Contests, Pro and Con

By Eilis Flynn

By now, the calls have gone out for the Rita and the Golden Heart contests. Congratulations  and good luck for those of you who got one and better luck next year for those who didn’t.

Now, about contests in general. Are contests all they’re cracked up to be? In the case of the Golden Heart, isn’t publication the goal, not winning a contest?

It’s not the contest in itself, sports psychologists can tell you. It’s the contest as competition that’s important, because there’s evidence that shows that competition pushes competitors — athletes and writers alike — to greater limits. But there is a downside to contests — stress, for example; sports psychologists say that competitors can adversely affect their performance abilities, breaking out into a cold sweat, racing hearts, and decreased concentration. What can you do? Relax, for one. Here’s more on the subject.

Why do we really enter contests? Mia Zachary asks that very question, and has some practical insight into it. It’s a shorter wait to hear about a contest than it is to hear from an editor or agent — and placing in a contest means an editor or agent may take notice.

And if you’re willing to brave the contest route, there are many of them out there for you to enter. Charlotte Dillon has a partial list of them for you to start examining, whether the contests are from RWA chapters or not, for members only or for any contestant, unpublished or published:

Then there’s the combination of a contest AND a publisher, with Romantic Times magazine’s joint venture with Dorchester Publishing, the American Title contest:

And again, if you’re going to enter contests, check out some contest tips from Linda Style, who’s been in the Golden Heart finalist arena a few times. Is the Golden Heart for you? It’s not a learning tool, Style reminds us — but again, you’ll get some attention that you’re not likely to get otherwise.

As Linda reminds us, the Golden Heart isn’t for everyone, and it’s not a good idea to spend a huge amount of time doing contests instead of writing. But by entering contests, you can make sure your work is the best it can be.

Copyright 2006 Eilis Flynn