Different authors enter chapter contests for different reasons. Some for validation, some for recognition, some for feedback. I think I’ve pressed send for the Maggies for all of the above. When I first attended a Georgia Romance Writers’ meeting in 2013, I heard about the Gin Ellis Critique Workshop for GRW members designed to help authors prepare their submissions for the Maggie Contest. And I remember blinking and sitting back and realizing I had to join Georgia Romance Writers. I not only wanted a published author to sit down with me and tell me what I needed to learn about writing and give me a critique, but I also wanted to enter a writing contest and get three critiques from published authors. Feedback at its finest.
Here’s where this blog becomes a little personal. I remember sitting in my dad’s house, receiving the news I wasn’t a Maggie finalist, and opening and reading the judges’ feedback from that first Maggie entry. What I didn’t know then was that dad would pass away within two weeks. What I also didn’t know was that whoever judged that entry gave me feedback that would change my writing career. While that month is a blur, I remember reading the advice that I needed a critique partner. Each of the judges went out of their way to deliver concise feedback in a thoughtful and conscientious manner designed to help me rather than dampen my spirit. Score one hundred for those judges.
Less than six weeks after my father died, I went to my first writing conference ever, which happened to be RWA2013. At that conference, I started hanging around the first person I recognized from a GRW meeting (hi, Jeanine!). A couple of months after that, we exchanged pages of our spanking new manuscripts, and I loved what I read. This author captivated me on the first page and I sent back pages of feedback. And to my amazement, I followed the advice some wonderful judge wrote on my manuscript: find a critique partner.
My critique partner let me know when I needed to add emotion, something I still struggle with. And we both entered the Maggie Contest in 2014. Before June of 2014, I didn’t know some contest coordinators called you to tell you that you were a contest finalist. I remember getting the call, and then finding out my husband had actually received the call the night before and had kept a happy secret. In the course of one year, so much changed. I now had a critique partner. I was a Maggie finalist, and then I received the equally fabulous news Jeanine was a Maggie finalist.
I didn’t win, although I did come in second. However, I continued to enter the Maggie Contest. Every time I entered, there would be something new, either advice designed to help my writing career or encouragement designed to boost my spirits. When a judge actually signed her name to my contest entry for the first time, which might have been one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received, my jaw dropped as the person who signed her name was, and is, a writing rock star as far as I’m concerned.
Then in 2017, I entered the contest, and my poor husband had to hear for two months how I accidentally entered a manuscript with a glaring spelling error. I didn’t catch my mistake of writing my heroine’s last name as Halloween. He likes to remind me that is the manuscript that won the Maggie medallion.
I might be one of the few authors who has the home run of Maggie certificates: a first place, a second place, a third place, and both honorable mentions. But I wouldn’t have those certificates without the advice of one judge who said to run out and find me a critique partner. So, I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to all the judges who have made time for the Maggies. You’ve provided constructive criticism, encouraged me, and spurred me to new heights. Validation, recognition, and feedback all rolled into one.
by Tanya Agler