Sunday, November 12, 2006

On Half-Empty Glasses

What I'm reading: True Confessions of the Stratford Park PTA, by Nancy Robards Thompson

What I'm working on: Fixing some continuity issues in Chapter 11.

I got home and found a flat brown cardboard box on my front porch Friday. When I opened it, I found a plaque and a check for $35 – my prize for winning the Indiana Golden Opportunity contest in my category. I'd totally forgotten that there was more to the contest than the usual "get your pages on an editor's desk" prize.

I made a copy of the check for my files and glanced around my office trying to decide if I want to put the plaque somewhere obvious to people coming into the room (not that there are many of them since I work in a back bedroom of my house) or in front of my desk where it will remind me that someone liked my writing.

Then I read the cover letter and saw, "(the editor) did not make any comments on your entry, so rather than return it, it has been shredded."

Okay, I don't object to the shredding. I already have a foot-high stack of contest entry pages in my draft paper stack for printing hard copies of things I need to edit, but not keep. I don't need another 25 pages. But to me, the 'no comments' came across as a form rejection letter—albeit one with a $35 check attached. I'm not saying I thought for a nanosecond about not cashing the check—but some of the delight in the win was negated by not getting what to me was the 'real' prize—editorial feedback. Was my entry the least bad of the three she judged? Or super, but just not something she was looking for at the moment? All I know is that she thought it was better than the other 2 finalists' entries, but I don't know what she thought about it. She didn't request it, and I don't know why, or how to make it better.

Am I looking at a half-empty glass? Maybe. Celebrate the win, forget the rest. I did get feedback from editors in the other contests where the manuscript finaled, and as a writer, that's more valuable than the prize money.

As a contest coordinator, I sit on the other side of the desk. I have to recruit these editor final round judges, and they are prized for giving up their time to read contest manuscripts. In our chapter contest, we tell the judges that they are not obligated to fill out score sheets or mark up the manuscripts, but suggest as politely as we can that it would be really, really appreciated by the entrants if they did. So far, only 1 of our judges has merely ranked the entries. Most fill out a score sheet with comments, and some go so far as to write specific notes on the manuscript, and even notes to the authors.

Those kinds of judges are gold. My entry went from that judge to another editor who will get the first place finishers in each category to select a 'best of the best' winner. Win or not, I have my fingers crossed for comments.

1 comment:

Michael Patrick Leahy said...


My wife loves romance novels of the American West.

I think she might like Finding Sara.

When will it be released and how can I get an autographed copy ?