Power of Connection, Part 18

I finished judging a writing contest last week. Having entered many contests in the last few years, I thought I knew what I was getting into. Turns out, I didn’t have a clue what it was like to be on the other side of the contest.

About 150 stories came across my desk to be read and evaluated. I discovered new writers just starting out, making the mistakes I did a few years ago before someone else took the time to guide me and help me, and veteran writers who knew exactly how to craft a crisis that made the scene turn. And there was a lot of writing in between.

I read more than 200,000 words in the last six weeks and wrote around 39,000 words of feedback and critiques. (To give you a comparison, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows is 198,227 words and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is 36,363.) Some of the stories I read multiple times to be able to give detailed and specific feedback to writers.

The lesson learned: judging is hard. I’m not sure how professional book reviewers (or restaurant or movie or whatever reviewers) do it. I’m passionate about my own stories and I know how precious they are to me. I also know how it feels when someone gives me tough feedback, and I discovered what it was like to give that feedback.

As I wrote my feedback on the stories, I found myself wondering if I was doing justice to the stories that had been submitted. Whether I liked or disliked a story doesn’t mean it was a good or bad story. It means that I connected with a certain type of writing and topic. Of course, I followed a protocol for evaluating stories and I provided objective feedback anywhere I could.

For example, if a story didn’t have all six parts of story structure, I pointed that out and hopefully gave some meaninging feedback to help the writer in future works. I also tried to share grammar and dialogue rules that would be helpful.

I’m sharing all this because I know what it is like to get a critique and be crushed by what someone else thought about the story. But until now, I didn’t consider what it was to be the one giving that feedback. Don’t get me wrong. This was a wonderful experience for me and I am grateful to the contest organizers for asking me to participate. My fellow judges were a blast to work with as well.

But now that I’ve been through this experience, I understand how hard it is to be on the other side of the fence. When someone creates a piece of art, they are putting a piece of themselves into it. It doesn’t matter if it is a story, a painting or a sculpture. It is part of them.

The thing I realized though is once that piece of art is out in the world, it isn’t the artist’s anymore. It is for everyone.

To everyone whose story I read, thank you for putting so much time and effort into your project. I enjoyed every single one that I read. Really. I did. And I hope that I was able to give something back to each of you in terms of suggestions, advice or even an observation.

Here is the link to the contest entries. I’d encourage you to check out a few of the stories. All of the winners have not been announced yet, however, the Readers’ Choice Award went to Rashmi P. Menon’s story, Unbound.

If you get a chance to read any of the stories, let me know what you thought. Send me an email at carolewolfeauthor@gmail.com

Until next week…

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