Why You Should Chair A Redwood Writers Contest

Why I volunteered
Let’s face it. I volunteered because of plain old guilt. When you’ve been in a club for two years and taken advantage of its many benefits, you feel like you need to do something. But if you’re like me, there’s no way in Fresno you’re going to be on the board or something crazy like that, so you think a nice contest with a definite end date might be perfect. I didn’t think I’d be very good at it, but I wanted to do something. And in the end, maybe I wasn’t the best contest chair ever, but the poems got judged blindly like they were supposed to, and no one died (that I know of.) Here are some reasons you should volunteer.

You’ll get plenty of help
My first job was to find judges. I had met with Linda (helper number one) to find out everything I needed to do, and made the rules for the contest (pretty much same as last year, so whoever wrote those was helper number two) and now the most pressing need was to find judges. I asked some fellow Redwood Writers if they had any suggestions and they did! (Suggesters, helpers number three and four.) Before I knew it, I had two of the three judges. But where to find a third? I emailed poetry teachers from some nearby colleges, but they were all booked up. I needed to send the judge bios to the woman who makes the flyers for Redwood Writers contests (Michelle, helper number five) as soon as possible, and I didn’t know where to look. I kept sending Michelle emails with little bits of information, and finally it dawned on me (helper number six, my brain? The Holy Spirit?) that Michelle’s email address is Michelleisapoetyouidiot! Okay, not exactly, but close. Anyway, she said yes, and should probably be called helper number seven through ten, too. The treasurer deals with the money, and the secret website elf sends you the online submissions – the point is, don’t think you’ll be in this all alone.

People will think you know stuff
This is actually a negative for me, but if you want people to think you’ve got it going on, being a contest judge will accomplish that. People ask me questions at meetings now. When I open my mouth, they realize that I don’t got it going on, but I’m sure all the people who aren’t asking me questions are sitting in their chairs thinking she has got it going ON! I say this because that’s what I thought about other judges in the past. Maybe they really did have it going on, but the point is that whether or not they did, their name got out there on flyers and they had the air of going on-ness.

You’ll get to see how judges think
I write fiction, not poetry. I volunteered for poetry specifically because I knew I wouldn’t want to enter the contest myself, but I almost wish I had chaired a fiction contest instead – skipped entering one and chaired it. That’s because I got to listen in on the videochat debate about which poems would get first, second, and third place. I know why certain poems caught the judges’ interest, and why others didn’t. (I won’t disclose that here, as the contestants, if they’re like me, will assume that theirs is the uncatchy poem I’m talking about.) And P.S. it’s true that the judges really DO have trouble narrowing it down to three winners. Every contest they say, “There were so many worthy pieces, blah blah blah,” but it turns out it’s true!

Remember that end date?
After thinking I’d never find three judges, and thinking I’d never be done sending emails, and thinking I was a nuisance to my helpers, I am almost done. The definite ending date was one of the reasons I volunteered in the first place, and lo and behold it came to pass. Next month they’ll announce the winners to the group at large, and I’ll be free to be a slacker again for at least two more years. So chair a contest! If I can do it, anyone can.

1 Comment

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One response to “Why You Should Chair A Redwood Writers Contest

  1. Pingback: What the judge had to say about A Symphony of Cicadas | Crissi Langwell ~ Author

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