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.