Tag Archive for: writing awards

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

Sharing Words + Evoking Emotions = Writer’s Joy

by Debra H. Goldstein

Starving artists, writers, and other creators of the arts often share the sentiment that personal satisfaction is enough.  The claim is that it doesn’t matter whether or not an audience exists for the work.  As many writers explain, “I write because I have to.”  For those of you who feel that way, I tip my hat and salute you.  I am not as noble as you are.

I want an audience!  To me, a writer’s joy comes from sharing words that evoke an emotional response. Lest you think me selfish, understand the listener can be the universe of readers, a room of people, my neighbor’s pet dog, or my almost one-year-old granddaughter.  She thinks anything I write, as long as I read it with weird voices while making funny faces, is fantastic.

My Best Audience

Not all of my writing is fantastic.  A lot of my efforts aren’t even good.  Hopefully, I am the only audience for those pieces.  But, I want reaction to the ones I believe have some merit.  I want to know if I touch someone or if something in the piece doesn’t work.  Feedback is what gives me the tools to revise, to think deeper, and to grow my ability to write.

It’s truly a joy when my work hits a homerun, but as a writer I get joy even from a critique.  Perhaps I do write because I must or perhaps it simply is the way I share my feelings in a manner that connects to those around me.  What about you?

Great Expectations

Contests and awards are wonderful.
Americans love them and love winners, above all, from the Olympics to the
Pulitzer to The Voice. We love a winner, and that’s what we all want to be, a
What happens when we come close?
What happens when we’re so good that we beat out hundreds of others to become
one of a handful of finalists, but we don’t win? I’ve been there a number of times
in my writing career, most notably when I was a finalist for a prestigious national
poetry award with a nice cash award that you had to be nominated for. I really
hoped I would win it, but that was not to be. Bummer! When I checked out the
work of the winner, however, I could see that, if that was the work that spoke
to that judge, there had never really been a chance for mine to win. It was
great poetry, but a very different type of poetry from mine.
I’m thinking about this today because
a dear writing-group friend of mine made it to the finals of a big national
award in two different genres, novella and essay. What an accomplishment! Our
whole writing group, which is tiny, celebrated with her and rooted for her to
win. She just received word that she hadn’t won in either category and is
crestfallen and depressed.
I’ve been on just about all the
sides of this issue. Not only have I been a finalist who’s not made it to
winner status (many times), I’ve been a winner (several times). I’ve also been
a screening judge (the ones who read through hundreds of manuscripts to send on
one or more finalists) and a final judge in these contests. And I’m telling my
friend—and you readers out there—that the real accomplishment is in making the
finals. The competition out there is fierce. Out of those hundreds of
manuscripts the screening judge must choose one (sometimes with a back-up of
another or two) to go on to the finals. I’ve seen many times that I wished I
could send more, but it wasn’t possible. So, every one of the finalists is
basically a winner. Each manuscript is usually worthy of winning the award in
its own right, but the final judge is only allowed to choose one. I’ve seen
judges really agonize and beg to name two winners or even three, because the
works are all of such high quality. In each case, they’re sent back to choose a
single one. It’s practically a coin toss at that point.
My message to my friend and to
everyone who reads this who eventually winds up as a finalist for something is
this. Making the finals is the real victory. Believe this! Know it deep inside.
That way, if you don’t win that last coin toss, you won’t despair. And if you
do win, you won’t get a big head and start to think you’re better than everyone
else. You’ll know that there are four to nine others who could be in your place
if the coin had just fallen slightly differently. Either way, you’re a winner.