Contest Quandary

I make this same mistake every January.

I outline my goals for the year. I make a plan how to achieve those goals. And then I manage to derail my good intentions by volunteering to judge a contest or THREE.

Yep, idiot in tow here.

The first batch of contest entries is only about 25 pages and a reasonable scoresheet. I've read and judged four of them and made profuse comments. All I have to do is tweak my comments (play nicey-nice) and add up their scores. The last entry, well, I don't know what's going to happen with that one.

Here's the sitch:

When I received the entries last Friday, I opened them up and scrolled past the scoresheet to the first page to see if I've read/judged/critiqued it before. All of them were fresh and new submissions that I'd never seen before. So when I started judging the entries, I simply read them the way my computer alphabetized them, unless the topic doesn't interest me, then I place it at the bottom of the list.

Excited that I was, a) on the last contest entry, b) that I didn't have any real clunkers in this batch, I opened the entry and scrolled through the pages. Why I did this, I don't know, but I'm so glad I did!

This entry was a mess, a HOT MESS--and it had nothing to do with the actual story content--font sizes were different, some sections were all CAPS, some sections were single spaced, and I have no idea what happened in other sections, except that the author's fingers typed off one key stroke. Yep, total gobble-de-gook. Originally, I thought, "Oh, I can simply reformat it." until weird section really jumped out at me.

Nope. Not happening. Not my job.

In all the years (12 of them) I've judged contests, I have NEVER seen one that looked like this!

It was the contest coordinator's job to check formatting, maybe she has a clean copy. I emailed her. Turns out, all she did was look at the first page, too.


Usually the coordinator's are totally awesome blossom. I never have to do anything other than send my judged entries back, and they let me know if everything is hunky dory. This coordinator, though very nice, seems simply overwhelmed. I'm sure she works a 'real' full-time job outside of writing and helping with this contest, and this might be her first contest to coordinate, but she has forgotten to give me my judge number, and hasn't numbered any of the contest entries, along with the formatting issues on this entry.

Why are numbers this important?

To make it easy to keep track of HUNDREDS of judges and entries. When I co-coordinated RWI's (now obsolete) published author contest, I had pages of computerized excel sheets to keep track of everything. And I couldn't have done it without Susan Shay's help.

I'm just so glad that I decided to hop on these entries to get them judged within the first week of receiving them--I think the coordinator should be thankful, too. Many judges wait until the last minute to judge their entries. Can you imagine what the entrant would think if she got a frantic email during the last week of judging asking for a fresh copy? It wouldn't reflect very well on the contest, because this sort of thing tends to go viral through RWA loops.

--um, I'm not in RWA any longer and I don't expect anyone from this loop to tattle about this unnamed contest . . . GOT IT?

Once I get a clean copy, it will be a non-event. The other judges will also get a clean copy and life will go on. Crisis averted.

Anyone who volunteers to help with a contest is a saint. And unless you help, don't ever diss them. There is a LOT of time and commitment that happens around every single entry.

Today, I'll reread my comments, tally up my scores and send back the other entries. I'll judge the remaining one when I get it. But until then, I'll start reading the BOOKS I got in the mail for the second contest I volunteered to judge.

And then, I expect another packet contest entries to judge to arrive sometime next week.

Oh, and I still have 5000 words to write on MY story for this week. If I focus today, I might get a couple thousand written today.

Gotta go feed the dog, Peeps. Then it's time to go for a walk, tweak my contest entries and write my own story. Busy, busy, busy!

Later, Peeps!


Meg said...

I'm doing contest judging too. I judge to give back, and all comments are given out of caring.

Thank you for giving your time too!

Margaret Golla said...

I actually enjoy judging contest entries--it's like discovering a "new to me" author.

The problem is that it's thankless, not in the sense that I want a thank-you note, but in the sense that no matter how you word something people will complain about how the judge "didn't get me/my writing", "out to sabotage", or whatever.

If you enter a contest, you should also judge a contest as it will give you a different perspective.

I have to thank RWI for booting me into judging my very first contest. It scared the heck out of me, but I learned so much from the experience!

Cynthia D'Alba said...

I'm doing published contest reading right now. Good batch but I've gotten a stinky batch of published stuff before...stuff that should never have wasted the ink, know what I mean?

Margaret Golla said...

I totally understand, Cyndi. It makes you wonder what enticed the editor to fight for those stories.

I'm getting ready to start reading a published contest tomorrow. I've read three out of the four authors before, so I hope to be entertained.