Q & AJordan Dane On Writing Contests
Prior to being SOLD
(Posted Online InterviewCheryl Wyatt BlogSquirrel's Treehouse2006)
1. As an entrant, what do you look for when selecting a writing contest?
Personally, I participate in contests for two main reasons.
Of course, none of the above is true, but if you are going to do the contest circuit, YOU MUST HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR.
2. As a trained and experienced judge, what is your philosophy on assessing an author's work in a writing competition?
Okaygonna get serious here for a minute. I take judging very seriously. For me, the main thing about judging always falls back to the golden ruletreat others like you would like to be treated yourself. An author's work is their life's blood. Treat it with respect.
I know. By now, you're saying, "Duh?!!" But you'd be surprised how many judges make disparaging remarks that add NOTHING of value. (Once I've read what these people have say, I like to imagine them naked on a theatre stage with a bunch of people laughing and pointing, but that's just me.)
But after saying that, I've also experienced extraordinary judges who treat my work as if they were dear friends, giving me great insight. (I've even had a well-published author refer me to their agent after she read my material.) Those people are why I return the favorthe 'PAY IT FORWARD' idea. And I have modeled my judging style after some of my favorite judges as a result. As a judge, I provide encouraging words to each entrant on what I liked most and list areas that could use some improvement. (No matter how good the writing, I try to add some areas to work on. We all need those.)
There are too many naysayers to stand in the way of what we do. A contest judge doesn't need to be another one. After all, the score reflects the judge's overall opinion of the entry, but their comments should give constructive criticism on what works and what doesn't.
I'm also forgiving when it comes to things that seem trivial in comparison to a good story well told (MS format, fonts, H/H meeting on the first page). Good storytelling is a gift. I put as much care into an entrant's work as I would my own. I usually read the entry more than once and I read it through BEFORE I pick up the pen.
Contests are for fundraising but I would like to see judges' training that actually reflected an element of nurturing the newer writer. I'm not sure if this can be done, but maybe it all starts with 'PAYING IT FORWARD'one judge caring enough to return the favor of a good deed.
3. As a first time RWA Golden Heart finalist in 2005, what did you learn from that experience that you hadn't expected?
I entered the GH for the first time last year and was named a finalist. I was totally unprepared for such good fortunewide-eyed and sitting on the center lane, staring down the headlights of an eighteen-wheeler. But Tina Novinski took me under her wing and helped me through the initial shock phasemy fellow chapter mate and voice of reason. (I know she is grinning at this comment.) Tina gave me some sage advice and was a great sounding board for some of my off-the-wall questions. Her advice was dead on, and as a result, I didn't waste my time spinning my wheels on useless stufflike arranging for a ticker tape parade in my home town or calling Oprah to see if she'd be interested in interviewing me. (grin) Don't laugh, I had Oprah on speed dial.
Before Reno, I joined the GH email loop and met the rest of the Wild Cards (the name we've coined for ourselves). They also helped me through the initial ropes. Our loop is still very active and I feel plugged in to everyone's success.
What did I learn?
What we do is follow our dreams. Many people live their lives not even knowing what that means. But by pursuing this strange path, we are proving to ourselves that passion counts. My loving husband has told me how much he marvels at my unwavering dedication over the last three years and he has changed his lifestyle to support my efforts. He's the cornerstone I use to build upon my heroes, each one. And for you parents out thereyou are a living example to your kids that personal satisfaction comes from within. And that's a beautiful lesson.
I wish each of you good fortune in your writing journey.
© Jordan Dane, 2006