In this edition of the Muse Marquee, we’ve
announced the winners of our contests. Pamela D.Toler won the Blurb It! Contest, with honorable mentions going to J.D.Webb,
Courtney Lynn Mroch and Lisa Logan. In this month’s Musings, I’d like to give you some feedback on the contest
and my experience of the judging process.
Ask any judge of a writing contest what the
single most important criterion is, and I’ll bet they say “Follow the guidelines.” Writers are bombarded
with that advice from editors, too. No writer would deliberately fail to follow guidelines, so why is it contestants are eliminated
for doing just that?
I believe it’s simple - writers are
too close to their work to see the errors. Maybe they are in a hurry, multi-tasking, mis-read, mis-type, miss their old dog
Blackie… whatever the reason, the result is the same – they make it easy for a judge, or an editor, to eliminate
Here is the contest
“Do you have a story you think is intriguing? Can you write
a blurb about it that piques my interest, makes me want to pay some hard-earned cash to read more? If so, this contest
is for you!
Write a blurb of no more than 150 words about your (fiction) story The blurb is a hook that should answer my question, “Why should I read this?” If I choose your blurb, it
will be published in the March issue of the Muse Marquee and you’ll receive $15 in your Paypal account. The blurb can
be for your short story or novel, any genre of fiction. It must pertain to fiction that has been written, or is in the process
of being written, by you.
Send your blurb, as an attached word document, to email@example.com and include your contact details.Put “Submission, Blurb
It” in the subject line. I will send a reply email to confirm receipt of your submission.”
Let’s try a simple comprehension test.
Q: How was the blurb supposed to be sent?
A: As an attached word document.
Q: What is to be written in the subject line
of the email?
A: Submission, Blurb It.
Q: Do you include contact details?
The Blurb It! Contest had 22 entries. Of these,
I eliminated five immediately because they didn’t follow the guidelines. That made the task of choosing a winner a little
easier. It also re-taught me this vital lesson: take your time to read the guidelines and follow them.
The next criterion
I used was to look at the blurbs submitted, to see if there were obvious errors. I couldn’t find any! Good news and
congratulations to all entrants but bad news because my judging role didn’t get any easier.
I had to delve
deeper. I looked at the content of each remaining blurb. This was where the main thrust of the contest came into play. Which
blurb piqued my interest the most, provided the sort of information to make me really wish to read the book described?
I read and re-read
those blurbs. Take it from me, there are some great writers with intriguing tales to tell out there. However, each time I
read the blurbs, I kept coming back to the one submitted by Pamela D. Toler. If I’d been in a book shop, reading the
cover or flap blurb, this is the one I would have bought.
Winning the War at Home
By Pamela D. Toler
Angie Porter has never wanted kids.Instead, she has an apartment above the bookstore she owns with her friend Peter,
two cats, and a boyfriend who doesn't ask for more time or commitment than she's willing to give.Her life is as comfortable and confining as a snail's shell.Then
Iraq invades Kuwait
and Peter is called to active duty.His anthropologist wife is in Africa
and unreachable.Angie reluctantly agrees to take care of Peter's three boys
until Maureen comes home.Weeks pass by with no word from Maureen.Angie becomes “not-mom” to kids devastated by their parents’ absence.The pressures of a life she never wanted knock down the protective walls Angie has built around herself.
By the time Maureen finally comes home, Angie has lost everything that mattered to her, gained some things she never knew
she wanted, and is ready to rebuild her life.
Why did I choose
this entry? I thought Pamela cleverly succeeded in writing just enough to give me some idea of the plot but only hinted at
the outcome. Quite simply, I liked the idea of a story about a woman who had to become a mom almost against her will. On a
more philosophical level, I enjoy stories about people who make changes in their lives, open up to more of what life has to
offer. Pamela included the sentence “Her life is as comfortable and confining as a snail's shell.” That sentence
hinted at lots of interesting conflict as well as Pamela’s theme.
Choosing the winner
of Blurb It! was, I must admit, a subjective decision. I make no apology for that. I tried to stick solely to my selection
criteria. However, I couldn’t help being impressed with professional-looking submissions and those where the authors
demonstrated they knew my name and had maybe read the column. To me, this demonstrates intelligence and I like my authors
Certainly, I tried
to be as impartial as possible, but the main thrust of the contest was to pique my interest, answer the question, “Why
should I read this book?” Pamela succeeded in doing that more than anyone else. I asked my husband’s opinion and
discovered he didn’t agree with me. I would hazard a guess that if we had a panel of judges, each would choose a different
blurb, because we’re all different and different things appeal to us.
important lesson I re-learnt by judging this contest. Just because your work is rejected or not chosen doesn’t make
a statement about its quality. It simply means that one person didn’t accept or choose your work. In this contest, only
one out of 22 could be chosen.
Statistically, if you don’t submit to
a magazine or a publisher, if you never enter a contest, you don’t even have a one in 22 chance. Write it! Sub it! Blurb
Interview with Pamela D.Toler, author of Winning the War at Home
Susan: Firstly, Pamela, congratulations on
your blurb! What prompted you to go in the Blurb It! Contest?
Pamela: The Blurb It! contest came at just the right time for me.I was finishing my novel and I knew I needed to be able to condense my story into a few
words to catch the attention
of an agent.Blurb It! gave me a chance to see if
I could make someone interested
in my story in just a few words.
can we expect
to read your novel?
Pamela: I wish I could
answer that one! I've just started querying agents.
Susan: How long have you been writing fiction?
Pamela: I've been writing fiction on and off my whole life.I worked on Winning
the War at Home for four years.
Susan: Is Winning the War at Home your first novel?
Pamela:No. I wrote my first novel when I was
17.It was a romantic thriller called Something is Afear I Foot and even I knew
that it was very, very bad.It had no plot to speak of, always a problem if you're
writing a thriller.
Susan:What are you working on now?
Pamela: I'm at the beginning stages of a romantic thriller set in the Croatian immigrant community in Chicago.
Hopefully I'll get that pesky plot issue under control this time.
What’s the best advice to writers you’ve heard?
Pamela: The best advice I ever got was a good example.My mother
is a freelance writer, too.With three small children,
time and quiet were a
luxury she didn't have.She never went anywhere without
a notebook and a pen.She could pull her writing around her like a plastic bubble
and shut out the world.From her I learned, don't wait for a big block of time
or perfect conditions--just
Susan: Thanks, Pamela. I’m keen
to read your book, so I hope those agents move fast!
Bio: Pamela Toler is a full-time freelance writer in Chicago.She specializes in articles on history, art and needlework.She works
on her fiction in the corners of her life.She can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visuwords is an online graphical dictionary. You can look up words to find their meanings
and associations with other words and concepts, produce diagrams reminiscent of a neural net, learn how words associate. Enter
words into the search box to look them up or double-click a node.
·Its a dictionary! Its
·Great for writers, journalists,
students, teachers, and artists.
·The online dictionary
is available where there’s an internet connection.
Publishing publishes plays, musicals, play anthologies and theatrical
resource books. Their target market is community theater and school
groups. They want comedy, drama, mystery, fantasy, farce and melodrama from to 120 minutes in length. They
prefer electronic submissions. For more information, visit the link above.
Sure, anyone can write
a 200,000-word novel, but a 500-word story with a beginning, a middle and an ending? Now that requires skill. No dawdling.
Every word counts. Yep. Every. Single. Word. So send those adjectives packing and kick those adverbs to the curb. Oh, and
while you're at it, gaze upon the drawing for inspiration because at some point in your short short journey, you have to mention
Grand Prize: $100 and
Publication in The VERB writing ezine
Copy of Flash Fiction:
Very Short Stories
edited by James Thomas,
Denise Thomas and Tom Hazuka
NO entry fee.
Word length may be up
to 500. But not a word more.
Open to writers worldwide.
Entries must be original and unpublished. Send only your best. Once submissions arrive, no revisions are accepted.
The judge for this contest
is Elizabeth Guy. Read her bio on the Readers page.
Winner will be published
in the June issue of The VERB.As always, author retains all rights. Period.
Until next month, when we’ll have Promote
Like a Parrot (part 2), write on!