Art: Vermeer - The AstronomerScience Fiction Poetry Association. The winners of that contest (SFPA New Poets Contest - The Art of Poetry) were posted tonight over on their forum. (You have to be logged into the forum there to see the contest topic.) And I am happy both with the outcome and with the process in general.
This was the first time I helped to run a contest of this nature, and I learned a great deal. My 'lessons learned' included a few ideas for how I might run similar contests in the future, and how to improve my own submissions to contests.
As for submitting to contests, I am surprised that there are people who still do not read the submission guidelines and follow the directions. Contests get too many entries for the coordinators to try track down author information, or to decide how to deal with submissions that are over word/line count, etc., without seeming draconian. No one wants to eliminate a submission because the author did not follow a simple guideline, but why should authors who did follow the rules not be given higher consideration? There are no easy answers, and so basically, just follow the rules, no matter how strange they may seem. I have always paid a lot of attention to the guidelines when I have submitted my writing for consideration, but this is still a lesson I'm going to take to heart with my own work.
Running the contest on a forum was a great way to make submitting easier on everyone. Authors did not have to worry if their email was received, since they could see their submission on the site exactly as the judges did. Judges did not have to have their email boxes inundated with mail, and have the associated worry about something getting missed. It also meant there was a central location to ask and answer questions, and to post the winners. My only regret is that we did not get more submissions - we had just over fifty. I'll admit I was hoping for about a hundred. So I need to learn how to do a better job of getting the word out, keeping interest up, and otherwise making the contest look like it is worth an author's time to submit.
And at the last, I was surprised to be surprised at how much time it took out of my life to do this relatively simple thing. It isn't exactly hard to run a contest, there are simply a lot of steps. I came up with the idea, proposed it to the society, helped come up with a theme and strategy, then read all the submissions, and handed my list of finalists to the officers for their final choices. I also notified the winners and am collecting the information to get awards sent on to them. I knew it would be time consuming, and yet was still surprised, especially with how long it took to read and rank fifty poems. It was a very good thing we had a theme - five specific pieces of art - to center the writing. This made the reading much easier, since everything was relatively focused. Still, it was both fun and frustrating to try to judge such diverse works of writing.
And I've said this before, but perhaps I can get back to concentrating on some writing of my own, now. Although this contest was a very fun way to procrastinate, and I imagine if given the opportunity, I'd volunteer as a judge for the very next writing contest that comes around.
Image Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jan_Vermeer_-_The_Astronomer.JPG