Giving Workshops

I went shopping with Mom last night after dinner – something we NEVER do during the school year, so it was kind of a treat. When I was gone, I MISSED my new book! I didn’t feel guilty for not writing, but I missed my book!

I’m giving a workshop in September with another SARA on contesting, and I’m wondering what I can say that hasn’t been said. There’s the reason why people enter, how to prepare an entry, what to do about the comments, right? And I can offer more insight as a judge and coordinator. But I’m not sure what to offer that hasn’t been done, especially since Jessica Trapp came and spoke to us just last year on contesting.

I’ve never done a workshop before, though Trish and I are doing one at National on how to be a successful unpublished writer (we’d hoped that would be a misnomer by July…) so I’m not sure what to do to stand out.

Any thoughts?

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Kelly Boyce said...

Hmm...maybe do a bit on how to pick the right contest for you? Or how to market your win/placement if you get that far, to make the most out of it?

Paula said...

I don't know if this will help, Mary, but I always looked at contests as a game. When you play any game, you exploit your strengths and do whatever you can to minimize or neutralize your weaknesses.

My strengths were strong characterization and a good feel for where and how to open a story. My weaknesses (in contest terms) were a complete inability to write a good synopsis and my tendency to write stories that pose a lot of questions up front that don't get answered for chapters. (In books, that can be a plus, but it's a problem in contests, where you have only a chapter or so to make your point)

So I looked for contests that allowed me to enter more than a chapter. I looked for contests that didn't require a synopsis. I avoided contests where you enter the first ten pages, because I know that the sort of stories I write don't always put the hero and heroine together that soon and get scored low because of it. I avoided contests that required a synopsis, unless I already had a good one written.

And I only entered contests that had either final judges who could buy the book I entered or contests with a great deal of prestige such as the Daphne or the Golden Heart.

I doubt any of that is new information on contesting, but I thought I'd share.

Anonymous said...

Maybe something on judging. How to be effective, how NOT to be.
Or on reading judge's comments and deciphering the bad from the good without getting your feelings hurt. I know once I wrote at the bottom of the manuscript "If this gets published I want to read it!" and the entrant took it as a slam on her writing. I meant it as WOW, I want to read more of this book now! But that IF made her see it as a negative. I learned a lot from seeing the writer's comments about me as a judge on several loops. :-)
I never write if now. And I understand how she misunderstood the comment I meant as positive.

Another manuscript I loved that placed first in a contest I judged had one area of weakness in my opinion. I took off one point for dialogue because of heavy dialect runninng throughout a scene. No big deal, but it pulled me out of the entry as a reader--and I always judge as a reader. I SIGNED the entry and included a note that I wanted to know as soon as the book was published because it was that good. Instead, the author dropped me a note to let me know the book was on a senior editor's desk and not one other judge in the history of its contest run had a problem with the scene, but thanks for my time anyway. The book was published, but I didn't buy it, and honestly, I doubt I'll buy any of her work. That taught me to NEVER sign another entry. :-)

Stacy Dawn said...

Maybe tell them how to deal with know how some are harsh or how if a number of them all say the same thing that would be a good thing to go back and study up or work on for their next entry.

I have total faith that you will do a great job. If I lived down there I would definately go.

J.F. Cossey said...

Never having entered any contests, I have no advice to offer you on this count, Mary. What I DO know, though, is that you are a testament to hard work, passion, and determination... if anyone can accurately and effectively teach such a workshop, there's no better person than you. :)

MJFredrick said...

Awww, thanks, Jessie! I didn't recognize you at first there, you married lady, you!

Thanks to all for your thoughts. I sent the ideas to my partner in crime and she likes the outline - now to figure out how to do it in tandem.


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