I was working on the last book of my three-book series Oasis Circle last spring, when some fellow writers urged me to submit some short stories to contests. I prefer to spend my time writing. There are so many books to write and so little time. But I had been working diligently on my novel and figured maybe a break would help clear the cobwebs.
First I had to decide what kind of a contest I wanted to submit my stories to, depending on the topics of my stories and the publications or organizations sponsoring the contests. Writers have different reasons for entering contests: recognition, motivation, money or a foot in the door with a big publishing house. That’s all well worth it for many people. Another important consideration is who are the judges? Do you want to submit your short story about children to a sci-fi author sitting as judge?
In April of this year I entered one of my short stories in a “small” contest (small as compared with the mega contests staged by national writer magazines). I chose to enter the Professional Writers of Prescott (AZ) annual contest because I was impressed with the sponsoring organization, that they opened the contest to any writer (which respects and promotes the profession as a whole) and because the submissions were evaluated by a panel of 12 judges. I believed my story would get more fair consideration by a panel, rather than by one or two judges. It’s all very good to be assessed by one or two qualified judges, but I saw the real value of this contest was in having a consensus about my work.
Submission emailed, I got back to work on my novel. Query letters and contest submissions are not good things to sit around and wait for responses to. Good things sometimes take time. In this case it took seven months. As time trails away, It’s easy to soothe oneself with a visualization of one’s extraordinary work simply getting lost in the flood of excellent submissions that some contests must draw. I was surprised when a couple weeks ago I received an email notifying me I’d been given an award for short fiction. That apanel of 12 judges from diverse backgrounds and having dissimilar reading tastes and writing styles agreed that my work was worth recognizing,and the words I put together could touch them enough to recognize me for it, that was the real reward.
I’d be interested your take on it. Each writer finds individual value in entering contests. Why do you enter writing contests? What do you think is the greatest benefit when you receive an award?