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Being the Best

This past weekend there has been a hullabaloo in baseball. The winners of the World Series are facing allegations of cheating—serious allegations, and various people are already facing suspensions and stiff penalties.

In writing, we have a lot of various awards for writers, and as with any award, there are those who try to cheat.

I work as the lead judge for one of the world’s largest contests for new writers, and I’ve won a few awards myself. In fact, I started my career as a prize writer. I’ve quietly worked as a judge for dozens of awards and scholarship programs, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about contests over the past 30 years.

There are awards given to authors who are new, or given to professionals based on merit or popularity. There are awards for authors based on gender or ethnicity or religion or subgenre. I’m delighted to see awards given in all of these categories

But I very often see authors squabbling over awards, and I find it kind of tacky.

By “squabbling” I mean that some try to rig the system. I’ve seen authors boast about their own work while publicly condemning others. I’ve seen them try to trade for votes on Facebook. I’ve heard of one editor who used to call his stable of writers and tell them who to vote for on upcoming awards so that they could take turns at winning—and so on.

Don’t get me wrong about awards. I think you should struggle to win them, to write stories of great merit. That’s noble. And if you win an award for your novel, it’s simply tells readers that they should “check out this story!”

So, enter contests for your stories and books. I even recommend that you enter contests that require entrance fees. (It does cost to run a contest, after all.) But never try to rig it.

If you win an award that names you the “Best Author in the World” yet you’re only the best of a particular gender or ethnicity or genre, are you really the “Best Author in the World?”

I don’t think so. The very fact that you managed to game the contest simply cheapens it. And I suspect that you’ll feel ashamed by your win in later years.

As a contest judge, I’ve never had anyone seriously try to bribe me, though I’ve had a couple of authors jokingly suggest it. Don’t even joke about it.

While working as a prison guard, I frequently had inmates try to bribe me. I never fell for it. In fact, several years ago, a potential business partner offered me a million-dollar bribe if I would do a joint venture with him. I turned him down. I don’t hold honor that cheaply.

I did have one young author, a few years ago, who sent in a story that had a picture clipped to it—a photo of her, naked, except for the fact that she wore three marijuana leaves. It was obviously an offer of intimacy. Yes, she was hot, but I booted her from the contest anyway

So work your heart out. But do it honorably.

New Workshop!

I’ll be teaching a one-day workshop called “Steps to Becoming a Bestseller” on February 12 at Life, The Universe, and Everything.
Here is a link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/life-the-universe-and-everything-symposium-2020-registration-54893635341

You will need to click on register and scroll down the page to see the information.

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