Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Dishing with the Contest Coordinators
IT STARTS OUT WITH STARS IN OUR EYES....
Contest coordinating isn't glamorous, but the benefits for the chapter and the entrants make it worthwhile. As coordinators, we wear many hats, and not all of them are pretty. First, is our begging hat: finding first and final round judges requires a lot of generous people -- and sometimes a little bribery! Next, is our captain's hat: overseeing all the submissions, getting the entries to the judges and staying on top of the deadlines. Then, there's the postal hat: many entrants do not put the right amount of postage on their return envelope. So, we spend a lot of time at the post office making friends (and one enemy) with the postal workers. And the dictator hat: dealing with judges who don't return their score sheets on time means being hardcore and making the uncomfortable e-mail or phone call. The best part is wearing the party hat: notifying entrants that they're finalists.
We coordinate the Greater Detroit RWA's Between the Sheets contest and the Golden Network's Golden Pen contest. Both unpublished contests are unique. Between the Sheets is a love scene contest, with entries varying from sweet to erotica. This is one of the few contests where writers can get feedback on their love scenes. The Golden Pen offers critiques on proposal length entries from experienced judges -- with a guarantee of one published author and one Golden Heart finalist per entry.
Why do we do this? Gluttons for punishment? Inability to say 'no'? It's actually for a more selfish reason. The contests are one of the many ways for our chapters to make money. And when our chapters make money, we benefit through the programs. Coordinating the contest also gives us a chance to interact with authors around the world.
Contest coordinating may not be glamorous, but we are.
~ Liz Heiter and Robbie Terman, Coordinators
Greater Detroit RWA's Between the Sheets Contest
& The Golden Network's Golden Pen Contest
AND OFTEN BOILS DOWN TO FOLLOW THE RULES....
I volunteered for such a time-consuming job to give back to my local chapter. Of course, when I volunteered it wasn't supposed to hit at MY busiest time -- seven book releases this year, a new time frame for Heart of the Rockies, a brand new, full-time job, and a part-time job on weekends. Still, I volunteered for it and something inside me wouldn't let me back down, especially when I could help so many newbies out there -- I was just there as one, after all.
Something for contestants to remember during contests. The most important thing is: FOLLOW THE RULES. The envelope is always pushed in this day and age, but the problem is you're preparing yourself for publication by entering contests. Push it with the publisher and your manuscript won't see daylight.
2) A coordinator can't "bend the rules" for one person. Every contestant out there is "one person" but I deal with at least one hundred. That's a hundred broken rules, not one. I guarantee, you're not the only one asking for a deadline extension or a do-over in sending your manuscript in because you forgot something.
3) What makes our contest stand out is the final judge target. While I didn't have a say in every judge, I was able to secure two judges who are very active in getting unknowns published, Raelene Gorlinski and Sue Grimshaw. In fact, both helped in getting my critique partner, Melissa Mayhue and me published.
4) What stands out the most in contests is the professional contestant. The person who submits, follows the rules, everything's on time and perfect. Not that I mind when people are confused and send me e-mails to clarify things, but the person who doesn't actually stands out from the rest. In fact, I have someone in mind right now; I could repeat the name etched in my brain if I released personal information.
5) I hope that aspiring authors realize a contest is a tool, not a crutch. You learn from contests, you hope to catch a judge's eye by entering IF you plan to publish. Don't fall into the trap of submitting the same "winning" manuscript over and over to add "winner" notches to your belt. A winner title does nothing for you if you're not getting paid.
~ Rena Marks, Coordinator
Heart of the Rockies, Colorado Romance Writers
Born Again, Forgotten Kisses (Ellora's Cave)
www.GoodnightSirene.com ~ www.soapboxdivas.blogspot.com
WHERE YOU DO LEARN A THING OR TWO....
Okay, I've been a contest coordinator. After being a contest junkie. And a contest judge. I've seen contests from all sides. I am a seasoned contest person. I have "creds." Why did I agree to take on contest coordinating? Because no one else was available, I'd been a category coordinator, I'm a responsible Capricorn, and the eldest female child of an Irish Catholic family. I understand responsibility, guilt and duty.
This is what I've learned about coordinating.
You need to be more ORGANIZED than you ever thought you could be. That's even if you're used to having daily lists, weekly objectives, strategic plans and five-year goals. And you've achieved them. You need DIPLOMACY and shoulders wider than Joan Collins' suits in Dynasty.
No matter how clearly you think you've set things up, explained, taught, given directions, minor skirmishes will arise, feelings will be bruised and bridges must be maintained. These situations are equal opportunity: judges, entrants, coordinators, past coordinators -- any or all may at times have issues that need a shoulder to cry on or words to calm seething feelings.
You need the WISDOM of Solomon, times ten. Without a doubt, you will have to arbitrate issues or interpretations of rules that come at you from a world far beyond your wildest imaginings. And you will admit graciously when you've made a mistake and take the blame for others. Like Harry Truman believed: The buck stops here. In contests, the issues stop with you.
You must LOVE people and love writing. That's what contests are really all about. Coordinating is a form of giving without expectations of receiving anything in return -- a very high type of love. When you get that Thank you, or Job Well Done, treasure it. That's likely a major reason why you will do the job again.
Finally, be SMART. Watch for a replacement and prepare the person well. That is a major contribution in whatever "legacy" you leave; for it is the continuity of excellence that keeps a contest successful year after year.
~ Mary Jo Sheibl, Coordinator
FAB 5, Wisconsin Romance Writers of America [WisRWA]
AND THE CYCLE BEGINS ANEW.
I haven't been doing contest coordinating long ... seriously as in only a couple of months. I signed on because, honestly, my local chapter NOLA STARS, seemed desperate for someone to take the job. I mean, they had to be if they were asking me! So far it's been, we'll just say challenging because I don't know what this blog is rated. Parts of it is pretty darn cool. I get to talk with editors and agents and beg them to judge for us. Sometimes groveling works, other times -- not as much, and that's when things can be difficult. I often worry what if I can't find anybody to judge? I'm going to be a huge failure!
Luckily, I have a wonderful staff that helped with the contest last year. They support me with all my ideas and I love having them (because who doesn't like a group of people who like almost all you suggest?). I've been in charge of updating our website information, which has been more time consuming than difficult, but that's okay. If everything was easy, I would be bored senseless -- though not as sleepy.
I'm anxious to start taking in entries to see how big of a success we are, but I know that will be a challenge. The method will be streamlined if entrants be sure to follow ALL instructions to a "T". Another big help will be if all first round judges judge their entries and get them back in a timely manner. The biggest downside of coordinating I've found so far (though ask me in a year, and I might have a different answer)? As coordinator I'll also be judging, so I won't be able to enter our wonderful contest -- the SUZANNAH.
~ Keri Ford, Coordinator
The Suzannah - NOLA Stars
And there you have it. Aren't these generous women amazing? Thanks for dishing with us, ladies! ~ Donnell