Hello everyone. I’m excited to have one of the newest Soul Mate Publishing authors with me today.
Raven was born to an Air Force family and so moved around a lot. She was born in Kansas, but spent her formative years in England where she developed a love of rain and gray skies. She embraced the mythos of the Fey and all things magickal. She even spent time associating with gypsies at the local markets learning palm reading and tarot.
Moving back to the USA was almost culture shock. Her worlds of magick and witch-craft were shunned by most so, of course she embraced them further, making them her own. She began to write dark poetry, delving deep into untapped emotion and pouring it onto the page. She had three of these published. When she discovered Wicca, she knew she’d finally found an emotional ‘home’.
She now lives in North Houston with her husband of 28 years where she works as a Radiation Therapist, further embracing the spectre of death. She writes technical articles for continuing education for ‘Radiation Therapist’, a professional journal. Her son is grown and on his own. Her daughter is progressing through a Nursing program and looks forward to being on her own.
Raven still crawls into that deep well of emotion, looking for new ways to describe what she sees and hears in her mind and in her dreams.
The Dubious Art of Contest Judging
I have had the honor, and yes, it is an honor, to judge many contests. I love judging contests. Someone has the guts to send their blood and sweat in to you and let you pass judgment. That being said, I myself have been a contest queen. I didn’t have a critique group and very few people I knew had the time to be a beta reader. I know there are sites that have beta readers, but I don’t trust them; look what happened to Stephenie Meyer. Needless to say, I have the same fear a lot of you probably have: someone will steal my idea/manuscript and publish it under their own name. Need I mention what happened to Gene Roddenberry before Star Trek came out?
What I’ve learned from those contests, oh yes, what I’ve learned. The scores I got on those first few entries might have scared anyone else away from writing for good. Failed! Worse than failed! One judge told me she hated my heroine so much she was (sniff) TSTL. I know what that means… now: Too Stupid to Live. Another judge said she didn’t know what some of my words meant and they pulled her out of the story then admitted to not liking paranormal; another awful grade. I was devastated. Criticism like this is an abuse of the position; those people should not have judged. I did get some constructive comments, which I cherished like gold leaf on the page. I took their advice and took dozens of online classes, signed up for writing groups like Savvy Authors, followed writing blogs; basically anything I could do to absorb writing knowledge. I learned.
After scores in the 20s and 30s, I made major changes and got scores in the 80s. That was more like it. My grammar was awful so I read blogs about that, tried to notice subtleties in books I read; I bought books about grammar. I learned.
My 80s scores again rose to 90s and a couple perfect scores. Then I began finaling, winning and getting requests. Heaven!
My personal mission when I judge is not to make someone feel the way I did when I got a 27, but to offer critique, not criticism. As far as I’m concerned, no entry should ever get below a 60. As far as ‘grades’ are concerned, if this is what you think you’re doing, does someone’s manuscript really deserve a failing grade? A 60 is below average meaning it needs work. I just got done judging the Molly. One of the entries had POV issues, grammar issues and a few other things needing help. However, the potential for conflict was there and it was a wonderfully imaginative premise. It got a fair grade and critique. Constructive critique. This means you tell them the problem with a certain spot and offer suggestions that may help fix that problem. Maybe tell them how you resolved the same issue in your novel.
All in all, judging is a wonderful opportunity to give back to a community that helped me and support new writers climb the same ladder. So remember, when you’re judging, you have the honor and responsibility to judge the work at hand. You’re not comparing it to Linda Howard or Stephen King; you’re judging the entry based on predetermined criteria. Judge wisely.