Ok Children’s Writers and Friends,
The reality is we’re not all going to win. Sorry. However, competition season is definitely here and there are umpteen other reasons for both published and aspiring writers to enter. Feedback for starters. To me, this is probably one of the most valuable benefits of entering writing competitions. There is also practice, discipline, presentation and formatting to name a few. A small percentage of us will also be lucky enough to receive cash and/or prizes (often books-who doesn’t love that idea?) and maybe even that holy grail of writing-publication! Now there are numerous competitions out there with a variety of things to offer such as; lower entry fees, fees used to support charities, decent cash prizes, mentorships, feedback, accomplished and/or expert judges.
Not all competitions provide their entrants with feedback, however, if you can find ones who do and whose judges are involved, or better still experts in the industry, I strongly encourage you to enter. Remember that the judges are story lovers too and are actively looking for great stories, however, they are people with their own likes and dislikes. I have had almost conflicting comments from different judges about the same manuscript, so it’s important to ‘hear’ what they have to say, try not to take negatives to heart, make necessary changes, learn and improve your manuscripts as only you can.
Practice and Discipline
Writing for competitions, or revising for them if you already have the perfect piece is actually very good writing practice and we can all benefit from this. They also provide you with a ready made deadline- a useful tool for building discipline in procrastinating scribes like me.
Presentation and Formatting
If you are just starting out in writing with the aim of publication, you may be totally unaware of the way to present your work. Twenty or so years ago I scribbled (quite literally) off a piece of writing which I thought was quite good to a competition advertised in a small town newspaper. In hindsight it was probably the local branch of the FAW (Fellowship of Australian Writers). I got a scathing report back about my lack of presentation or clear genre. I didn’t write again for many years. Lessons to be learned by both the judge and me. Eventually I went off and undertook courses and I am still learning today. Not sure what he did. Aside from airing my writing wounds and we all have them, the point I am making is that with much improvement in marking sheets and clearer criteria (not much was given in the small paragraph I looked at in that local paper all those years ago) entering competitions is a really good way to find out about industry standards. Many competition criteria today are very much in line with the submission guidelines of the publishing houses who are linked to them.
Prizes and Publication
As mentioned earlier prizes can be anything from books and book packs to mentorships and cash. The Text Prize, for example, is $10 000! Text also offer publication of the winning entry. Others who offer publication are the Short and Twisted Competition, Creative Kids Tales and some FAW branches publish Anthologies of that year’s winners.
Please bear in mind that I am still a novice member of the Australian children’s writing community and that I’m discovering new groups and tips all the time, so the following is by no means extensive. Be assured, that if and when I find out about anything worth sharing, you’ll be the first to know.
CYA Conference Writing Competition- For Hatchlings (children) Aspriring and Published. The prizes for each of the many categories are 1st place $50, 2nd $30 and 3rd $20. The main reasons I love this competition is that the money charged to enter (only $20 for Aspriring, less for Hatchlings) is donated to a charity at work in Africa and that they provide extensive feedback sheets from two different judges. There is also a chance of publication as winning entries go before an editor from a publishing house you suggest in your entry.
Kathleen Julia Bates Writing Competition- very reasonably priced, cash prizes and judges feedback provided, results published in Buzzwords Magazine.
Celapene Press Short and Twisted Competition- winning entries published in their Anthology.
Creative Kids Tales Anthologies- The top 12-13 entries are published in two half yearly Anthologies, Book Prizes and certificates awarded to the next 7-8 winning entries.
FAW Competitions especially Writers Unleashed Picture Book Competition- The cost of entry into these competitions is generally not high, averaging at around $10, however, the prize money can be quite generous often $100+ for first place
Varuna Publisher Introduction Program and Affirm Press Mentorship Competitions – I couldn’t even begin to summarise these other than the heading itself. go to varuna.com.au for details
Australian Writers Centre Weekly Competitions – Offers weekly bookish prizes based on your answer to a question posed in their enewsletter
State Writers Centres Competitions- These are often connected with their newsletters and only require a quick comment, catch phrase or title with prizes usually being books or movie tickets, for the NSWWC at least. Incidentally Readers Digest offer several similar ones and their prize is both cash and publication.
Well I don’t know about you but I’m off to write, edit and enter (after I bring the washing in, cook dinner, cover school books ….oh joy!)
Farewell fellow travellers
Savour the quest,