Tag Archive for: judging

The Reason I Judge Writing Contests by Juliana Aragon Fatula


Dear Reader,

I have been asked to judge writing contests and I always accept and this year I’m reading three books and judging the three finalists for the chance to be the winner for this year’s award in… I can’t tell you the name of the contest or the genre or the names of the finalists but soon after the ceremony I will announce the winner in my blog. It’s a secret until then. 

my chicana garden poppies 2020

The reason I accept the task of reading books and judging for awards is simple. It makes me a better writer. I read the finalists’ books and determine what made them so good. I learn how to write award winning books. 

Mind you, I don’t write to win awards, or fame, or money. They are nice perks but the reason I write is I’d go crazy if I didn’t tell my stories. I love to perform on stage and I love telling stories to an audience, but I love reading stories even more. I get lost in a good book and all my troubles fall away. 

my chicana aspen grove fall 2016ish

I was reading a book and it was so juicy and tantalizing and my husband asked me a question and I closed the book, gave him the look, and opened the book and continued reading. Don’t disturb me when I’m reading. If I want to have a conversation with you, I’ll close my book and listen to what you have to say, if its important I’ll put my book away, but if you interrupt me for a question like have you seen my car key, glasses, wallet, hammer… Watchale. 

my living room before the remodel of 2021 new kitchen new paint

So I’m reading this book and it’s so good I make a sandwich and continue reading. I read all day and into the night and the next day and the next night it’s midnight and I have to finish the book or I won’t be able to sleep. So I read the book in two days and I’m ready to take on the world. I’ve got the story in my head and I’m evaluating why I couldn’t put it down and stop reading. I read for enjoyment but sometimes I read to learn. When I read for enjoyment, it takes me away from reality and into the story and I escape into the words on the page and my imagination. It keeps me sane.

my bridging borders students in a group hug my favorite photo 2019

I’m not being paid to write reviews or judge writing contests. Maybe someday I will get paid, but that’s not why I do it. I enjoy it and it makes me grow as a writer. I learn from other writers how to be a better writer. I’ve been told by my mentors why bother to write if it’s not going to be a great book. Don’t write a good book. Write a great book. And that is what I strive to do. To write a great story and leave my mark in literary history as a writer who gave my best. 

Santa Cruz, Cali authors Aimee Medina Carr and Juliana Aragon Fatula

So if you see me in a bookstore, library, book bar and I’m reading, give me a nod and keep moving. I’m not really there. It’s an illusion. I’m lost in my book and don’t want to be anywhere else. If I judge a book you’ve written and you win the contest, just know that I chose your book because you are the best and your story is not good, it’s great. 

my favorite photo by investigative journalist/photographer, Tracy Harmon
location Red Canyon in Southern Colorado 

coleus and roses from mi chicana garden 2020

My Writing Took a Back Seat

The last two weeks have not been good for my writing at all. I’m about 1/3 into my next Rocky Bluff but many, many things have interfered with the writing.

I had to judge some manuscripts for a contest–and that was interesting. The first one I read was marvelous. Excellent writing, different plot and a joy to read. Second book was great too, some minor errors but not much. Then came the not-so-good–and one that’s was just plain awful.

I’ve judged a lot of books and unpubbed manuscripts over the years. Some of them make me wonder if they’ve ever read a book–or even the guidelines of how to format a manuscript. Did they look up words to make sure they used the right one for what they meant? Have they ever heard that an exclamation point after nearly every sentence doesn’t make things better? And elllipses covering every page–what’s that about?

Using every synonym in the dictionary for said and asked drives me crazy.  And boring dialogue that does nothing to move the story along.

And of course, the biggest problem so many new writers have, point-of-view. Head jumping from one character to another–and none of the characters have been developed enough to be more than a name.

Anyway, that took up lots of time. I had to decide which ones would win  and write something encouraging for each–and tell them what needed to be fixed.

And then family events came along. Not complaining about them because they were beautiful, heartwarming and fun. Grandson Nathan (youngest son’s oldest boy) married his love, Amanda, weekend before last.

This was a three day event in a beautiful mountain setting. Family and wedding party stayed in the lodge and cabins. We had a great time.

This past weekend, we headed to the coast for another grandson’s wedding: Gregg (youngest daughter’s middle son) and his love, Caitlin.

This was in a gorgeous garden in Montecito (Gregg’s uncle’s backyard). Beautiful wedding and like the one before, got to see lots of relatives. Loved every minute of both weddings and receptions.

Now it’s time to put my fanny in the seat and get to work on my own book.