Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Contest Judging—Again!

STATUS: I’m a bit tired so this one is going to be short.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRUCIFY by Tori Amos

I spent the evening judging the paranormal category of the Daphne du Maurier contest for unpublished authors.

Oy! It was the point system again. Totally flummoxed, I decided I would just read each entry carefully and write a bunch of notes on the contest entries themselves rather than on the score sheet. This took about 5 hours to do. (Now you know why we can’t respond to sample pages received!) I figured that way the authors could see what I was thinking the moment I had the thought.

I still had to fill out the point sheets though. I totally struggled over how to score whether the writing was evocative or whether the dialogue moved the story forward. I liked each entry in different ways so to assign a point score for the same components—when I didn’t necessarily think the score divisions were what I would comment on for a particular entry—was a challenge.

Still, despite all this, my rankings were clear in my mind. I knew which entry was number 1 for me and then down the line.

And nope, I can’t talk about it. You are just going to have to wait for the Daphne awards at RWA.


7 Responses

  1. Jordan said:

    I think that’s the perfect way to judge a contest. I’m biased, of course, because that sounds almost exactly like what I did to grade my students’ essays in college–write notes on them as I went along, organize them all into ‘tiers’ or outright rankings, and then assigned scores.

    Scoring rubrics sometimes helped, but sometimes they just made it more complicated. Especially if the categories aren’t extremely clear cut, as I’m sure fiction rubrics aren’t.

  2. Jessica said:

    Hey Kristin,
    It’s very interesting to hear that
    the point system made things a little more difficult. On the seekerville blog a few weeks ago Gina came up with a new contest scoresheet. I think it would be cool for the contest coordinators to know what works for judges and what doesn’t so that they can change sheets accordingly.
    Very interesting post. Thanks for the insight.

  3. Sheila Connolly said:

    As Daphne Contest Coordinator, let me thank you for devoting the time and effort to judge this contest. And know that the finalists will take your comments to heart.

    As I’m sure you know, the entries have already passed through the hands of four judges before you see them, so we hope you’re getting the best of the best.

    We’re all looking forward to the final results.

  4. Donnell said:

    You are a wise and conscientious final round judge, Ms. Nelson. A few finalists and a large audience are waiting to see how you viewed each of those entries. Thank you for keeping us waiting! For those excited finalists, your silence and thorough judging will be well worth the wait. Hope you plan to attend Death by Chocolate to realize your efforts in its entirety!

  5. Anonymous said:

    You didn’t mention how many entries there were, but golly! That’s a lot of work and I hope the participants appreciate the comments.

    I’m about to enter a local SCBWI contest judged by an editor and I hope we get the same kind of feedback. I think the point system will be used here, too.

    Go rest your eyes.


  6. Natalie Hatch said:

    Kristin when you’re up at 1am and the words start to merge together and you get the giggles from reading that’s when you need to go to bed. I’ve spent many a night up marking assignments. Best one I ever had tried to convince me that bunny rabbits were the natural predators of sheep, it was a great essay, but the poor kid had gotten predator/competitor mixed up. Ah well, that’s life.

  7. Caryn said:

    I totally understand about the time involved. I used to be an English teacher, and I made thorough notes in the margins of all my students’ papers. It took forever, but at least they were my “clients” so there was some return on the investment.

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