Contest Judging

What Kind of Judge Will I Be?

So after a few experiences as a contestant, I’ll be a judge in my next writing contest!

Scary, huh?
The irony is that this contest – which I’ll refer to as the Desperate for Feedback 2010 contest – was one that I almost entered myself. I’ll even be judging the category that I would have entered!
OK – maybe me being a judge isn’t so odd. After all, I taught high school English for years. And it’s no wonder that so many teachers buy in bulk from the liquor store.
And I’ve also been a contestant. I’ve gotten flaming criticisms and thoughtful suggestions.
I’ve also seen the best – and worst – of critique groups. I’ve gotten tips for how to speed up action scenes, and the odd comment of  “Maybe you’re not ready to take your writing to the next level.”
So with these experiences, what kind of judge will I be?
The same kind of teacher I tried to be to my students:
  • Thoughtful – Real people bundled off their dreams – their manuscripts – packaged in hope. And I’m the recipient. The least I can do is reward their serious effort with a thoughtful read and considerate commentary.
  • Kind – Too often, people flaunt their rudeness and try to package it as “my opinion” as in “Well, I’m entitled to my opinion” or “This writer needs to hear an honest opinion.” Guess what? You can have an honest opinion without being an absolute ass. Try it sometime.
  • Encouraging – I taught students whose stoned parents didn’t care if they came home. Yet they would turn in painfully rendered sentences on crumpled paper, and they would smile because they were turning in their best effort. No, their arcane spelling and questionable grammar didn’t earn an “A”. But I could always find something they honestly did well. And I tried to build on this.
  • Fair – As a teacher, I couldn’t let my personal tastes, my tongue-lashing I took from some kid’s parent, or the fact that I hated 7am classes affect my grading. And I don’t buy the argument that a judge’s bad day or bad attitude should impact their scoring. Because when you review somebody’s work, you owe the writer your unbiased effort.  Period.

I’ve got a total of 80 pages to read, and when I was a teacher, I used to do this in a day. But I’ll take all the time I need for this contest, even if it takes until the March deadline.

Because I’ve still got some contests to enter myself.

And I know what kind of judge I want.