Monday, October 12, 2015

Contest Win Left Me Feeling a Little Deflated

Editor's Note: Stacy's timely contest article is a reminder that The Zebulon, Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest's deadline is November 1, 2016.

By: Stacy S. Jensen

I placed in a contest last year.

It left me feeling super rejected.

I know weird, right?

There's an easy explanation for the rejected feeling — the prize included a critique from an editor.

I was excited when I learned I placed. My name was misspelled on the winner's list. I didn't care. I would receive a hand dandy check and a critique—que angels singing. A critique from an industry professional is golden.

Time passed and the check and the critique arrived in the mail. Excitement ... then reality with comments like (and I'm paraphrasing here): Hey, I gave you low marks on market, because I could never take this to my acquisitions board. We have a similar title.

Ouch. Curse the "know the market."

While the editor's comments on market left me a bit deflated, it IS a great lesson. I know to study the market, but I hadn't thought about that being an issue in a contest.

Since the contest, I study publisher catalogs closer. If my writing style is close to an agent's client, then I submit to another agent on my list.

The editor provided many useful comments about my story. The critique prompted some changes and motivated me to submit to a few regional publishers. They were not on my radar prior to the contest award.

I also enjoyed depositing the prize money too. Any day you receive money for your work is a good day.

What's been your experience with contests —Do they send your work in a new direction?

About the Author: Stacy S. Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and revises a memoir manuscript. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and son.


  1. Stacy, I love this article. This is a grand acknowledgment of your writing skill. I've been in your position numerous time. Sometimes you feel like -- great always a bridesmaid, never a bride. But what I love about contests is 1) validation, 2) the chance to view my work objectively through the eyes of a professional. But even then it's subjective -- because what one professional will tell you he/she likes, the other will say didn't work for me. Another great things contests do is to help us develop a tough shell, because when you're submitting you have to have the shell of a Humvee! You're allowed to be deflated for a week :) then get back on that contest horse and keep writing!

    1. Note: Always make blog comments wearing glasses and not squinting. Sorry about the typos! But ideally you get the gist!

    2. Thanks Donnell! Yes. Always keep writing!

  2. Thanks for a great article, Stacy, and CONGRATS on placing in the contest. That's HUGE! You know you can write. As for markets--while we can know what titles a publisher has out, we can't know what's in their queue or what titles they're considering. Ditto for agents and what titles they might be trying to sell even as we submit our own work. I'd say, write what you love, and submit! Don't limit yourself. You just never know when that connection is going to come.

  3. Stacy, I have never been in your situation, though I have just recently began a more serious approach to my writing and am considering submitting to literary magazines/contests. I appreciate your feedback about how the process of excelling can still be a challenge–something most newbies would never consider–but also the positive direction you were set upon. I think most experiences, if we keep an open heart and mind, can lead us into an opportunity for growth. Good luck on the memoir revision. Memoir is my current focus.


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