Here Come da Judge

Unless you are approaching fossilization, you won’t get the title, but damn, it just popped into my mind as I started to write about what I’m doing.

I agreed to judge a writing contest. I’m not saying which one or what kind of books because a lot of the people who read my blog are writers. I’m judging three categories, none of which are fiction. I don’t think I could be an objective judge in that category. If you’re really curious you can do some research and find out.

This isn’t the first time I’ve judged writing. I was an editor for the Proceedings of the Journal of Association for Business Communications, The International Journal of Business Communication and the African Journal of Business Management and more stuff but I don’t remember it all.

This has turned out to be pretty interesting especially as I’ve entered my own books in some writing contests. I have never won — though Martin of Gfenn won some close calls. Knowing that anything I publish, in spite of everything, will have mistakes, I get it. The first thing a judge does is look through an entry to see if it’s something that could sit on a shelf at Barnes & Noble. Even if I don’t think that’s a 100% legit standard, the first requirement of any book is that it’s readable.

Some of the entrants clearly had money and spent it on getting their book professionally designed. That gives them an advantage it perhaps shouldn’t. Some of the entrants did no research at all into how to put a book together (or, perhaps, have never looked at a book?) and their book is just a giant PDF dump that’s almost impossible to read. Some entrants have no knowledge of the conventions of writing such as why we use paragraphs (in English, anyway. The Italians have no such silly fetish). Some writers don’t consider how a person might USE the information in their book, and while the information is good it would be hard for someone to get to it. There are dozens of ways books don’t “work.”

I’m finding that I’m biased toward an attractive book, and I kind of hate myself for that because I’m never going to be the self-published author who can pay big bucks to have a book designed and printed on expensive deckled edge paper. Some of the books are labors of love and that shines in the writing and appeals to me. Is that a bias? I have no problems seeing fine writing in a book I would never buy. I guess that comes from years and years and years of teaching people to write.

My favorite book so far, though, is not one on which someone spent a year’s salary on professional design and production. It’s an attractive, readable book that tells a sincere and important story.

That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

5 thoughts on “Here Come da Judge

    • Yes — we have a useful rubric. And “dreck” is pretty obvious. And, when something really shining and lovely emerges, it’s very clear (so far). I’ve really enjoyed this.

  1. I do remember Laugh-In and I don’t consider myself a fossil – maybe a little calcified but not near petrified! But really the idea of having a judge as qualified as you makes me want to know how to enter a story/novel for this kind of contest…

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