I've had the opportunity to serve as a judge in a few different kinds of contests in the past few months. I provided feedback and voted for writers to move to the next level in a pitch contest (#SonofaPitch), a contest I've now worked with twice. I read and ranked stories by young writers for a brand new fiction contest (Lune Spark). Next, I'm returning to judge a second year for the Women's Fiction Writers Association Rising Star contest for unpublished novels.
None of these roles came with a gavel or a cool black robe with a lace collar, but they did come with the opportunity to re-connect with my passion for writing.
You see, writing is work. Hard work. Especially if you want to make a career of it. You've got to produce a lot of words, good ones, and find publishing homes for those. You have to get out there and
It's a joy to spend time with writers who are fresh to the passion. They can reignite your own fire.
It's also good for your own word-smithing.
I've been participating in and facilitating a writers critique group for some years now, and I value the giving of advice and feedback as highly as receiving it. Serving as a judge or critic can really help you learn to articulate what is and isn't working in a piece.
As a casual reader, I might just say, "I like this" or "I don't like this." But as a writer-who-reads, I want to understand why a story is or isn't working for me, whether or not I'll be providing feedback
Doing this as a judge is the same, but amplified. The pace is more intense, and I have no relationship with the entrants, who are all strangers to me: no history to pull from or basis for trust. Yet I still need to articulate the flaws in their work in a respectful and supportive manner that helps them take their work to the next level. It's a special challenge to do this very quickly, over the space of only a few days. The turnaround time can be quick in a contest setting.
Serving as a judge really helps me look at my own craft in a new light. Participating in events like the
Besides, it's always good to spend time with other people living the life of words. They speak your language.