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The Frasier Contest: A Judge’s Perspective

I entered my first writing contest filled with self-inflated optimism. My words were going to blow the judges away, leaving them wanting…no, needing to read the rest of my manuscript. 

I blew them away all right…in the other direction, I’m sure. In fact, I broke just about every newbie writer rule, including submitting a 12-page synopsis…they needed to get my story!
Since that one unforgettable experience, I’ve grown as a writer. What helped strengthen my craft was digesting judges’ comments. After all, I entered the contest expecting feedback, right? I needed to have an open mind and consider the words on the page.
Oh, sure, there’s always that judge who doesn’t get your voice or your characters. Or the one who must’ve been hanging around the water fountain when tact was handed out. But, for the most part, the judges’ comments helped me focus on the trouble areas and improve my skills. I considered their comments, used what fit with my voice and vision for the story, and moved forward.
My Book Therapy’s The Frasier is a fabulous contest to help writers to improve their craft. What sets this contest apart is the judges are hand-picked by founder Susan May Warren. She created an in-depth score sheet that would encourage the writer as well as help her focus on trouble areas in her entry. Additionally, the entries are limited to 1500 words, and the sole focus of the contest is storycraft—entries aren’t divided by genre. Not to mention a sweet prize–a MBT retreat!! As someone who’s attended several MBT retreats, that prize is incredible.
I haven’t had the privilege of entering the Frasier. However, I have had the opportunity to act as a judge. The one thing that blew me away was the caliber of the writing. These entrants knew their stuff, which made my job as judge easy in some ways and much tougher in others—I wanted all of them to win!
While judging, I picked up on a few things:
1. Judging is subjective. What I loved, another judge may not have enjoyed. Isn’t it fantastic that we have different tastes in what we enjoy? Writers take a chance when they submit to contests. They may have one judge who loves their work and another judge who thinks it needs more polish. But the same can be said when submitting to agents and editors. 
2. I understand what agents and editors mean by being able to discern a writer’s level by reading a few pages. By the end of the first page, I had a strong idea if the writer was a newer writer or one who had been honing her craft for a while.
3. Judges’ words have an impact on a writer’s dream. Before I read an entry for scoring, I prayed and asked for wisdom so my words would help and encourage rather than discourage and damage. When judging, I tried to show ways specific areas could be improved. When writing general comments, I thanked the entrant for having the courage to submit—it takes guts and shows a willingness to grow as a writer. Then I concluded by praying over that writer and his/her writing road, asking for God’s leading. 

So what are you waiting for? If you’re an unpublished writer, prayerfully consider entering The Frasier. It’s an experience you won’t regret! Here’s more information for you:
The 2012 Frasier Contest, My Book Therapy’s storycrafting contest for unpublished
novelists, is open now through March 31. The winner will be announced at the annual
MBT Pizza Party during the 2012 ACFW Conference in Dallas – and will receive a free MBT retreat (a $500 value!). Final round entries will be judged by award-winning author Susan May Warren, Tyndale House acquisitions editor Stephanie Broene, and Karen Ball, literary agent with the Steve Laube Agency. All guidelines and registration details are available here.

Your turn: Why do you enter writing contests? What was your contest takeaway? Will you be entering the Frasier? You should, you know. 🙂

Lisa Jordan

6 Comments

  • Donna says:

    I've never heard of that contest. It sounds like an amazing tool for writers to improve their craft and hear from the best. And I like that the contest is geared toward unpublished writers who may not otherwise be able to receive the feedback toward growth that's needed. Thanks for this great post, Lisa!

  • I've entered some contests. Some were great success and some were just so-so. I did enter the Frasier last year, but never received any scoresheets back. I did get a receipt for the payment, but I never heard back from anyone about it. So I may not enter this year.

  • I've only entered two contests. One provided feedback which I found encouraging and helpful. The other had no feedback, but had I not entered it and went to the conference, I'd never pitched to my fab agent!

    Last year I judged for the Grace Awards, and I'll be judging again this year. It's for novels, so the writing for each book I have to read is hard to judge, they're all good! But the feedback still needs to be positive! Great post, Lisa!

  • I'm planning to enter the Frasier with the hope of finally getting some feedback on my work. It's really hard for me to gage where I'm actually at in my writing level, since I've been writing forever (and have degrees in journalism and English) but not storycrafting forever. So I'm anxious to get some good feedback. It would be great to do well in the contest too, but I'm definitely not holding my breath! I figure it's much cheaper to enter the contest than get a critique, so I'm looking at it that way.

  • Melissa Tagg says:

    I love the Frasier! And you provided such great perspective from "the other side." Lindsay has a great point above – it's so much cheaper to enter a contest and receive feedback then pay for a critique. And I believe the Frasier has one of the absolute best formats for feedback…judges are trained and know what they're looking for.

  • Jill Kemerer says:

    Ooo, the Frasier is new to me! I've entered a few contests, and I've had similar experiences to you. Some judges give very little, and others give tactless advice. But there are always a few who genuinely help a writer–aren't they priceless??

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