be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website:

be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website: (usually she updates her blog every Sunday evening but she can and will surprise you) **Special Note: all of Joan's archives are now up--almost ten years of 'bitter girl.' As Joan says, go wild!**

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Florida Writers Association Literary Competition

Since you have chosen to defend these two, allow me to provide chapter and verse to illustrate what I am referring to. Judge number 6 writes, "Your beginning paragraphs seem to be totally divorced from paragraphs immediately following." If this judge had read the synopsis that preceded the partial manuscript, he or she would have understood why that is. The same judge writes later, "Although this story is science fiction and allows room for vivid imagination, the plot itself is not unified and jumps from topic to topic. For example, there are jumps from information about the holographic hands of a watch to distractions in school to her mother and father; to Swaziland to CIA to HIV/AIDS to military transports--all within one paragraph." The military transports mentioned in the narrative are actually in the next paragraph, not the same paragraph. Later on the same judge writes, "Use of slang generally detracts from the maturity of your writing. Avoid words and phrases such as: joint, tech guy, shut up, canned the small talk, sack time, get her plastered, spill what she knows, yeah, bunch acting, bad guys, didja really think, hey, many a jam, et al. throughout the entire manuscript." The maturity of my writing? This I consider tantamount to calling me juvenile. I do not consider 'tech guy' to be slang--this is a military science fiction novel and this is how people talk in the military--with jargon. If I replaced 'tech guy' with 'computer technician expert,' have I really added value to the story in any meaningful way? When I was in school, I was taught economy matters--saying the most with the fewest words. It's obvious to me that this judge neither reads nor enjoys any kind of science fiction, if he or she is so easily confused. What was someone so unsophisticated and uninterested in science fiction doing judging or critiquing such? Your other judge, number 18, writes similarly, "The opening is a bit confusing. Why the underlining in the opening paragraphs? This goes against the grain of many editors." Again, if this judge had read the synopsis, he or she would understand why the beginning is the way that it is. Later, this same judge writes, "The writer tends to skip around from one topic to another, sometimes within the confines of one paragraph. Both Sim and John are slipping into backstory, which is confusing. The synopsis tells of a very convoluted plot. The writer would benefit from reading "Plot and Structure" by James Scott Bell." Again, why are you asking someone so easily confused and unsophisticated to write a supposed critique of science fiction? The plot is not convoluted; it is very simple. John has a moral dilemma which is not easily resolved, where he is caught between the law on one side and his conscience on the other. Later, this same judge writes under Dialogue, "Needs improvement. Overuse of jargon. Long, run-on sentences. Tighten it up." Again, this judge is criticizing the military science fiction novel for being a military science fiction novel; people in the military use a lot of jargon and acronyms. It cannot be avoided. Under Descriptive Language, the same judge writes, "P6 Sim wanted him to kiss her luscious rose petal lips, hold her lithe and trim body, etc. This smacks of the amateur." Calling me an amateur is an epithet. If this judge had taken the time to read the synopsis, he or she would have realized that the main character Carolyn is writing the Sim and Don subplot for her own amusement and distraction. As such, he or she would have taken such an obviously over-the-top description as characterization on Carolyn's part, reflective of her sense of humor, rather than poor or hack writing on mine. This literary device is not without precedent; Chaucer did it as well as Stephen King in Misery. Again, why are you using judges so lacking in knowledge of literature to judge or critique entries in your contest?
I am not complaining because I enjoy doing so nor because I have nothing better to do. Originally my first thought when I received the critiques was to forget about the entire thing because I normally walk away from something that stinks. But here, because this was the first time I had any dealings with your organization, I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt, in case these two were simply two bad eggs in an otherwise competent and professional organization. If I were running a literary contest such as this and two judges of mine turned in critiques such as these, neither would ever be a judge for me again. I would recruit homeless people from the street before I would ask these two to judge for me again. At least homeless people wouldn't have an agenda. If I were forced to keep them as judges, I would come down on both as might the very wrath of God and read both the Riot Act. Harshly. The reason I say this is because the only explanation of what happened here which makes any sense to me is that both these judges read one line in my submission (Originally, what had attracted Carolyn to the premise [of the Sim and Don television series] was a world, similar to ours but with no sex in it--other than for purposes of procreation between married adults of opposite genders.) and saw red. It's obvious to me that both became so blinded by rage that each allowed his or her professional judgment to become clouded by personal emotion. (Judge #6 under Descriptive Language: "Rather than state descriptions explicitly, try to IMPLY that Sim's eyes are radiant and sparkly, or that she has a sleek and trim physique, or exquisite jade-green eyes, framed by the ethereal nature of her eye lashes...These images are all very strained and uninteresting..." This kind of criticism once more demonstrates to me this judge didn't understand either that Carolyn, a twenty-four year old woman who is not a professional writer, is writing the subplot for her own amusement and also shows an animus evident in the final comment.) Allowing your personal feelings to interfere with your professional judgment is the mark of an amateur. If your organization is indeed competent and professional, I cannot understand why you have chosen to defend these two, especially without calling or talking to me first, in the manner that you have.
I am not asking for something for nothing, nor am I requesting the heavens and the Earth. What I am looking for here, what I would consider fair under the circumstances, is if you could say something to the acquisition editors along the lines of, "There was a problem with one of the entries (which would be the truth). This guy is being a pain (which I realize I am). If you could just peruse his entry and if you'd like to see more, fine. If you don't, provide him with some explanation of why you wouldn't be interested." If these industry professionals blanch in absolute horror at my work as your two judges have, then I will bow out gracefully and leave this entire affair with a better sense of fair play than what I presently have. --- On Tue, 3/30/10, Pasco Regional Writers wrote:
From: Pasco Regional Writers Subject: Re Your EmailTo: carolynmarks1@att.netDate: Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 9:11 AM

March 29, 2010

Re: Your Email to Chrissy Jackson

Dear Robert:

It saddens me to read of your displeasure with Florida Writers Association in general and the competition in particular. I can assure you that it is not a "bogus" organization, but a highly-regarded association of over 1000 writers, not only state-wide, but national as well. Our work to advance literacy is well-known. There are writers group chapters all over the state and in S. Carolina. Any member has access to these writers groups, which are advantageous to the writer to assist by teaching, sharing, reading and critiquing by the members' peers. Constructive criticism is meant to point out the problems in writing and to suggest ways to improve. Unless a manuscript has been well proofed and edited by a well-credentialed editor, it may not meet the high standards of the major publishing houses.

The Literary Competition was organized in good faith. The $25.00 entry fee assured the entrant that the opportunity to be read by an acquisitions editor in a major publishing house existed, IF, their entry was judged one of the top three winners in each category.

To respond to your concerns about the judges' being "vitriolic and spiteful," I can assure you that none of our judges is vindictive. If you look at the score sheet, you will see the five areas in each segment that work as a guide for the judges. It's heartbreaking to me that you feel as you do. The judges are all objective and read only genres that they have specified. In your particular case, I have read their critiques, and nowhere do they call you names, nor do they intend to trash your work. Their intent is to show you areas that need improvement if you are seeking publication by a traditional publishing house.

As to the return of your material. The original announcement of the competition very clearly stated that three copies of the first 30 pages and three copies of the synopsis were required. "An SASE to mail the judges' scores and comments" was also required. It did not state that the material would be returned. Two copies were mailed to the judges. I retained the third in the event that the scores were too disparate. In that event, the third copy would be mailed to a third judge for his/her evaluation. The lowest score would then be discarded, the remaining two averaged for the score. The judges were directed to shred the manuscript when they finished their evaluation. I will mail the third copy back to you.

In all the submissions over the last two years, this is the first time an entrant has misunderstood what was meant to be helpful. I realize that we writers think of our stories as our babies, and as such, we are protective and defensive. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that they can be flawed, but if you read each comment with an open mind, read where they reference certain pages, I think you will realize that this is meant to help you.

I will put the third copy in the mail tomorrow. Again, I am very sorry that you feel you were wronged.


Dahris H. Clair
Competition Coordinator

-------- Original Message --------Subject: Contact Form - FWA websiteFrom: wst_formmailer@secureserver.netDate: Sun, March 28, 2010 11:11 amTo: chrissyj@floridawriters.netFirst Name : RobertLast Name : SullivanAddress Street 1 : 10747 N Military TrailAddress Street 2 : Apt. #4City : Palm Beach GardensZip Code : 33410State : FLDaytime Phone : 561-624-9054Evening Phone : 561-624-9054Email : carolynmarks1@att.netComments : I entered the literary contest that your organization sponsored back in January. I included a self-addressed stamped envelope as I was instructed to, so that all 3 of my submissions would be returned to me. I was promised 3 critiques. About a week ago, I received 2 critiques in the mail, without my original submissions. Both judges, numbers 6 and 18, gave me mostly 2s with a few 3s. Both also appeared confused, as if they hadn't read the synopsis, which I was required to submit, which explained all that I did not in the narrative. Both gave me advice and criticism which seems to me more vitriolic and spiteful than helpful or supportive, as if I had somehow offended both of them with some comment in the book or method of expression and they had both seen fit to take out their anger by calling me names and trashing my work. I consider this highly unprofessional. If either or both simply didn't like the material or felt it wasn't their cup of tea, each should have either said so or given the work to [an]other judge so that a more even-handed evaluation could be given. I realize fiction critiques are by their very nature subjective but in this case I honestly feel short-changed. In sum, I feel that both my money and time were wasted and that your organization is bogus and I will be expressing my view to anyone who wishes to hear it. If you would like to peruse my work for your own evaluation, my blog address is and the first book, the one submitted, is Paradise Regained in the archives from December of last year.

This is the e-mail string from me complaining about this entire reeking business. I never received a reply. Draw your own conclusions.

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