Last year, I was asked to be the 2013 contest chair for Ozarks Writers League (OWL). As a writer, I've entered a few contests and know how thrilling it is to win--even to participate in fun, unique categories, so I blindly said, "Yes." I also said yes because my good friend, Jan Morrill, is president of OWL and I wanted to help her since she does nearly everything else.
Here are 20 things I learned during the process:
1. There are many excellent writers in OWL. I mean there's some outstanding, jaw-dropping talent.
2. Some writers use rusted paperclips, colorful paperclips, staples or no clips whatsoever. It doesn't matter. Just an observation.
3. A few used yellowed paper while others used crisp, white paper. Of course, neither matters to the judges.
4. A couple of people still use a TYPEWRITER, white-out and all. I found this amazing and pretty cool and pictured old-time, well-known authors hunched over their typewriters.
5. Some of the new categories were VERY popular, as were several fan favorites. (Of course, I can't tell you which ones because you'd enter the less-popular categories next year, now, wouldn't you?
6. Many wanted to get their $10 worth and entered many of the 16 categories.
7. A lot of writers waited until the last minute and had to pay priority postage. (When I enter contests, I do the same thing.)
8. A large amount of people seem to like the color "Red" in their titles. Interesting trivia.
9. Paper cuts are going to happen.
10. Trash cans will overflow with large, opened envelopes.
11. I learned I needed a secretary. My husband felt sorry for me and FINALLY helped me sort one evening.
12. My dining room was trashed for a week. Now, the piles are dwindling as I search for all of the judges' snail mail addresses. (I should have done that in August.)
13. It's very important for the entrants to include the contest number on their cover sheet and their titles on their entries. It expedites the sorting process for the various categories.
14. Several out-of-state writers participated which surprised me.
15. If the rules state a certain word count (say, 1,500 or 3,000), the entrants often come in one word under said WC or right on the dime.
16. I kept forgetting to look at the outside of the envelopes to make sure the postmark date was Sept. 1 or before. (So I had to dig through my trash. Often. And all met the deadline date.)
17. Some joined OWL specifically to enter the contest, it seems, since their membership check also accompanied their entry fee and entries.
18. A few authors listed both their real name and pen name. I wonder which they'd prefer on a winning certificate?
19. I didn't have nearly as much time to play on social media (or write) in September.
20. I had to get organized. A spreadsheet isn't necessary but there must be a SYSTEM. Mine is handwritten first and will be typewritten soon.
I'd recommend everyone try this chair position at least once. It's a good learning experience and you get to sample so many writers' work. One copy goes to the judges and the chair keeps the other one in case of loss in the mail, an entry eaten by a judge's dog or whatever, I suppose. Reading the entries will be a nice treat/reward when the weather turns cold. That's my paycheck!
Finally, I'll get to make some writers really happy in November when I announce the awards and recognize their achievements. Here's a link to the 2013 categories if you are interested: http://www.ozarkswritersleague.com/#!contests/coug
Good luck, everyone, and thanks once more to our generous sponsors and judges!