Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What I've Learned from Writing Contests


As promised, here is a guest post by Kim Van Sickler.   Kim is one of my fellow judges with the Center for Writing Excellence. After she had won several contests, Janie Sullivan asked her to join our team of judges. I thought her successful experiences with contests would inspire my blog readership, so without further ado, here is Kim!



        I started entering short story writing contests as a way to condense my storytelling. It was a few years after I'd gotten the "crazy" idea to try writing for children, and I knew my books were too long. I needed to make every word count.
       My first efforts weren't very good. My stories were shorter than the manuscripts I was working on, but they weren't fully developed. Sometimes I entered blog contests where the prize was a pat on the back, and other times I entered prestigious contests where I was up against the cream of the crop and my stories didn't measure up. But I quickly learned to focus on the creative process and only enter contests that excited me, and let the chips fall where they may.
        Still...it's nice to win a contest every now and then to let you know you're on the right track. I have to credit the Center for Writing Excellence for giving me the confidence boost I sorely needed. I came across their Fiction in Five writing prompts, where you have five days to write a story based on an e-mailed prompt and five random words. It's a powerful way to jump-start the creative process
          Piecing together that first story, about a boy visiting a palm reader, was the most fun I'd ever had writing. It was a bonus to learn that it earned me second place. I'd come so close. Was a first place win possible? So the next time the contest was offered, I entered again. I was on vacation with my extended family, and bounced my ideas around, finding myself enjoying the creative process this time even more than before. And I won first place!
            Garnering recognition for my work gave me the confidence to call myself a writer. I finally went on Facebook and Twitter, and started a blog  I've entered and won more short story contests, published a short story, and even assisted with judging the Center for Writing Excellence's Fiction in Five contests. Hard as it was, I even set aside my first two manuscripts that weren't eliciting raves from agents, and created a promising new story that's out on submission, and started my fourth manuscript.
            The Fiction in Five contests are responsible for me sticking with this crazy craft. They let me dig deep and discover how much I like to write. Today, I can't imagine a world where I'm not intimately involved in the writing process. Those contests opened doors I'm determined to keep ajar.

Kim Van Sickler is a former prosecuting attorney and marketing director. She currently lives and writes in Willoughby Hills, Ohio, where she runs the Girl Scout program in her community. She's at work on her fourth manuscript: a young adult novel set in the sex trade industry. 

17 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

That's awesome you had a good experience with contests. I've only entered a few pitch contests without any real success. Maybe my next manuscript would do better in contests.

JanieWrites said...

Kim, it is nice to hear how the Fiction in Five contests have helped you grow as a writer. I, too, love contests as a way to perfect my writing skills. I have entered several, won some, but learned from each one. That is why I started offering the Fiction in Five on the Center for Writing Excellence Website. It has been very rewarding for me to meet so many writers all over the world through the contests. And I can assure you that the Center will again offer some exciting contests starting in January of 2014!

JanieWrites said...
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Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Janie and Natalie for leaving comments. It's been fun knowing Kim through the judging community of Center for Writing Excellence!

Kim Van Sickler said...

And it's been a blast participating in the contests and judging with Carol and Becky! If we don't have fun along the way, the journey can drain us!

Kim Van Sickler said...

Natalie, you have such great success with your blog at Literary Rambles! You are an inspiration to me. I know the writing success will come to you.

Carol Baldwin said...

Kim, You are "Write on!" about having fun along the way!!

Carol Kilgore said...

Good for you. I started out writing short stories, too. I love those word prompts. And photo prompts.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Carol, for visiting my blog!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I'd never given much thought to entering a writing contest, but now you'v got me thinking about it. Might be fun. (Assuming the judges are "gentle"...) A couple of people have suggested I enter my recently self-published novel in a "best indie book of the year" kinda contest, but I dunno. There are some mighty fine indie books out there...

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for dropping by and visiting, Susan. Check out Janie Sullivan's writing contests. They are a good way to begin!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Cool! It takes a special kind of perseverance to write for contests. I can imagine what a boost it is to win!

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks, Joyce, for dropping by my blog. You must be catching up on your reading tonight!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Thanks for this post Kim and Carol. So full of positive energy. I've entered a few contests myself and it takes that and a good bit of courage but always well worth it.

Rosi said...

I always wondered who was winning those contests. ;-) I've tried a few, but not many and not with any luck. Maybe I should try again. Thanks for the interesting post.

Linda A. said...

Carol,
I have entered several contests. Even though I haven't won one yet, I have learned from any comments given. Contests are a great way to stretch yourself. Thanks for the guest blog, Kim.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda, Linda, and Rosi! This post was actually good timing for me too. I just received my judging comments back on my first two chapters. I expect them to be helpful as I move forward. We can always learn, right?