Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Reflections on the Ozark Creative Writers Contests and Judges' Comments

As I reflect on my role as contest chair for the 2016 OCW contests, I've learned a few lessons. 

It was rewarding, and at times challenging, experience. I got to read some amazing entries and meet some wonderful people -- sponsors, judges, and entrants. I also made a few suggestions to improve the process next year.

Not everyone who entered won, but everyone who entered showed their courage and determination. During a closing session on Saturday I shared some lessons learned and comments from a few judges.

Here is a sampling of those comments:

* It's more than getting words on the page.
* Put the reader right there with you.
* Be honest; it's not necessarily about making writers heroes in their own work.
* Let us see real people.
* Emotions should be relatable.
* Doesn't have to be surprising or shocking.
* Readers should be able to see something of themselves in the story.
* Judging is subjective (this was repeated by several judges as well as during the conference)
* More than one judge wrote they enjoyed every one!
* Do spell check, grammar check, proofread carefully.
* Don't rely on spell check.
* Read your work out loud.
* Thoroughly vet your work.
* The better entries were pretty immediately obvious.
* Stay on theme if there is one.
* Watch formatting.
* Most were formatted correctly.
* Stick to word count.
* Include a header on your work with title and page number (but not your name)
* Be sure your work fits the category.
* Title your work.
* Follow the guidelines!

Congratulations to everyone who entered the contests. Submitting to a contest is a wonderful way to focus on meeting deadlines, following guidelines, and gaining self-confidence as a writer.

Special thanks to the judges and sponsors who provided their time and monetary support for the contests. During the conference I even managed to solicit a couple new contest sponsors for next year!

Yesterday I forwarded a Word document with a complete list of the winners to Chrissy Willis, incoming OCW president, who promptly posted the document on the OCW website.

Here's a link with all contest titles and names of the winners.



  1. I though about going to that conference. It's kinda on the way to Oklahoma to visit my college boy. There were a lot of the contests I thought about entering. Then I tried to find a past winners list, but couldn't, and I saw something on Facebook about content being discarded every year. That was the deal breaker for me. Even if I entered and placed in a contest, there would be no record of it in the future. I guess I'm too needy for recognition!

    1. Hmmm. I didn't know about that. But even if the winners' list didn't remain for years, you'd still have your certificate and check.

  2. Thank you, Donna, for sharing the list of comments from the judges. It's a great list for anyone submitting work for a contest or for publication.

    1. Hi Clara,
      The judges were very generous, not only because they volunteered their time to judge, but also to give suggestions for improvement.

  3. Sounds like this was a terrific event. I hope to make it next year.


    1. It would be great to have you there, and I'm sure you'd enjoy it. If the board is able to get the speakers they're hoping to, it will be a sell out crowd!

  4. A great list of things to consider from your lessons learned. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      Good to hear from you. Hope all is well with you and yours.


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