Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Results of LUW Contest

I went to the League of Utah Writers Fall Round-Up a couple of weekends ago, and while there, they had the awards ceremony for their annual writing contest.  I'm happy to announce that I did receive an award.

I entered a themed short story that I was really quite proud of, especially since I struggle with short stories.  I had high hopes for it.  Unfortunately, it did not win anything.  :(

But, I also entered the first chapter of my newest novel, Dazzling Demons.  I received a 3rd Honorable Mention for it.  Sadly, I was not as excited at the time as I should have been.  I mistakenly thought that everyone got an "award," so since I was the 3rd H.M., it just meant I was at the bottom of all the entries.  It wasn't until I received nothing for my story that I realized it actually meant something.

Of course, it is not as high an award as I would have liked, but it gives me a lot of hope for my writing and my story.  I was competing against people who have been published, are professional writers, and have been writing for years.  To receive any kind of award means there is a lot of potential hidden there.  And this is only the second time I have entered this contest.

On a related side-note, there was a gentleman there who astounded me.  His name is Chadd VanZanten, and he won TONS of awards.  I think he won awards in nearly every category, and there were probably close to 15 categories.  And it wasn't just one award; each category had between two and six winning entries.

What astounded me the most was that he had time to write that much.

He entered probably between 25 and 30 entries.  He owns an editing company, so it is closely related to and part of his job, but still.  I can't even get one novel finished being written in a year, and he can produce countless polished pieces.  Where does he find the time?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Value of Professional Organizations

I am a member of the League of Utah Writers. One day in my critique group, the question (in not so many words) came up as to what was the value of being a member? Some of my group members complained that they had already heard everything, their local chapter didn't share anything interesting, and the group tried to get them involved as soon as they showed up.

I've had several weeks to consider their perspectives and these are my thoughts about the importance of being part of a professional group:

  1. The most selfish (and in many cases, basic) reason is because it looks good for you. Agents/Editors are overwhelmed with submissions these days from people who think they are the next Stephanie Meyer, JK Rowling, or John Grisham. Frankly, they don't have the time to sift through all the crap. So, when a query letter indicates that this author is a member of a professionally recognized organization, the author automatically jumps to probably the top 5% of potential clients. Being a member of a professional organization indicates the author is serious about his/her writing, and they have already fixed a lot of the amateur problems because they've already learned how to recognize them.
  2. I agree that I've "heard it all."  I've been involved long enough that I rarely learn anything new. But sometimes there are new perspectives from an author that leads me a different direction. And not everyone has heard it all yet, so it is a good opportunity to share and learn from each other.
  3. I really enjoy being a part of the organization because of the friendships I've gained. My husband is really supportive of my writing, but he's not a writer, so he doesn't quite understand the difficulties or problems. Now some of you say, "Well, I'm in a critique group, and that fulfills my need to talk with other writers." That is true, but most of the time, successful critique groups have members that are approximately on the same skill level. Professional organizations have members of all abilities, including those who have more experience than you do. I've gained a lot of wisdom, knowledge, and advice from these more experienced writers. And let's be honest -- this is an industry that is very much about who you know more than what you know. A recommendation from the right person can make all the difference in the world.
  4. And finally, my chapter also struggles a bit with finding willing leadership, and so we do try to get people involved. The biggest problem seems to be either finding "time" (don't we all struggle with that?) or feeling incompetent. But I guess I don't have much tolerance for someone who says they don't enjoy the topics when they are unwilling to help. One who is in a leadership position has the opportunity to mold the group in the direction they would prefer to see. Also, I have served as President of my local chapter for a about a year and a half, and my service there has provided opportunities to further strengthen my resume, including professional presentations, and other leadership roles.
So, get involved.  If not for yourself (and I promise, there are benefits for everyone), then for the other less-experienced writers who could learn from you.