Judging Writing Contests

Barbara Vey -- February 7th, 2014


I have recently judged my very first writing contest and I have to tell you that it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  I’m great at lathering on the praise, but not so good at the constructive criticism.

The Smooch sponsored by the Yosemite Romance Writers.  Bascially, it’s the ”First Kiss” scene from an unpublished work-in-progress; romance, any sub-genre.  So, I received a short set up of the book and then 5 pages of the “kiss.”  Reading them was a joy.  Lots of fresh new ideas and fun to see how each author approached this monumental moment in many books.


The problem was scoring them.  There were 2 pages of things to judge, so I reread each entry several times.  I really wanted to be fair and offer my own personal take on it as it related to me as a reader.  The more I dove into this venture, the more I realized how agonizing writing the book must be to writers.

I was just looking at one small part of the whole story to critique, while they have to toil like that with the whole book.  I have a new found respect for all who attempt this task.  Trying to put all the pieces together, having them make sense, creating believable characters, both likeable and unlikeable, and finally meshing it all into one cohesive piece.

Not this village necessarily.

Not this village necessarily.

It really does take a village to make a good book.  The writer’s vision, the editor’s red pen, copy editors, and open and honest beta readers.  I’m sure I’m even missing more fingers in there.  Just a head’s up to budding authors, don’t take short cuts.  If you plan to self publish, do your research and find reliable people to help get your book in a read-worthy state.

The point is that I will never read the same after judging.  While I’ll always appreciate the writer’s dedication, I think I’ll be even more critical because now I know how many eyes need to see a book before it is finally a polished, finished copy.  It’s a lot of work.

So, thank you authors, for filling my days and nights with such joy.  I appreciate you and your hard work does not go unnoticed by me.

Bottom Line:  I am proclaiming February 7th, my personal Author Appreciation Day…please accept these virtual chocolates, from me to you!


25 thoughts on “Judging Writing Contests

  1. Sharon Lathans

    Barbara, I cannot thank you enough for your willingness to serve as the final judge in our chapter’s writing contest. As the coordinator for the 2014 The Smooch, you certainly helped me immensely! The entrants were thrilled at the chance to have their “first kiss” scene read by you. Now I have the pleasure of sharing the winning news and your excellent feedback with the finalists!

    Many, many thanks from me, and all of us on the Yosemite Romance Writers Board.

    Your friend, Sharon Lathan

  2. Sheri Humphreys


    Thank you for generously giving your time to serve as final judge for The Smooch, and being so thoughtful, as I know from your blog, you were.

    I’m thrilled to be a finalist. Reading how your judging experience affected your perception of authors and the writing process was enlightening, encouraging, and generally made me feel good.

    Thanks again for your efforts,
    Sheri Humphreys (Detective in the ER)

  3. Deb Salonen

    I’ve had the honor of judging this contest last year, and I was impressed by the quality of the writing and the professionalism of the contest organizer (Sharon Lathan, please take a bow). I also completely empathize with how difficult it is to pick a winner.

    Thank you for all that you do to shine a light on romance and romance authors, Barbara.

    Smacking me lips on the tasty chocolate!
    Deb Salonen

  4. Angela

    Thank you so much for taking the time to judge. Although I didn’t have an entry in “the smooch,” I’ve entered many contests and always get valuable feedback. Regarding contests, my motto is ” it’s not whether I win or lose, but the feedback I receive.”

  5. Mary Sayler

    Barbara, welcome to the wonderful and often agonizing work of judging! Devising a list of categories such as reader appeal, focus, syntax, and freshness has helped me to assess the poetry I see each year as chair for the annual contest sponsored by Writers-Editors.com. This means, however, that some of my personal favorites might not even place! Being a fair judge isn’t easy, but it’s definitely rewarding. I like to encourage other poets and writers in their work, but I also find they help me with mine, for example, by seeing their mistakes which, as it turns out, I’d been making too. :)

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