Belonging to a writing group is always rewarding.
For many years I've been a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand and through this organisation I have learned so much about the craft of writing.
At RWNZ's annual conference I've had the benefit of being able to listen to world famous authors, agents and other professionals expound on various aspects of the craft of writing. Chances that as an individual, I could never have accomplished.
So I find it really rewarding to pass some of this hard won knowledge on. And one way of doing this is by training as a judge and helping judge some of the contests run by RWNZ.
One of the highlights of my writing year is helping judge the Chapter Short Story Competition. Writing a good short story is really difficult. With only 1000 to 1250 words to make a complete story vignette, it takes enormous skill. And I have to confess it is not a skill I have mastered.
The standard of the entries is always high.
When judging my policy is to always make any criticism constructive and sometimes after I've sent the entries back I start second guessing myself. Am I being too harsh. Was that criticism justified, the negative thoughts and doubts that are the bane of a writer's life, begin to creep in.
So imagine my delight to receive this warm thank you letter:
You recently judged my story ... for the Chapter Short Story Contest.
Thank you very much for your insight and comments.
This is the first time I have presented anything for criticism since I was at school (far too many years ago to count) and I was very apprehensive about doing so... I was so nervous about the results that the message has sat in my Inbox for a fortnight until I had the courage to open it and the documents attached.
I was pleasantly surprised to read your comments, even the negative points you made, and that you didn’t tell me to give up and stick to reading.
I know your intention is to constructively criticise and therefore to encourage and I can assure you that you have succeeded in this case and that I am pleased I overcame my fears and entered this competition. Your comments have encouraged me to continue in my endeavours...and I nearly leapt out of my chair at the inclusion of ‘great promise’ in your final comment!
At the risk of being repetitious, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I have scribbled for many years without having the courage to do anything about what I have written, not even letting anyone read it. I know I have hard work ahead of me but I will keep trying.
It is letters like this that keep me putting my hand up as a judge. It is so rewarding to be able to give something back to the organisation that has given me so much.