Smart Girls Read Romance

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

READING VS. JUDGING A BOOK

By Caroline Clemmons

If you heard a roar, that was March coming in like a lion. On a cold, blustery day, what’s better than snuggling down with a book? Okay, chocolate and a book, but I’m trying to cut down. Yesterday was 81 degrees here in North Central Texas. Tonight we are forecast to dip to 16 degrees. No wonder everyone is sneezing, coughing, and grumbling. 

One of the tasks authors have is judging contests for upcoming writers and other published authors. It’s a job of mixed emotions. Some of our other blog members and I judge for the Yellow Rose RWA’s Winter Rose Contest, and many of us also judge for the national Romance Writers of America’s RITA contest.


For unpublished authors in the Winter Rose Contest, the judge is given the first twenty five pages plus two pages of criteria to consider and score. Some of the as yet unpublished authors are so good that I want to read the rest of the book immediately. Reading these is exciting and I want to cheer for this story.

Other entries make me cringe in sympathy for the person who thought his or her story was ready to be judged. My job then is to point out ways to improve the writing without crushing the writer. This is delicate and many judges have been too harsh. But there’s a system in place for that.


Each entry has four judges. When final scores are tallied, the lowest score is dropped. No matter how much judge’s training and instructions, some people are not tactful. Or maybe the judge had a bad day and takes it out on the scores. Dropping the lowest score evens the scoring. For instance, last year one entry had three scores near perfect and one with half that score. Really?

Published authors submit copies of their book. This is sometimes a fun job. I get to read without feeling I’m slacking on my own writing. Once in a while, I wonder how in the world this book became published. Most of the time, though, this is a chance to feed my need to read. Yay!

Once again, criteria are judged for each book. Did the plot make sense? Was it a romance? Were the characters well developed. There's a score sheet and, once again, the lowest score is dropped.

The Winter Rose Contest always needs readers to help judge the published contest. If you would like to be a judge for next year’s contest, please tell us your email in a comment and you will be entered in our contest coordinator’s data base.

2 comments:

  1. Caroline, I have entered and judged contests, and I believe judging is the tougher of the two. As a judge, it's tremendously difficult to find the right words that will come across as helpful instead of hurtful. Judging also is incredibly time-consuming and for the most part thankless. I admire and applaud those who handle the job well. :-)

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  2. I like to help out RWA chapters by judging, but last year I had to bow out due to all the chaos in my life. Even though it's time consuming, I found I missed it. So I'll be signing up again this year to judge the Emily, Lone Star, Rita, and one nonfiction contest for a writers' guild not associated with romance.

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