Blog by Toby Welch

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Judging Writing Contests


When I was first asked to judge a writing competition, I’ll admit I was flattered. They wanted ME! Who wouldn’t take that as a compliment? It was the first annual writing competition this organization was hosting. Not only that, it was going to be international. They expected to be flooded with thousands of entries. To deal with the impending deluge of submissions, they were looking for 30 judges from around the globe including “esteemed writers such as myself”.

I slept on the proposition before sending a reply. I needed to make sure I could fit it into my schedule; it wasn’t a paying ‘honor’ so the volunteer time had to be factored in. I was all set to say I would love to go onboard when I clicked on the link at the bottom of the personalized invitation, a link that took me to the organization’s website. Everything looked on the up and up at first but something told me to keep digging. As I writer, I’ve learned to be a thorough researcher and over the course of the next hour, my digging unearthed some interesting and not so flattering facts about the company.

The writing competition had nothing to do with supporting the arts. It was nothing but a cash grab for a bunch of greedy people. The only people who would profit from the competition were the organizers. That made my decision easy and I fired of a thanks-but-no-thanks email in reply.

Before accepting any position as a judge, mentor, or critic in the writing world, take the initiative to make sure that the umbrella you will be working under is one that you are comfortable with and knowledgeable about. It’s easier to decline upfront than to try and get out of a commitment when you are already immersed in it.

All that said, I look forward to being a judge when an opportunity comes my way that is more in line with my beliefs. I think it will be a mutually beneficial adventure to be involved in.