Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Musings - Smith Meyer

WRITE! Canada 2010 has happened--and it happened without me. Each year since I first went, it has been an important event every June. While I always return bodily tired, my mind and my enthusiasm are renewed and invigorated. Of course that exhaustion is partly due to not wanting to miss anything, staying up for the night owl sessions and rising for the early bird or prayer sessions.

Although my publisher again entered my latest book in the contest for an award, this year because of events in my life, I decided I couldn't attend. My mind didn't listen though and from Thursday to Saturday I was conscious of what I was missing.

Then today, four days after the close of the conference, the TWG letter containing the judge's evaluation and remarks came in the mail. I debated if I really wanted to know what it said, but curiosity won out and I tore it open. After several years of work, editing and redoing, testing it out on children of the ages I had mentioned (with good response) having positive affirmation from the publisher, my writing group and from people who have purchased the book, the judge's feedback didn't reflect any of that. On a scale of one to five, the categories were marked. 2,3,3,3,4,1,2,2,5,3. Was it disappointing? Yes, but not devastating.

Again, I was thankful for what I have learned at WRITE! Canada and in my writer's group. We all differ in our likes and dislikes--even fellow writers and the honourable judge. The very thing one person finds the most intriguing or heart-warming just doesn't do it for another. What charms one reader makes it hard for another to connect.

We need to seriously weigh what the "experts" say, put tu use those suggestions that feel right to you the author and then extend to yourself the grace to trust in your own intuition as well. It is helpful if there are additional judges (and I would recommend that) so that the picture is more complete, but each critique deserves our full attention.

Is it nice to capture a few awards? Yes, I think that can be very satisfying. Is it nice to Wow your judge? I surmise it may be. However, as Tammy Wiens says, "I have found that I've gotten so caught up in trying to please the industry at times that I've forgotten my audience. In the end, they are the ones who buy my books and let me know if they are good or not--not editors or publishers."

My biggest and best award comes from the people who have been helped in facing their own challenges by reading my books. If I have brought understanding, growth or comfort to even a few readers, then my writing has not been in vain. Instead of a sticker on the front cover proclaiming my book to be a finalist or award winning book, there is a warm spot in my heart, knowing God has used my efforts to bring help, healing, or even enjoyment to my fellow travellers in life.


Dolores Ayotte said...

Dear Ruth,

I am sure there are very many of us that could have written this post. I, too, received my critique yesterday and although disappointed, I am not devasted.

I agree with both you and Tammy. My goal is to reach my audience and touch their lives in some memorable way. I know in some small way, I have succeeded at this and I'm sure you have too because you have just touched my life this fine summer morning! :)

Peter Black said...

Ruth, thank you for your gracious spirit and down-to-earth perspectives.
The year my book was entered I received the evaluation and scores from two judges. The contrast between them was considerable; one might have wondered if they'd read the same book!
That served to remind me that as valuable as all the comments and scores were, they are the opinions of individuals, and do not necessarily reflect that of the reading public.
I agree with Tammy's point, and also with you and Dolores. Contests, judges, and awards do have their place, though. Thanks to TWG, the awards sponsors, and to the judges, for their investment in our writing development.

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