Monday, February 17, 2014

A Note from a Contest Judge

It's getting closer to contest-announcement time. One of the judges sent me this note of encouragement to all entrants:


Donna Patton
Dear Young Writers,

Congratulations! Yes, I know Mrs. M hasn’t announced the contest winners contest yet, but as one of the judges, I wanted to share some thoughts. So I’m going to say it again: Congratulations! Maybe you’ll win . . . or maybe you won’t . . . but you still did something very courageous. You wrote the best story you knew how and entered it in a contest.  That is a major accomplishment. You can be proud for trying.

If you win, you’re going to be so thrilled! You’ll know that someone read your story and ‘saw’ the same exciting scenes you did. Entering this contest means that you love to write. It means you have been blessed with a lively imagination, a wonderful, fun, creative talent. Writing is a gift, but it’s one you have to work at. Just like Andi had to learn to become a better horsewoman, you have to learn to become a better writer. Even someone like Mrs. M and myself – who have both written numerous books as well as other material – have to keep learning and improving.  I still enter contests. Sometimes – very rarely – I win. Most of the time I don’t. But each time I enter, I learn something new about my writing and myself.

You are probably excited, anxiously awaiting the results and hoping you’ll win. But what if you don’t? Will you stop writing?  I hope not! If you tried really hard and wrote the best story you could, you deserve a cheer! You did it! You took the Circle C characters and wrote a story that no one has ever read before – think of it! You made Andi and her family, or some of the other characters live out a story you wrote. That takes courage, determination and just a little bit of Andi-ness!

Whether you win a prize or not – you still win! It’s not easy to show others your writing. As a judge, I could tell that you all tried very hard to write interesting, dramatic, and exciting stories. I read each story in the category I judged, and I enjoyed them all. It was hard to pick just ONE winner in a category. (Shhh – don’t tell Mrs. M.)

If your story doesn’t win a prize this time, don’t give up. Maybe your story was sooooooo close to winning, but there was a story that was just a tiny, eensy bit better. The decision might have come down to the fact that one writer took the time to run spell check and make sure there were no misspelled words. When you enter a contest it’s important to make sure you follow all the rules and make your manuscript look as professional as possible. Trust me, I know.

A young Donna
When I was twelve, our local newspaper ran a contest. Each student could write a question to ask the President and win a trip to Washington, D.C. I wanted to win soooooooo badly! There were rules to writing the question, but I didn’t follow them correctly. In my hurry to enter I forgot to read all the instructions. Imagine my disappointment when I didn’t win – and then I reread the rules! One of the winning entries was so close to mine, but that student had followed the rules and off she flew to meet the President. The next time I entered a contest you can bet I followed each and every rule.

So, if you won this time – Hooray! If you didn’t win this time – Hooray! You’ve taken the first steps toward being a real writer by sending out that story. Take a deep breath, swallow that disappointment we all feel when we try something new. As Andi might tell you – riding a horse gets easier every time you climb in a saddle. Writing, like riding, gets easier every time you try.

Ms. Donna Patton 

To enjoy a site Ms. Patton writes for kids, click here: Cookies and Milk

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 photo MrsM_zpsa9f216b8.png

23 comments:

  1. I didn't enter the contest, but thank you for the wonderful advice for future contests!
    I really appreciate all you writers taking the time to talk to all of us readers!
    ~ JT

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  2. Thanks so much!!!!!!! It helps so much to have encouragement from the judge!!!!(I think she judged my category. 10-13 right?)

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    1. Yes, Ms. Patton judged the 10-13 age group.

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    2. Anne how old are you, just wondering? if you are in the 10-13 group I think you would be around my age
      Anna

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    3. I'm 12. What about you?

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    4. I'm 10;) So you entered in the contest? I was going to but I didn't get my story finished in time:(
      Anna

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    5. Yeah, I entered the contest, but barely!!!! Mrs. Marlow gave me until January 3rd at 12:00. I sent it in right on the dot at twelve!!!! :-)

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  3. thanks!
    hey cool i'm 12 too

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  4. Wonderful stories in that aged category!! Hard to pick the winners! :)

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    1. Do you think you could do a post on how you judged the contest? What you looked for and stuff? (if it is giving away to much you could post it after Mrs. Marlow announces the winners) :-)

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    2. Well, Anne, I sent the judges the Official Rules, and in the rules it told what the stories would be judged on, so the entrants could see what their stories would be judged on: mostly the 5 elements of a story (like realistic characters, being able to visualize the setting, a distinct story problem, the flow of the story, and how the story problem is solved. Plus the judges could judge on the creativity and/or uniqueness of the story.

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  5. Thank you so much for the encouraging words, Mrs. Patton. It helped remind me that I even if I don't win... just keep writing, just keep writing, writing, writing. :-)

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  6. Thanks for the encouraging speech... :P I can't wait until we know who's won!! :)

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  7. Mrs.M when Andi's mother was 12 was she a tomboy like Andi or was sh a proper young lady? Where did her family live? And were any of her brothers bossy? What was Rose like at that time? Did she ever have any suitors? sorry for all the questions but i need them for a fan story:P
    Anna

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  8. Okay, I dug into my archives and found an extensive "bio" for Elizabeth. I know she was the oldest and her sister Rose was like 10 years younger. Read more below and use whatever you want. If you don't see anything, make it up! I might like it and use it for something else some time! :-)

    Elizabeth Johnson Carter is Andi’s mother. At the time the series opens, she is fifty-two years old and has been a widow for almost seven years. She has blond hair—lightly streaked with gray—and blue eyes. She was born in 1828 in Pennsylvania, the daughter of a well-to-do shopkeeper in Pittsburgh. When the rumor of the gold strike in ’49 hit, Carl Johnson sold his business and—to the shock and horror of the community—packed up his family (including the nearly twenty-one year old Elizabeth) and headed for the California gold fields. What started as an adventure for Elizabeth (who was tired of the social expectations of Pittsburgh and welcomed the chance to move West) ended in disaster: Her father succumbed to influenza and died in a muddy gold camp only a month after arriving. His wife immediately packed up the two younger children and returned to the East. Elizabeth, however, saw the potential for business in the boomtown of San Francisco and decided to stay and open a store. She was an intelligent young woman with a shrewd head for business. Her Eastern upbringing as a well-bred lady, along with her good sense and quiet charm, was a rare sight in San Francisco. It made her store one of the most popular in town.
    Many young men sought her hand in marriage, but Elizabeth had no interest. They were all alike—prospectors who spent their gold dust as quickly as they panned it. Young James Carter was different, however. He never bragged about his gold or spent it on frivolous items. He weighed it carefully and seemed scrupulously honest. When he did business in her store, he talked and acted toward her with the utmost decorum. She began to look forward to his weekly visits. He was a sliver of civilization among the streaming hordes of gold-crazy men.
    Eventually James convinced Elizabeth to marry him. He had invested his rich gold strike in land, by purchasing a Spanish land grant near the San Joaquin River, where he hoped to develop a fine ranch. They married in June of 1851. Justin was born a year later.
    Elizabeth has all the grace and charm of her good breeding, yet possesses a strong will. She has high expectations for her family, especially regarding their character and reputations as Christians. She is not afraid of hard work, and in the early days of the Circle C she worked alongside her husband when the need arose.
    She is patient and understanding toward her youngest daughter—seeing some of herself in Andi’s desire to live unrestrained from outward social expectations. She allows Andi to dress as she pleases at home, to ride and rope and enjoy the ranch. She knows childhood ends all too soon. However, she expects Andi to conduct herself in a manner worthy of a Carter and a Christian and deals firmly with her when she fails.
    Since the death of her husband, Elizabeth has turned the ranch over to her three sons.

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    1. Wow! Thanks for finding that Mrs. M! It was a lot of fun to read

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    2. Thanks so much I'll try to make a fan story withe that:)
      Anna

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    3. Oops I meant with
      Anna

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  9. Are any of you other "Andi Fans" going to the Christian Heritage Conference? I'm going to be there...so I was just curious. :)

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    1. I think I'm going. Christian Heritage in WA?

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    2. Yay! Maybe I'll see you there! (yes, the one in WA)

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Let Andi know what you think!