Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless. ~Sherry Anderson (Thanks, Kathy)
Volunteering is good for us. Sometimes it’s hard work and sometimes when it’s a labour of love, it is a pleasure. So, what am I working on?
Every year there are a many writing competitions. Sometimes I enter, sometimes I volunteer as a first round judge. Every time I learn more than enough to make it worth every minute. What do I learn? At times I learn what to do, at other times I learn what not to do as a writer.
It’s exciting to open an email and see Judge’s guidelines, explaining what is expected of me, score sheets and, the goodies, the entries. I make a point of always reading be guidelines carefully, have a cursory look at the score sheets and then reward myself by getting to the good part – reading.
The first pass over an entry is for pleasure, to get a feel for the words, the tone, where the story is coming from and where it is going to. It’s not unusual to be a little frustrated at this point, wanting to read more! Sometimes I never get to see any more, sometimes I’m thrilled to read a book and recognise the work.
The second and subsequent readings involve more careful reading. It helps to remember your emotional reactions to the words as you examine what works and what doesn’t work. Analyse, measure the immeasurable against a scale of 1 to 5 or similar and you’re done, nearly. Next it’s time to explain why you judged as you did. These comments to entrants on strengths, weaknesses and other feedback are optional but, as an entrant, very much appreciated, and make the entry fee an investment in your writing career.
The competitions I’ve been involved with are anonymous, with judges and entrants known only by a number. The nicest thank you cards I’ve received often come from the entrants over whose work I’ve taken the extra time to give more detailed feedback. More often those who I know will not win, those who, like me, need all the help I can get and appreciate those volunteer judges who take the extra time.
If you enjoy reading you could do the same. Go on, do yourself and your writing community a favour, I dare you. Now, I’d better get back to reading my entries. Good night.