One of the most difficult things to do might very well be judging a contest. Selecting the judges was the easy part. Each of our judges has had work in The Shine Journal making their work very familiar to me. Each has her own style and perspective and I respect their work as I do the work of all of our creatives here on Shine!
I am very appreciative of their efforts. Judging takes precious time of which many of us have very little. Yet they read all the submissions and made their decisions. And I must say judging takes careful thought especially with so many, many terrific works. The poems they chose are outstanding on so many levels.
I'd like you to know our judges better thus I asked the wonderful Judges for this contest to respond to an inteview format with questions I gave them. Enjoy!
Talk about judging
When I'm judging a contest I look for something I call the 'WOW' factor. I used to be a professional singer and I think because of this I can actually 'hear' a poem's resonance in my head. If I really love a poem I read it out loud. It thrills me to discover a profound and moving poem that I want to read again and again, a poem that I simply must pass along to friends and fellow writers. All of the Shine contest winners had that 'WOW factor for me. A few others came close, and with just a bit more tweaking could actually be there and still others either weren't thematically interesting enough for me or just didn't 'WOW' me. Thankfully, Oonah, Sheri and I were pretty closely alligned in our top tier choices. Each fought for her favorites, as did I, but we did so in a fun, diplomatic way. I've found judging to be restorative in a way. It's good to step away from your own stuff once in a while and see what other writers are up to.
What motivates me to write
Seeing my first book in print has been a great motivator. Reading some of my favorite authors is also a good motivator since it gives me that kick in the butt to be better at my craft. After a decade of struggle, I'm pretty addicted to writing. I even dream in word pairings!
The first thing I ever wrote
Hmmmmm... as a young girl I would write mini-plays. I'd dress my brothers up and make them act them out. It's amazing they still talk to me!
When did I know writing was my calling?
I did a lot of stuff before I truly committed myself to writing. Every job I had had a writing component to it, but it wasn't until I was a trailing spouse moving with my husband from
And then toward the end of the program I wrote a story called 'Cat's Eyes' which eventually went on to win First Prize in a contest in Paris. I remember reading the story at one of the last workshops in my MFA program. At the end of the reading, everybody was just staring at me. You could hear a pin drop and my heart pounding. And then one of the students who had given me such grief in the program said, 'I am so jealous I didn't write that.'
From that moment on, I knew I could be a writer.
I wish I could say I was one of those writers that just writes for themselves. I care very much about publication. I've been doing this full-time for a decade. Every aspect of my life now funnels itself back into this writing life I've created for myself whether it's working on a new book, or promoting my book 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget' or Guest Blogging, or Judging writing contests or teaching at writing conferences which I hope to do this summer. I also started a side business two years ago called 'Tell Me Your Story' where I help high school seniors write killer essays for college. I've worked very hard to become an author and I am so very proud of myself for sticking with it.
If people could know only one thing about me
My friends would probably say it was my sense of humor but I would have to say it's my passion for life. I see greatness around me every day. Right now I am sitting on a beach in
What am I working on
I've started writing my first novel, 'Night Surfing'. I tend to write in fragments and let the story evolve from there which works great for short stories and poetry. The novel has proven to be more of a challenge. I used to work in advertising where we would storyboard the commercials before writing and producing them. So I got a roll of butcher's paper, taped it to a wall in my office and started plotting out my novel cutting out pictures of people that looked like I imagined my characters would look, naming them, deciding what their back stories are and what conflicts they might be trying to work out. I studied novels like Paulo Coelho's 'The Alchemist', Khaled Hosseini's 'The Kite Runner', Anita Shreve's 'Body Surfing' and Susan Minot's 'Evening' to see how these authors handled things like plotting, narrative and structure. It's hard work but it's also very fun and challenging. You can see some of my work on my website at: www.RP-Author.com/MKE and can also check out my book 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget' at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com
My parting words are these - always respect yourself and your work and DON'T GIVE UP! Pamela, if you'll have me back again next year as a judge, I'm in!
Mary Kennedy Eastham - Author
THE SHADOW OF A DOG I CAN'T FORGET
New poems for readers who like their words wrapped in silk.
Talk about judging the contest...focus on the quality of the entries and the overall experience.
About 1/3 of the entries were really top notch--they answered my need
for a clear message, used the techniques of poetry, had some impact on
my emotions. Many lacked what I see in nobel laureate poets--the
ability to show risk--something I define as having interconnected
stanzas that were a variation on the same theme.
I greatly enjoyed the experience of reading through all of the entries.
Very early in the process, I found that my tastes differed from the
other judges. This showed just how difficult it is to be an editor or a
judge. Tastes really matter and as does a sense of fitting in with the
overall publication. The winners came from the top of all our lists.
If I couldn't find a strong image, or a clear sense of emotion, or a
connection between stanzas, it was easier for me to set the poem aside.
A lot of the less successful poems weren't technically edited i.e. they
had spelling and punctuation errors.
What motivates you to write?
A desire to communicate experience to others.
Talk about the first thing you ever wrote.
I wrote the response to a lead in line "You were sitting, eating
popcorn and watching tv when... in elementary school. I had a great
deal of fun coming up with a story I felt was exciting and interesting.
It was about a car accident that happened outside and an injured person
coming to the door. My parents were called to the school because they
worried about my use of blood, something we had witnessed in a nearby
car accident. The fact that the principle was called put me off writing
for many years because I felt I had done something wrong.
When did you know writing was your calling?
When I used to dream I was reading the book I had written when I was in
high school. I always woke disappointed that I didn't get to read the
end. I didn't think I could afford to support myself and write so
sought a different career that had the same creative and organizational
aspects--computer programming. When I could afford it and had the time,
I turned to learning the skills I needed--although I'm still working on
How important is publication to you?
Publication to me means I have an audience that wants to read my work
and something an editor thought others would like to read. It means
I've done my job as a writer. So publication is very important to me.
If people could only know ONE thing about you, what would it be?
I am very kind and like to hear from people even if I can be reclusive
What are you working on now and where can we see some of your work?
I am doing the last edits on my second novel titled "Hot Flash" and
hope to revisit my first novel "No Placers" and get it out to editors,
something I've held off due to the perception that I was inexperienced
as a writer. I have three more novels in the ideas stage. Aoife's Kiss
recently published my story "Knees" and "WARM, Inc." will be published
by Tyrannosaurus Press soon. My web page www.sfharper.com shows many
recent poetry publications, articles and my two chapbooks. Recent poems
of mine are published at WIld Violet and my new personal
favorite--Quandries, at Associated Content.
Feel free to add anything else you would like.
I am grateful for Pam's invitation to judge this contest. I am very
sure that the winners deserved it and hope the other poets will seek
publication of their poems after a quick edit check on message and
Sheri is a science fiction writer, poet, wife, and former systems
analyst. Her stories and poems have most recently appeared in Aoife's
Kiss, Tabloid Purposes IV; Kaleidoscope; Dragons, Knights and Angels;
Wild Violets; Whispering Spirits; Kaleidoscope, Yellow Mama The Shine Journal and
Kinships. See www.sfharper.com and www.sfharper.net for more
Judging the Contest:
I knew Mary had judged other contests but I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was quite nervous about it. I found that as each batch of poems came in I just couldn’t wait to read them. Mostly I knew within the first few lines whether a poem was ‘through’. At first it surprised me that Mary and I agreed so well but some poems just reach out and take hold of you and those were the ones that got listed. In the end there were a dozen fairly strong contenders but “After Shunning” was an easy choice. It reaches out in so many directions. It appeals to the emotions, the intellect and most of all to that part of us that makes us put aside our differences and recognize our common humanity. Being from
What motivates me to write:
Anything and everything. I’m interested in everything so there’s a lot to write about. I like to have a challenge though – a stimulus. When I was little my sisters used to ask me to tell them a story about a witch or a bird and I would always make up something - like with the flash challenges I do nowadays. I also like to write as a response to say, a news item, artwork, a place I’ve visited, a situation, a piece of science I’ve been reading about… My poem about Benazir Bhutto for example was a response to what the news broadcasts didn’t say.
The first thing I wrote:
I was in year seven and we were asked to write a poem or a story about autumn. I wrote a poem called “The Scarecrow” (embarrassingly simplistic) and did a drawing. Mr. Linton put it on the wall. I was so proud. At Grammar school I always wrote poems for The Braid magazine and they always got in.
Writing as a calling:
I’ve always wanted to write and indeed have written some things during my teaching years but all my creativity was getting used up making spelling games and devising ways to make learning fun because the students I taught had a wide range of special needs. In 2006 I left teaching. It was then that I decided to find out whether I could still write and whether anyone would be interested in reading my stuff. I had no real idea what I was going to write and no expectations of getting anything published. I regarded it as a hobby and no one is more surprised than I am at having had over 60 pieces of work published in one year.
How important is publication:
Of course publication is important to me. There’s little point in writing if nobody reads what you write. It’s primarily about communication. Also it’s a thrill to get into a publication that hasn’t taken my work before and it’s always lovely to hear from an editor or from a reader that they liked something. Being published is tremendously encouraging. I’ve had some incredible feedback from many generous people and I always feel privileged that they’ve taken the trouble to comment.
One thing about me?
Star Trek – especially TNG. I’m not a complete nerd - I don’t have a uniform or anything but I do love that vision of the future. “We don’t use money in the 24th Century. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity…” The fans will know where that is from J
Make it so…
What I am working on:
At the moment I am trying to complete a series of fantasy stories which I’d really like to get published in print form – a real book I can hold in my hand. I have a couple of other projects on hold too and of course I stay busy with flashes and poetry on a weekly basis in my Writewords Forums – but poems can take me a long time to finish. I can’t stop tinkering.
You can access links to my online work at www.writewords.org.uk/oonah/ and go to ‘Links’ or you can read about me in my blogspot www.oonahs.blogspot.com I’m new to blogging but I try to keep it up to date.
Many congratulations to the winners and thank you to all of you who entered the contest.