity?

Do you hesitate before opening those returned non-finalist contest entries? Have you ever stared at your computer screen in shock at the nasty things some contest judges say (the ones who never put their name on the score sheet, of course)? Do you get excited when you find that one golden nugget among contest comments (usually from a published or soon-to-be published author) that sends you not only back to the manuscript with an idea for revision, but on to another contest with the hope for a better result?

We have all been there, sad to say. And we all have the battle scars to show for it. But I have something to share with you that came out of the 2009 Golden Gateway Contest, something I hope will give you hope, even if just a glimmer. Sometimes, you find yourself orbiting the right planet, or perhaps it's that the judges happen to be orbiting your planet. And when this happens, you feel as if your world is perfectly balanced, as if it's rotating on its axis and revolving around the sun just as it should be.

I entered three entries into the 2009 GG Contest—Aliya Arabesque, Deus ex Nosferatu, and The Loving of Lord Loxley. Aliya Arabesque had won the 2008 Wallflower Contest (a contest in which published and unpublished authors had competed against one another), but that contest had been a 25 page contest. The 2009 GG Contest permitted up to 55 pages for novels, and up to 45 pages for novellas. So, for Aliya Arabesque, it would be a test of the next 30 pages, and for Deus ex Nosferatu and The Loving of Lord Loxley, it would be their first appearance in any contest.

I had no expectations whatsoever. Contests are contests. I've said it before (see my April 3, 2009 post entitled "Can You Hear Your Voice?"), and I'll say it again. "When you lose a contest or receive a rejection, don't take it to heart. It mightn't be as complicated as the possibility that you don't have voice. It might be as simple as the fact that you didn't have the luck of the judicial or editorial draw." So, when I heard that all three of my entries were finalists, I realized I'd had the luck of the judicial draw for each of them. In sum, I'd drawn judges who'd heard my voice.

But the experience of having judges hear your voice isn't only about them telling you what makes your writing good. It's also about you listening to them tell you what could make it better. Yes, even when you have entries that final, you should grab hold of any and all golden nuggets in the comments. As I've said before (see my May 30, 2009 post entitled "Revisions, Revisions, Revisions"), I believe my words aren't written in stone, but are as fluid as an ocean.

In the 2009 GG Contest, the judges not only gave encouraging compliments, but also made excellent criticisms. I considered each criticism and made revisions before submitting the entries for the final round. No matter what happens in the final round, I'll come away with manuscripts that are better post-contest than pre-contest. So, for hearing my voice in this contest and giving me several precious golden nuggets, I sincerely thank the judges.

Have you gotten back contest comments that crushed your spirit or encouraged your creativity? If the former, I am here to tell you that contests aren't always a negative experience, but sometimes can be a very positive one. Yes, it's actually true—contest judges can encourage your creativity. With the 2009 GG Contest judges' words of encouragement in my mind, I'm off to write, write, write, leaving you with my words of encouragement: If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.

Keep Writing!

All Text © 2009 Madeline Smyth. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Triple Finalist in the 2009 Golden Gateway Contest!

The results are in for the preliminary round of 2009 Golden Gateway Contest. All three of my entries are finalists. Here are the titles and categories:

Aliya Arabesque ~ Finalist, Single Title Category

Deus ex Nosferatu ~ Finalist, Romantic Novella Category

The Loving of Lord Loxley ~ Finalist, Romantic Novella Category

Thank you to all judges.

Congratulations to all finalists!

And last, but not least, I've a special word for the non-finalist entrants (especially those who have never finaled in a contest): Don't despair, but just keep writing, as this moment will pass and your moment will come.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Author of Near Perfection Revealed!

Who is the author of Near Perfection?

Do you remember my posts about Near Perfection—that outstanding entry I judged in the 2009 Winter Rose Contest? If not, let me remind you. I first encountered Near Perfection in the 2009 Winter Rose Contest. I'm a tough judge because I was an English major, but a fair one because I am a lawyer. I always explain my reasoning for a low score and suggest possible revisions for a higher score in the future; I never let a score in one section influence a score in another; I always put my name on the score sheet because I never say anything to anyone that I'm not willing to stand behind. I gave Near Perfection an almost perfect score.

To my delight, Near Perfection became a finalist in the 2009 Golden Heart® Contest (see my prior post entitled "Hook, Line, and Sinker"). But then, to my shock, a month or so later, it didn't final in the 2009 Winter Rose Contest (see my prior post entitled "Contest Woes"). Well, now, to my disappointment, but not to my surprise, it didn't win the 2009 Golden Heart®. I say "not to my surprise" only because, with each passing day, I come to realize more firmly that there is little room in the romance world for truly unique voices.

When I first saw Near Perfection on my screen, I will confess I reared back with the thought: "What is this?" But I'd made certain pledges to the 2009 Winter Rose Contest entrants (see my prior post entitled "A Promise to Contest Entrants"). So, I took another look, and within a page or two, I couldn't pull away. After my second or third burst of laughter, DH asked, "What's so amusing?" He knows it takes a lot to amuse me. I read him a couple of my favorite lines. DH, who can be quite perspicacious, said, "She'll either go nowhere or everywhere. That's what happens with true talent." He should know, as he's not only a graduate of Columbia, but Eastman School of Music.

Well, I'm delighted to tell you that the author of Near Perfection has taken the first step on her journey to somewhere, and hopefully, everywhere. And I'm honored to have been one of the authors who recognized and appreciated her talent in her pre-publication days. So, what is the true title, and who is the secret author, of Near Perfection?

The title of Near Perfection is Pleasant Lake, P.D. and the author of Pleasant Lake, P.D. is none other than 2009 Golden Heart® finalist Kelly Fitzpatrick.

And here is Kelly's first step on that journey:

Welcome to Wonderland! Population in the four digits. Folks in Wonderland primarily die of old age or hunting accidents, but all that's about to change because Lily Tucker has come to town.

Lily in Wonderland ~ coming soon from Cerridwen Press