I know how she feels, don't you? Many of her friends responded to her post, all encouraging her to not let it get her down. To remember that judging is subjective. They reminded her of what she already knew but it's hard to remember sometimes: that she's a good writer and that she loves it.
Way, way back in my early writing days, I won a chapter contest with my first manuscript, the one that later took up permanent residence under the virtual bed. The scores were great, the comments were great, and...well, I won. Yay! The prize was a full-blown critique by another RWA chapter.
Twenty-some years later, I'm still picking scar tissue off my ego. Not one person in that chapter liked the story. Not one person had anything good to say beyond Your manuscript's neat. No one liked my voice, my humor, my down-to-earth protagonists. The readers were mostly polite, mostly constructive, but there were no positives. No one said, You can do it.
It was three months before I could write again, before I could separate the wheat from the chaff in the critiques and get better at POV. Better (but not good) at dialog tags. Better at making my secondary characters somehow less than the more-important hero and heroine. Better (but not much) at plotting.
I entered The Growing Season in a few more contests. It did all right, but eventually I slid it under the bed and started over.
Over the years, I entered more contests. Placed sometimes. Had nice scores and feedback in the Golden Heart once. My RITA entries never made it into the upper 50 percent.
Also over the years, I judged in contests. A lot. I preferred being a coordinator to being a judge, but the truth is that--in those days, at least--the coordinators usually had to judge, too, because there weren't enough judges to go around. I've read some of the best and some of the worst.
And then I stopped. For a few reasons. One was that an entry I judged and considered flawless didn't even final in a prestigious contest. I didn't figure things up mathematically, but that meant the entry's other judge had to have given a really low score. Which means either she was wrong or I was, and neither of us was being good for the author. Reason Number Two was that when I read a few RITA-winning books, I wondered...what in the world?
Reason Number Three has to do with how Ilona Fridl felt last week.
I just don't think it's worth it.
If I sound like I'm denigrating contests and their judges across the board, I'm sorry. I'm looking at this in hindsight, too, which we all know is 20/20. But I'm sure that somewhere along the line, I've made someone feel like Ilona felt. Like I felt all those years ago. I have thought 100 times, What if I made someone quit? because the truth is I'd rather give false hope than that. False hope can be built upon--quitting can't.
I hope we hear other people's thoughts here. Is my feeling on this age-related (like nearly everything else seems to be) or did Ilona's comment just hit me on that scar tissue I mentioned up there?
Let us know. We're interested. And have a great week.