Judging in the Land of Oz

English: gavel no background
English: gavel no background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel like the wizard behind the curtain: I’ve been asked to judge a contest I entered. As I mentioned in Synopsis Re-visited, I entered my current project in the On the Far Side Contest. This is a yearly contest run as a fundraiser by the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal (FF&P) Special Interest Chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA). The cash rewards are nominal ($25) but, as with all these smaller contests, the real reward is judge feedback and a chance to get looked at by an editor or agent if you make the final round.

My wife is very active in our local RWA chapter and they also have a yearly contest, the Golden Rose, which starts June 1st. These contests are for unpublished authors and interestingly, the total number of entries isn’t huge- in the 60-100 range, split across 5 or more categories. What that means is that you are not competing against a lot of people for a chance to get seen by someone who might buy or represent your work. Now, you will probably also toss  your work into the slush pile for a pro-view, but in the case of contests, judges of any round generally feel obligated to read the entire entry and usually to provide detailed comments. So in the first round, you get feedback from 3 or so judges, some of whom may be published, and if you make the second round, you get feedback from an agent or editor, and it is pretty much guaranteed to be actual feedback, instead of a “not for me”.

Coming back to the judging, these contests are run by writer’s organizations that contain a fair proportion of published authors, many of whom judge the contests, which is good. But 60 entries and 3 judges per entry is a lot of “judging bandwidth,” thus the perpetual need for judges and how I got asked to judge. I’ll be judging both the one I entered (but not my category, of course) and my wife’s chapter’s contest.

I must confess, it is weird being a judge. For one, I’m not published and for another, I’m judging romance written by women for women: so I get to critique gushing descriptions of the male romantic interest’s physique: yippee! Actually, I just skip that part. At least I’ve spent a year doing critters.org critiques so I don’t feel entirely unqualified and on the judge feedback form, I’m able to disclose that I’m not published so they can do what they want with my feedback. I still feel something like a fraud as a judge but hey, the contest folks know what they are getting with me.

As for the contests, there are categories for SRE (strong romantic elements) so it doesn’t have to be a pure romance novel to enter. Might be worth a look, depending on your project. I don’t think winning one of these goes very far as a writing credential but the feedback could help and it can’t hurt to have something to add to your resume if you make finalist or win.

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4 thoughts on “Judging in the Land of Oz

  1. We are all readers. Your feedback may not be a ‘valuable’ as an editor’s, but it is equally as valid. But I wouldn’t skip anything! That’s not fair and not cool. I’ve had to judge horror stories (I HATE horror), and I read the *entire* thing before offering my feedback. Just saying…

    1. I must be a bad judge… okay, I don’t skip that but I’m not really going to comment on it! Just seems kind of silly… like all those naked male torsos on the cover of romance novels. Apparently that actually works as a marketing tactic…

      1. I don’t read romance, so I don’t have much of an idea of what they are after, but, yeah, it seems pretty obvious. Romance, Romance, Romance (with a bit of a relationship on the side) and then some steamy Sex! I guess. I don’t really know.

        I do know that horror truly is horrifying to me (all that creeping around and gore – ug!). Gives me nightmares. So, I try to avoid it. Still, I’ve found I can judge it. It just try to see if the creepy/crawlies/gore adds to the story. If it doesn’t, then I consider it bad horror. If it adds to the tone and feel of the story, and is part of the plot, then I consider it good horror. (shrugs)

        Good luck!

      2. Romance is another world. Clearly not for everyone but those who read it, seem to read a lot of it, so not a bad business I suppose. I do find the naked male torso on every other cover rather silly though (I’m not exaggerating). Kind of knocks the legs out of the argument when women complain about men looking at the SI swimsuit issue, though.

        As for judging romance, fortunately, I get to have some say in the manuscripts sent my way. For instance, I could specify how much “erotic heat” (not my term, that’s actually on the form!). I’m not opposed to erotica but erotica written by women for women is not at all the same as that written by men for men 😛 Besides, women always get the ratios wrong in ménages…

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