The Dilemma of Writing Competition Protocol

I started reading over the guidelines for a few writing competitions and was once again annoyed by a dilemma that they provoke.

Most of the contests tell you all the wonderful stuff they can think of about the poet/writer who is judging. Then they slam you with this one.

Poets/writers are not eligible to submit a manuscript if they know the judge or the [insert name of press here] personally.

What does this mean regarding the judge? If you’re her father or sister or niece? I get that. If you’re her best friend? If you took three courses in an MFA program from her? That all makes sense.

But what if you took a workshop a zillion years ago and that workshop was a total of less than six hours and she has absolutely no idea who you are?

Does that count?


Pear says Hi!



Filed under #AmWriting, Book contest, Writing, Writing contest, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

50 responses to “The Dilemma of Writing Competition Protocol

  1. I agree with you completely. They never fail to entangle things with all the red tape!😊

  2. First of all, HI to Pear. Beautiful eyes! I’d ask the contest rule writers to define “know.” Really, one couldn’t or wouldn’t do that. It’s unfortunate that the red tape and caveats are so off-putting.

    • Thanks, Elaine. I will tell her :). It’s so disturbing. There is another contest that is being judged by someone I worked with a few years ago, but it doesn’t have any of that language. And it’s blind, as they are all supposed to be, so really, does it matter? He would never recognize my work. It’s not even the same genre. So for that one I have no worries (for the most part haha).

  3. No it doesn’t count. Smooches to Pear.

  4. No, that wouldn’t count…”personally” is the key word. Often there’s an email address provided for questions.

  5. I’ll defer to the others regarding your question, but a ‘hi’ back to that gorgeous Pear!

  6. Nice green color play with Pear and the plants! I’d say you don’t “know” that judge well enough to prohibit you from entering the contest. They should use explicit language like other contests do, something like, “Employees, shareholders of said press are prohibited from entering the contest, as are relatives (blood or marriage) of the judge.” But I actually don’t think they should suggest that if you are friends with the judge, you can’t enter. I’m assuming the contest is blind so the judge shouldn’t even know who has entered. And if it’s not blind, why not?

    • That’s what I think. If you get that far through the readers and actually make it to the judge, then that is what is fair. I do think though that an actual student of a judge (one in an MFA program, for instance, where the judge has a vested interest in the career welfare of that student) shouldn’t be a judge of his/her work. I think sometimes though they just want to avoid any appearance of an “issue” and err on the side of caution. But so unfair for the zillions of people who have worked every so slightly with that judge in the past (IF they can’t submit).

      • Good point about the student-judge relationship. It does sound like you only had one course and it was a long time ago so I’d say the rules don’t apply to you 😉

        • LOL, I was thinking the other day about letting Chelsea know I’ve placed two pieces from our class and then thought, “She won’t even remember who I am,” and that was only in July ;).

          • Then again, I think the class was somewhat small and Apiary is a bit of a startup so … even if she doesn’t remember you right away, she would no doubt be thrilled to know one of her students has published work from the class. I’d consider sharing your good news with her, but don’t be surprised if she/they use the info to promote Apiary. Not saying that would be a bad thing but I would expect it.

  7. I’d enter and not have another thought about it.

  8. And anyway, isn’t it the job of a judge to be impartial?

    • Hahaha, I will admit that if I felt very strongly about my piece and the winner was a piece I didn’t think was as good and it was a pet student of the judge that I would be mad ;).

      • I entered a contest with The Wind Weeps and although they said it was good, they said it couldn’t win because the judge didn’t like sex! (I mean, in a book.) LOL

        • Hahaha, that’s what you get for writing porn. Just kidding! It’s great that they gave you the feedback that they liked it!!!

  9. Even though you took a workshop with her, you don’t know her ‘personally’. Go for it Luanne and best of luck! 😀

  10. No answers to your questions, but “Pear say hi” made me laugh, 🙂

  11. Olga Walker

    Oh dear I’m going to disagree with you I’m afraid…it’s all about perception…the perception of bias and fairness…and I do agree with one comment which said “hahaha, I will admit that if I felt very strongly about my piece and the winner was a piece I didn’t think was as good and it was a pet student of the judge that I would be mad”…I would be too. It is already very hard to have work puboished and win a writing competition when you are an emerging writer…and I have had an experience, where a comp I entered was won by the President of the organisation running the comp…so go figure…as a rule I won’t enter a comp now unless I really feel it will be judged solely on merit…have agreat day…ps love the photos:):)

    • Perception is a big part of it, I think. But when you don’t know a judge well enough that she or he even remembers you, it doesn’t seem as if it ought to be a problem to me. I’ve often had some sort of experience with a judge, but the memory is all one-sided ;). Re your experience, yeah, I think that would make anybody mad. And that is why a writer shouldn’t judge manuscripts from “pet students.” Or anybody they know that well. How unfortunate that you had to go through that, Olga! Thanks re the photos–I can only truly take credit for Ms. Pear. But then she’s a beauty all by herself.

  12. There is a huge difference between having taken a limited workshop once with someone, and having been one’s student in a creative writing program, or having worked with that person individually, perhaps in a mentor-mentee relationship, over the course of months or years. Being acquainted is not the same as “knowing.” I’ve taken a few workshops, exchanged a few messages, and even broken bread with several poets/editors who judge contests, but In no way do we have real relationships. Several of them would likely recognize my name, but again, we aren’t friends (except perhaps on FB) in any true sense of the word, and they have no reasons to promote my work over anyone else’s. Would I hesitate to enter a contest judged by any of them? Not for a second. There are no ethical lines being crossed.

    • That’s what I think, too. That there is a big difference. I would feel angry in a situation like Olga (above) describes because that is something akin to nepotism, which does not belong in a competition, especially where entrants pay money.But if you barely know a judge, what does it hurt?

  13. I’m thinking it’s only a problem if you model one of your (nasty) characters after her, and use her name. 😏

  14. No, don’t count that obscure encounter that was much less than a close encounter of the third kind. Submit away – and may the force be with you!
    Sometimes the people who write the rules get lost in them.
    Give Pear our fondest regards from South Carolina – she is beautiful.

    • Thinking of you and the Casa a lot, Sheila. Hope you are working your way through it.
      And thank you for your advice! I agree about rule makers . . . .
      Pear is a gorgeous girl running to a hundred!

  15. Hmmm…did you ever find out what they really meant by ‘personally’ knowing the judge? And hi to sweet-gorgeous Pear…beautiful photo!! xoxo

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