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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2009 - The Year of Competitions

After the incredible fortnight of conferences I’m naming this year - 2009 - The Year of Competitions. While the boost to morale and affirmation of faith in my story-telling is great, I can’t claim all the credit. The success of 2009 has been a cumulative process of milestones and events over the last few years.
The honing of my skills as a writer is the direct result of the incredible workshops offered at the annual conferences, the feedback provided by so many judges in the competitions and the support I’ve received from friends on both sides of the Tasman.
My two most amazing “lightbulb” moments came from the wonderful Debbie Macomber and incredible Margie Lawson, both guest speakers at conferences past. Debbie spoke about setting goals - realistic or fanciful - & made us define 5 during her lecture then challenged us to achieve them over the next year. I discovered the dangling carrot scenario works for me.
The second AHA! moment was using the EDITS system and Empowering Emotion lectures presented by Margie Lawson. I’m a visual learner and so the idea of using highlighters to identify dialogue, narrative, conflict, setting and emotion was a powerful tool. It’s one I now use regularly when I edit my work. (Margie’s website offers more information on these tools and I highly recommend you check it out)
The hunger for learning the craft and absorbing the information on offer hasn’t eased and I hope it never does. I love getting my scoresheets back from competitions and the hour after I open the envelope I devour the comments, reading, analysing and assessing how best I can use them to improve my writing.
I do the same the day the Hearts Talk or Heart to Heart magazines arrive in the mail - the contents page gets a quick skim then I dive right in knowing the knowledge contained in the articles will be valuable, like gold. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone back over past issues looking for that certain bit of information or to find an article to pass on to a friend.
Another tool I found valuable in honing my skills was volunteering to be a contest judge. It’s a great way to develop your own writing and critiquing skills and you’ll be helping other writers during the process.
Without the emotional attachment associated with my own work, I found it so much easier to identify what worked well and what needed improvement as I read other people’s stories. As a judge it helped me “get my eye in” and when I edited my own work I was able to identify my own strengths and weaknesses that much easier.
So, if you want to fine tune some of your writing skills, and help our hard working competition coordinators and give back to the organisation that’s helped you then volunteer to judge.
Believe me, you won’t regret it - oh, but a word of warning, you could end up addicted!

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