Get Ready, Get Set . . .

It’s that time of the year again.   Time for me to make a run down to Alamo and check the California Writers Club mailbox.  At this moment, I have a small stack I’m flipping through and organizing into piles of poems, personal narratives/essays and short stories.  Each year I think we’ll have fewer manuscripts, but it does seem like everyone waits until the last few days to submit. 

So this means procrastination is a common characteristic of writers?  Or perhaps we’re all perfectionists and love revision.  If that’s the case, revise away.  But just know that April 1 means the post office needs to mark them April 1 and you can only trust the post office so far. 

Although I don’t have time to read each entry as I organize them, I do cheat a bit and scan the first page as I flip through them.   I’m impressed when one of the poems makes me laugh out loud.  I run outside to read it to my husband.  He gets a kick out of it too.  I have no idea if it will win or not, but we’re enjoying this poet’s work and my bet is in some way it’s going to be published at some point.

Other poems make me think, picture the image, or pause.  That is good.   

With the short stories and essays, if I HAVE to turn page one, this means that piece has promise. 

One trick for all writers could be this:  make the editor or judge turn the page to finish a sentence or an exceptionally well-written paragraph.  If you have a good hook, chances are, your reader will  keep on reading and that is EXACTLY what you want your reader to do. 

Another trick:  write a first page filled with either tension and active verbs, and/or bring a character to life in a quirky or very real way.  Be as specific as possible.

My favorite time is when all of these entries are organized and I can flip through and read a couple here and there before I give them to the awaiting judges.   Once they are enjoying the submissions, then I start reading my own stories to judge. 

Things you may not know about this contest:

* There are two judges for each grade and category.  When the two judges can’t make up their minds or agree, they will call in a third or more to break the tie.

*All judges take their jobs very seriously.  We’ve had judges wheedle, bargain, list reasons, and beg for the entry they want to win.   

*Honorable mentions are awarded.   Sometimes, if you are very, very lucky, a judge MIGHT comment on  your piece.  Consider this to be VERY high praise indeed.  This is just like in the publishing world, when an editor scrawls something on your manuscript.  The author will be smiling for weeks!

*The judges all finish their jobs at different times.  They are all volunteers.  None of us get paid for any of this.  When they tell me their choices I immediately post the winners names on this site, AFTER I have called them.    Once I’ve notified everyone,  then letters are sent out to the winners.  After THAT is under control, EVERYONE receives a letter of some sort. 

*BE PATIENT.  The judging doesn’t happen over night, nor do the letters get sent right away.  Never fear.  You WILL hear.  It takes me a TON of time to do the honorable mentions and get everything ELSE in my life done too.  I still have my own writing assignments to write, dinner to make, and a few speaking engagements here and there. 

*When am I thrilled?  When I see someone enter the contest again.  I don’t know who you are, but I do remember some of the names now and then and smile when I see that you continue to write year after year.  THIS is the mark of a true writer. 

It’s March 28.  Get off of the Internet NOW.  You still have time to send in your latest entry!  Go for it!

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