I don't enter many writing contests even though a judge for the Writer's Digest contest told me, "Entering contests is a good idea. There were so many dreadful entries a half reasonable piece stands a good chance of getting at least an honorable mention. But is entering worth getting an honorable mention? Perhaps, entering gives more than a chance at a "prize."
Getting a prize, no matter how small, gives a person a lift. It makes writers feel that they can write. But what have we gained besides the good feeling? There are many, many reasons why we won't be a finalist: the judge doesn't like the style; the selection doesn't meet the criteria the judge wants (not all judges are as objective as others); and, of course, perhaps the piece has problems. How can we know where we fall in this continuum?
Unless I get something more than a pat on the back, I don't think it's worthwhile to enter a contest. A prize alone doesn't do it for me. I want to know why I wasn't chosen, or what the judges liked, or didn't, about my work. Judges are usually chosen because they have credentials in the industry: published authors, agents, and publishers. If they like my work and the feedback is positive, I know I am on the right track even if I didn't win. If they don't, I have work to do.
How do you deal with negative feedback is key. I recently read a chat session where people were complaining about the feedback they received in the Amazon Breakout Novel Contest. Negative feedback, while not pleasant, can tell you what other people think of the story line, characters, and style. It should be taken very seriously. You may not agree and certainly judges can be wrong. The judge may be the wrong person to appreciate your work, but at least you have some idea of why your story or novel didn't fly. Sometimes we get too comfortable with our critique groups and beta readers. Getting outside feedback from a few strangers can be valuable.
We may get positive feedback and don't win, what does that mean? We live in a culture that respects winning, and we didn't measure up, but think about it: Someone likes your or my work. They may not like it as much as some other piece, but if someone in the industry likes it, we do have a market. Perhaps not this publisher or editor, but another one will see the potential in what we wrote. Positive feedback should have us charging ahead. feeling great even if we aren't "winners."
So, I'll spend the time to enter a contest, but only if I get something for it, and for me, the feedback is more important than winning. Entering at least a few writing contests is a major New Year goal.
Finding writing competitions can be daunting, but Writing.Com is a good place to begin. I entered many of their contests over the past 21 years.
Another contest that I like, have entered for 21 years, and have judged many categories is the OWFI (Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.) yearly competition. Oklahoma is in the name because that's where the organization center is, but people from all over the world are members and enter the contest. For information, go to owfi.org and check on Writing Contest in the navigation bar. Most contests have entry fees, but the OWFI entry fee covers all the categories you want to enter, whether one or all thirty-four. The entry time period is January 1 until February 1 at 11:59 PM.
Below is a list of other contests for writing and/or illustrating. I haven't checked recently to see if any are no longer in existence, but if anyone is interested, he/she can quickly check.
1. CYBILS AWARDS - www.cybils.com Nominate in October.
2. THE BOSTON GLOBE-HORN BOOK AWARDS - www.hbook.com/bghb/submissions_bghb.asp
Publishers submit between June 1 and May31 of preceding year. Deadline May 15.
3. RANDOLPH CALDECOTT MEDAL - www.ala.org/alsc/caldecott.html Deadline, December 31.
4. EDGAR AWARDS - mystery/crime/suspense genres - www.ala.org/yalsa/edwards Deadline, November 30.
5. THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL AWARD - www.ala.org Beginning Reader in the U. S. Deadline December 31.
6. GOLDEN KITE AWARDS - www.scbwi.org Must be member of the SCBWI - Entries accepted between June 1 and December 16.
7. EZRA JACK KEATS NEW WRITER AWARD - www.ezra-jack-keats.org Children’s books - Deadline: December 14.
8. NEWBERY AWARD - www.ala.org/alsc/newbery.cfm Deadline December 31.
9. SCOTT O’DELL AWARD FOR HISTORICAL FICTION - www.scottodell.com Deadline: Ongoing
10. INDIE BOOK AWARDS - www.indiebookawards.com/entryguidelines.php Enter by Feb. 24, 2012 - Fee $75.00 per entry.
11. DAN POYNTER GLOBAL EBOOK AWARDS - http://awardsforebooks.com
12. CRYSTAL KITE MEMBER CHOICE AWARD For book covers. Members of SCBWI
13. READERS FAVORITE BOOK REVIEWS & AWARD - http://readersfavorite.com Deadline for award entry: May 1, 2012 - $85.00
14. FOREWARD MAGAZINE BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS - http://www.forewordreviews.com/services/book-of-the-year-awards/ $99.00
Deadline Jan. 13, 2012
15. ERIC HOFFER AWARD http://www.HofferAward.com
Won't you join me in making one goal for 2022 to enter at least one or more writing contests?