Contests and Conferences, Oh My

By Jeff Salter

We’re blogging about contests and conferences this week, and I’ve done plenty of both.  Some in the context of writing and some not.  Some good and some bad.

For a look at my comments about years of attending library conferences – which bear some resemblance to confluence of writers – please see, “RWA Nationals — Where’d Everybody Go?”.  In fact, I think you’ll agree there are lots of similarities:  walking, talking, eating, meeting, freebies, etc.

Here’s the link:

In responses (this week) to my colleagues’ blogs, I’ve indicated a couple of examples of my unbelievably awful experiences with writing contests.  For a look at more of those, please check out my blog, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Why Pay an Anonymous Judge to Smack Me Down?”

You’ll be astonished at some of the points on which I received withering scorn (and low scores) from judges.

One which I don’t think I mentioned was that one judge did not like the NAMES I’d selected for either my heroine or hero (or maybe both).  Really?  You’re gonna grade me down because of my character’s name?  Good grief!

Here’s the link:

I don’t really have much to add today to those earlier blogs on each topic.

Well, except to say that it’s been years since I went to writer’s conferences — mostly regional and of moderate scope — and I was mainly there as a published poet.  Now that I’m a published novelist, I’m looking forward to attending a larger writing conference, because now I know quite a few friends and colleagues in this profession … and it would be cool to see more of y’all in person.  We can trade snacks, swap lies, and even share a couple of hugs.

Until next Thursday, Hound Day — “Y’all come back … hear?”

            Anything stand out in YOUR experiences with either writing contests or writer conferences?


About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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21 Responses to Contests and Conferences, Oh My

  1. pjharjo says:

    I enjoyed your article, Jeff. Glad to see I’m not alone.

    Janette- been there, done that


    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Janette, for visiting again.
      I’ve corresponded with people who have been wildly successful in contests … and I applaud their dedication, talent, and good fortune. But I just don’t see myself re-entering that arena — way too discouraging for most of us.


  2. Iris B says:

    Well, move the Possum Trot to the west and we can have a little AP conference in April 😉


  3. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for my few experiences,Jeff.But wow, how petty can a judge get criticizing character’s names?I could see if they were obscene, but I would bet my children’s souls that that certainly would not be the case ion one of your books!
    I will look into your other posts;I am sure they are interesting.


  4. Meg Mims says:

    As someone who often placed in the finals of contests (and won one in the mystery/suspense category), it doesn’t *always* lead to sales. My mss languished in never-never land. Hmm. I’m still flummoxed as to why no agent or big-6 editor has picked up my stuff. I could rant/rave, but I’d rather spend the energy writing. (And my Spur Award is big enough for me. lol)

    I can say that the one time I received a ZERO for my mainstream novel, back when RWA didn’t allow non-romance novels to compete in the Golden Heart, I can say that judge *gushed* over my mss for style, writing, dialogue, etc. But — no romance, hence the score. And you know what? She was right. One day I’ll get that big old mainstream out there. It’s too big for its britches right now. But I’ve learned to leave ego at the door of any contest — big or small. To take the wheat and discard the chaff. And an editor is the real “judge” when the chips are down.

    Good post, Jeff!


  5. Hope to see you at a conference some day. It’ll be awesome.


  6. Micki Gibson says:

    Picking on your character’s name? Shame on them! I had a judge once tell me about my character Racquel that it is usually spelled without the ‘c’. To which I wish I could have responded with a, “Yes, I know that. But this is MY character and I have a reason, however small or silly, that I wish to spell her name the way I DAMN WELL PLEASE!” I must admit to commenting on a writer’s name choice once though. I did not judge them down, but I was very specific to why that name didn’t work for me. She’d chosen the name Andrew for her villian (or at least the villian in the first 25 pages), then later referred to him as “Andy”. I mentioned that when I hear “Andy”, I think of the nice kid from the “Toy Story” movies, but “Drew” reminds me of that scummy bad cop Drew Peterson whose wives end up dead or missing. I gave my reason and an alternate suggestion, but reiterated that names are personal choices and that this was just what this one reader/judge brought to it. I don’t like judging contests for the same reason I like entering them. The feedback, while often harsh, is probably the most honest and reflective of what any given reader might think, but as a judge, I wish I knew what someone’s writing experience was. I never want to be that dream-killer and I have no idea how critical to be. Some will love it, some will hate it.


    • jeff7salter says:

      There are so many variant spellings of human names that I can’t imagine a judge concerning herself/himself with it. Besides, writers usually spend a good bit of time SELECTING the names, especially for our major characters … and we usually have good reasons (or feelings about that name).
      Well, you may be right that contest judge feedback is honest, but (in my experience at least) I have not found much of it to be particularly well-informed. Quite a few of my judged seemed more concerned at slamming down the cookie-cutter (so-called) “RULES” of writing onto my ms. entry. I wonder how many of them actually read the CONTENT.


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