When I first started writing romance I entered one major Australian romance writing contest, The Valerie Parv Award. The prize is fantastic--a year's worth of mentoring with Valerie Parv, one of the most successful authors for Mills and Boon and a very good tutor. Needless to say I was positive my story would dazzle and amaze everyone, Valerie included and needless to say it didn't. I received my first ever feedback as a writer and while the judges said some positive things I had gaping holes in my plot and characterisations.
Since then I've only entered one other writing contest apart from a couple of general short story competitions in which I did well. Not long after I entered that second contest, several years after the first debacle, Avalon accepted my first book The Right Chord so I could no longer enter as an unpublished writer.
As a published author I've begun entering the big league contests. This is a whole new ballgame. RWA's major contest the RITA, for example, has a cut off point of 1200 entries! The US Chapters are smaller and run their own contests and RWAustralia runs one major contest for published authors. The Romantic Book Of The Year--the R*BY.
The judges are readers, and we readers know what we like and what annoys us, don't we? I've done my own share of judging for the RITA and enjoyed the task. I haven't given up on any book in my To Be Judged pile but I do score the way I feel and sometimes a book just doesn't grab me.
So now, with my book Instant Family having won the Golden Quill contest and The Tangled Web having finalled and even more thrillingly Instant Family finalling in the R*BY, I can appreciate what an honour it is to have a book read and scored highly enough by readers to reach the final of a contest.
If you were one of those anonymous judges who liked my books -- thank-you very, very much.