ProTalk Discussion: Entering Contests - 7/19/05


*** Verla has set the topic on channel #kidlit to ProTalk Discussion - CONTESTS - in progress. Welcome
Verla: and now... this proTalk is ready to begin
Verla: So who has ever entered a contest (besides me?)
Verla: and lived to tell about it...
AllyC: I have
JKC: I have
Verla: What motivated you to enter it/them?
AllyC: editorial review;validation
JKC: Uhm...I was trying to get a friend to be more motivated about her writing.
JKC: And I convinced her to enter.
Verla: I entered the ones I did because they struck some kind of "chord" in me. Either I was interested in the prize, or the degree of prestige it afforded to the winners, or the topic of the contest seemed perfect for my stories.
JKC: I like Ally's reason better.
Verla: anyone ever place in a contest?
AllyC: yes
Verla: I have yet to get past the rejected-no-notification-of-any-kind stage in any contest. LOL
NOTE: LOL = Laughing Out Loud
Verla: yay, Ally! Would you tell us a little about it?
AllyC: lol
Donna: that gives the rest of us hope, V!
AllyC: erm. Sure.
JKC: Yes.
JKC: Tell us.
Verla: heh heh, Donna
AllyC: I've placed several times in the Writer's Digest contests. As high as 8th. I've been a letter of merit finalist for the SCBWI wip grant 2 years. And I've placed 1,2, and Honorable Mention in the Smartwriters WIN Competition.
AllyC: What do you want to know, specifically?
AllyC: lol
Verla: Wooooo Hooooo, Ally! Now tell us how you DID it?
JKC: That's awesome, Ally.
AllyC: ty
Verla: was there anything special you did when considering what stories to send to each contest?
AllyC: I make sure that every entry conforms to exact contest specifications.
AllyC: Neat, tidy and no obvious typos.
Verla: you mean like the length of the story, the content, etc?
AllyC: Yes and all necessary forms, # of copies etc.
Donna: how many of those were entered via email? any?
AllyC: As for what to send, as with submitting, I make certain to carefully choose to fit the proper category/genre.
Donna: *sorry Verla - didn't meant to interrupt
AllyC: Several, Donna.
Verla: interrupt away, Donna!
Donna: cool beans
Donna: :)
Verla: that's what this is all about... an open discussion...
Donna: I'm all about discussions today!
Donna: :)
AllyC: With respect to what to submit, I also make sure not to go over word counts, even if it means coming in under a word count to complete a sentence.
AllyC: I've found that the synopsis plays a significant role.
Verla: do you worry at all about where you stop your story, ally? Try to stop it at a critical place leaving the reader wanting to read more, etc?
joanclr: How so, Ally?
AllyC: Yes. I also try to end at a juncture that doesn't leave the reader confused.
AllyC: That's more important than closing right in on the word count maximum, imho.
joanclr: I'm curious to know more about the synopsis
Verla: so you would go under the word limit, in order to leave the reader in a "perfect" place to make them want to keep reading, Ally?
AllyC: Well, Joan, I believe that if writing is tight and compelling, but the synopsis is weak, judges are less likely to place that mss.
AllyC: Exactly.
Verla: so you need to spend as much time on the synopsis, as on the writing sample you send in
Donna: yes...the synopsis I wrote for the WIN suc- er, was terrible.
joanclr: Interesting - so what do you find makes a compelling synopsis?
AllyC: Judges want to believe that the writer can carry this story they've begun, that they know where they're going and will maintain the momentum.
AllyC: Yep
Verla: (assuming you are doing a novel. For a picture book, you would normally send the whole thing, as it would normally be under the word count allowed)
joanclr: suc- er?
AllyC: yes
Donna: was going to write sucked. but that is an awful word. so I changed it.
Donna: :)
Donna: but there it is in print now anyway
joanclr: LOL ahhh ;)
Donna: sorry
AllyC: Same with a mag piece...entire mss.
joanclr: teehee
Verla: Contests can do a lot of different things to the entrants...
Verla: they can make you feel wonderful, if you place or win... and they can make you feel like a total failure when you fail to place or win....
Donna: ally, did you get tips from someone else or have you always entered and placed well?
Donna: some folks are naturally good at taking tests...maybe at entering contests, too? :)
AllyC: the only tips I've received, I may have read...
Verla: but what you have to understand, is that contests are a lot like submitting to editors. Some judges will "get" your story and love it, and the next judge might not "get" it at all, and hate your story!
AllyC: much about contests is subjective
Verla: it doesn't necessarily mean your story stinks....
Verla: I sent my Pony Express story to a contest... it didn't place at all. Recently sold the exact same story (with no revisions or changes) to my editor!
AllyC: wtg!
Verla: so you never know...
joanclr: cool, Verla
joanclr: I hope I"ll be able the say the same someday :D lol
Donna: me too!
Verla: it's good to enter them. It can be TERRIFIC if you win or place (or so I've been told. LOL!)
Verla: but you can't let a contest be the "end all" of your efforts. It's just another way to "get your stories out there...."
Donna: how long does it take you, Ally and anyone else who enters contests, to get your stuff ready. I spent hours and hours trying to get it just right.
Verla: so has anyone ever had a bad experience with a contest? (Please don't name the specific contest... just give us the jist of what happened...)
ratty: Getting a HM in Smart.. was a big buzz for me. "Outside affirmation" that I might have something
Donna: ugh!
Verla: my worst experience with contests is the same with every one I've ever entered. I get nothing back. No notification that I've been rejected. I just send my story off and it goes into that "big black publishing hole" in the sky....
AllyC: I only send work that is well through numerous drafts and is quite polished. If I don't have something, then I don't enter.
Verla: that's awesome about the Honorable Mention, ratty!
Verla: and then some day, I hear about who won the contest... (never me!) grrrrrrrrr
joanclr: Ugh Verla, I hate that feeling!
Verla: me, too, joan.
Verla: so I enter very few contests. LOL
joanclr: I was surprised to hear that some people had entered a number of different entries - for some reason I hadn't thought of multiple submissions, but it makes sense
joanclr: Sometimes (from what I've heard) it's the one least expected that ends up bringing it in
Verla: It does IF you have more than one suitable entry, joan
joanclr: :)
ratty: Ta, it was my first.I knew the piece wasn't "there"(I popped it in with my real entry-just in case) but it was "funny" having it critised on a very public website.
Verla: how long did you work on your winning/placing entries before sending them to the contests?
Verla: each of you who ever placed or won in a contest...
AllyC: years. literally.
ratty: Years, but not for the contest
AllyC: right. didn't mean
ratty: LOL
joanclr: Verla, my honorable mention from PEN was an existing WIP that I entered at the last moment - like Ratty, long time in the making, but impulsed entry
Verla: wow... so obviously you didn't just write this FOR the contest, ally. You took something you had been working on that was suitable and then entered it?
Donna: wow. see that is my problem. I don't want to send in something to a contest that I have put years into. I don't know why!
AllyC: absolutely. I don't write for contest.
Donna: a few months, maybe
Verla: hmmm, because you have a deep-seated underlying wish to not win the contests you enter, Donna?
Verla: LOL
Verla: (sorry, Donna. I couldn't resist that.)
AllyC: If I'm submitting a work to publishers, I don't see any harm in subbing the same material to a contest. Better kudos to offer if it wins/places.
Verla: what about the contests that require you not have your work out anywhere else during the whole duration of the contest?
joanclr: Exactly - that's my biggest regret with last year's WIN is not entering my main WIP
NOTE: WIP = Work In Progress
AllyC: I would not enter.
Verla: do those kinds of contests "put you off?"
joanclr: You're right Verla - WIN is unique that way. I think most contests have that stipulation
NOTE: WIN = The WIN contest put on by
Verla: ah... I see they do, you, Ally
joanclr: don't they?
Verla: I think it depends on the contest, joan
AllyC: Although I did withhold a wip from WIN because I felt there might be a conflict of interest if it won/placed.
AllyC: many do and many do not...
Verla: where do you find the information on contests to enter, folks?
AllyC: online/cwim/
AllyC: scbwi
Donna: LOL VERLA!! maybe, let me think on that!
Verla: I know there's a list of them in the CWIM (Children's Writer's & lllustrator's Market) book
NOTE: CWIM is published by Writer's Digest
Verla: yes, and SCBWI (the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) also has a list.
ratty: I heard of SW at.. I can't remember a blue board somewhere hee hee
Verla: heh heh heh, ratty. (She's talking about the Message Board on my website... )
Verla: do you google for online contests? What do you type into the google box?
Donna: Actually, the reason is because I want to send those to publishers (the ones I have really worked out) and I don't want to have to wait for the end of the contest to do it!
Donna: :)
AllyC: I don't google. I don't enter that many contests; most of those I know about are held annually.
AllyC: writing lists are a good way to find out about contests, too :)
Verla: yes, they are, ally!
joanclr: Where is the list on the SCBWI website?
Verla: let me look, Joan
Verla: might only be in the written materials. You might have to send for them.
Verla: Yep. Apparently you have to send to SCBWI for them. (Must be a member to receive them)
AllyC: ratty, what did you win in the WIN?
Verla: Ratty? Did you see Ally's question?
ratty: Sorry- 2 year old...
AllyC: lol
Verla: wow... you are only TWO and you placed in the WIN contest, ratty? You must be a child genius!
Verla: (I'm sorry. I'm in a crazy mood tonight. You have permission to slap me around the chat room with a wet trout, ratty.)
ratty: What was the?
AllyC: :)
Verla: AllyC: ratty, what did you win in the WIN?
ratty: Sorry an honorable mention, I don't think there is any prize,,, just to be mentioned LOL... enough for this desperate writer lol
AllyC: in what category?
ratty: PB
AllyC: wtg! congratulations!
ratty: ta
Verla: oh... next let's talk about what would make you NOT want to enter a contest
Verla: I know I would not enter a contest unless I was SURE it was "legit" and not just a way for someone to get ahold of my contact information to flood me with spam mail/email, etc.
Amishka: A huge fee a small prize
Verla: also I wouldn't enter if the entry fee was very high. (right, ami!)
AllyC: yes...what Mish said :)
AllyC: I wouldn't enter if it tied up a mss from submission to publishers
ratty: I wouldn't enter on of those winners can but an expensive anthology of "winners" one
ratty: i mean buy
Verla: oh, good point, ratty!
AllyC: unless it was a contest run by a publisher...
Amishka: a legit publisher
AllyC: yes
Verla: those usually take ANYTHING that comes in, print them up and make their money off selling the anthologies to the entrants and their friends and families.
ratty: nasty
Verla: yep
Verla: any other "warnings" anyone would like to mention about contests?
Verla: Be sure to look carefully at who is putting it on. Anyone can say they are having a contest. Anyone!
ratty: I probably wouldn't enter where the prize was to be inprint in their mag- looks like getting free stories to me
Verla: I would RUN, not walk away from a contest held by an unknown person or business/publisher that wasn't to be found on the web as a ligit business/publisher.
Verla: and it would be a good idea to check the Preditors & Editors website, too.
ratty: And when the prize doesn't match the entry fee... or effort- like $50 for winner
Verla: some individuals hold "contests" that sound great until you look VERY closely at them. Recently I remember one that was being held by an individual. Said the winner would get published, etc. But when you looked closely, it didn't have the name of any publisher to publish the winner. Looked like it was probably someone who was going to self-publish the "winners" and the entry fee was HIGH.
Verla: so that person probably made a lot of money off of unsuspecting people who had hopes of getting published....
Verla: If something sounds too good to be true... it usually IS!
Verla: thanks for all your input, Ally! It was GREATLY appreciated!
AllyC: my pleasure Verla
Verla: since I only have failures to talk about with contests, it was so wonderful to have some success stories to discuss, too. :-)
AllyC: :)
Verla: heh heh heh
Verla: Great discussion, folks! Thanks for participating.
Log file closed at: 7/19/05 7:00:12 PM

Verla Kay
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