Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Books & Writing - Changing My Mind

I haven't entered a writing contest in many years, not since a fellow author, who also happened to be a good friend, and I were entered in the same contest. I didn't know how to feel about competing with friends and colleagues. It didn't feel right and so I decided not to enter contests. Besides, I told myself, they are "so subjective".

And then a funny thing happened this summer. I was asked to be a judge for the OCW Cascade Writing Contest.  I'm not sure what convinced me to do it, but I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did.

I read each book on my list and did my best to be objective. It's not easy. When I completed the reading and had filled out the forms with my scores I felt conflicted. All the books were good - each had their perfections as well as their flaws. I wished I hadn't agreed to be a judge. It was too difficult. Trying to be objective rather than subjective was no easy task. After all, I have my own preferred writing styles and genres. I was determined to remain objective, however.

When I'd completed my score sheets and turned them in, I'd decided I had been right not to enter contests. They can't present a complete picture of a book and its story. As a judge I could only offer a snapshot. 

Maybe all my hesitancy has good reasoning behind it, but all that went out the window when I attended the awards ceremony. 

I've changed my mind about contests. I like them . . . even with their flaws. 

It was such fun to see so many writers given credit for their hard work. The top three in each category were celebrated for their literary creations. They were brought up on stage and given an award certificate and credited for fine writing. After that, a winner in each category was selected and honored for their entry. 

The room seemed to spill over with joy as we linked arms (metaphorically) as comrades in an industry that asks much of its craftsmen. While I sat there clapping and smiling - thrilled for the winners - I remembered something similar that happened to me years before. It may well have changed my life. Though small in scale, the acknowledgement gave me the boldness to move forward and write my very first book.

From here on out, I'm going to support writing contests. I may even judge one here and there. It's a privilege and offers an opportunity to read some great books. I might even enter one now and again.

Bravo to all the winners this year at the OCW Cascade Writers Contest. And hooray to everyone who entered. May you all continue to work at your craft. I can't wait to read more of your books, stories, articles and poems. Good job!

Grace and peace to you from God,



  1. Good blog, Bonnie. I know you've always said you didn't think Christians should compete against one another, so it's interesting to see that a contest changed your mind. :)

  2. God keeps working on me, Ann. It's kind of scary, but mostly it's amazing because it gives me hope that I won't stagnate, but grow and become a better me.

    Hugs to you, writing friend and colleague. :-)

  3. Anonymous3:06 PM

    I hated judging the 4th of July parade entries--oooomph! They allllll cared so much in our tiny town, and I chose the HS teen boy band to encourage them and darned if the Scottish Bagpipers weren't breathing down my neck cuz "We've ALWAYS won, ALWAYS!" sob sigh. Never again. Local grocery store--judged kiddo's coloring contest--oh jeeeeze, even harder! Never again! An honored judge at elementary school's storytelling contest: Okay, I caved because that adorable 4th grader boy with the curly hair winked at me and I was in love. I admitted it. So never again! Well pffffft! I should just stick to entering contests and having fun--but never do! How do you hear of them? Glad you changed, dear Bonnie--tho you really ARE wonderful just the way you are now!

  4. Bonnie, thanks so much for posting this. For me, the fun of winning an award was blunted a bit by knowing that someone else did not win. Especially knowing that writing awards are so subjective, that the winning entry isn't any "better" than the runners-up. It just happened to strike a chord with those particular judges, for whatever reason. I'm up for an award at ACFW and I'm almost hoping I don't win so that I don't have to feel these feelings. Thanks for offering a fresh perspective to the whole process.

  5. Patti, I hope you don't give up judging contests altogether. There will always be a winner and a winner. Gotcha. Really, everyone wins. It's a growing and learning experience for all involved.

    I hear about contests by being plugged into social networking, which is part of my job.

    And thanks for the "wonderful" - right back at you.

  6. Jenny, thanks for jumping in. Interesting isn't it, how we even have difficulty accepting a win.

    I think we need to trust in God's ultimate plan. He uses everything for our good.

    Congratulations and I'll be watching to see how things go at ACFW. God is in control.

    Have a grand time. Wish I could be there.

  7. Thanks, Bonnie. He is indeed in control. And isn't that a relief!