Thursday 17 January 2013

Though I didn't win, I got a pleasant surprise!

Last year I entered my poetry collection, Twisted Velvet Chains, into the 20th Annual Writer's Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards. If you know me well, you know that I'm quite against paying to submit things. But when it's something as prestigious as Writer's Digest, even I can sometimes be swayed.

When I hit that submit button though, I fretted. Big time. I thought I had set myself up for some major criticism. I thought that the conservative judges (well, that was an assumption on my part), wouldn't "get me". Oh how wrong I was!

I didn't win, but I received the judge's feedback today. Here's what it said:
Books were evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.
Twisted Velvet ChainsStructure and Organization: 4

Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

Plot (if applicable): N/A

Character Development (if applicable): N/A
What did you like best about this book?
Twisted Velvet Chains by Jessica Bell is a soul-wrenching collection successfully focusing on the mother-daughter angst in most such relationships, yet she goes deeper, because the relationship goes deeper, through childhood and teen and young adult scenarios.

Poems like "Gothic Neanderthal" and lines like: Grey netting hangs / from naked papery breasts, / dark purple tulle / fastened round her waist / black smudges / smeared 'cross her face. / patterned like lace / wet stringy hair / sticks / to her brow / her neck / wet cotton / sweat / toxic breath / menstruation blood / the onion soup we ate for lunch / I dry-wretch" // ... are potent, visceral.
This is a strong and well-represented collection. Kudos to Jessica Bell.
How can the author improve this book?
Very little raised red flags. I suppose the cover could have been a little bit sharper. The interior was well done. Overall, a very nice book.
Oh. My. Gosh. I am so thrilled! A "proper" judge liked my work. Now this is enough for me to gain confidence in my poetry again. Recently I've been thinking that I'm crap, as you most likely know, writers' emotions are frequently in flux.

Will I enter again this year? Yup. But this time I'm going to enter my new novella.

How do you feel about competitions like these? Worth it? Have you had any good/bad experiences with writing competitons? What impact did these experiences have on you?


  1. What boosting feedback. Congratulations!

    I've never submitted. I haven't self-published, but they do have other competitions. My finger has hovered on the button. Maybe I should take the plunge because I'm not doing ABNA this year. My YA won't be ready, and they don't take middle grade.

  2. I know what you mean, Jessica, about a proper judge! Well done, keep up the good work! My first love is poetry.
    A favour, do you think you could hop over to my blog and give an opinion on my latest post, please? Carole.

  3. Congrats on the great feedback. I think these contests are extremely worthwhile. And good for you for having the courage to hit that button

  4. Congrats on this. Sorry for the off-the-wall question, but you have dry-wretch and this is the second time in the past two days that I have seen wretch used in this type of situation, when I always thought it was 'retch'.

    1. You are right, Ted. It is dry-retch. But remember, this is poetry and lots of things that would normally be wrong can also have double meanings. I actually did this on purpose to have the double meaning that the narrator was pitied for her misfortune :-)

  5. That is awesome, Jessica! What a great surprise.

  6. I would hope you would know by know you're not crap. You're one of the most talented crafters of sentences I know, in fact. Your prose, your poetry, hell, even your blog posts always teem with a love and great talent for language, and the beauty and rhythm of words strung together into sentences.

    And I like the cover, but one thing that might look nicer would be if the title and byline were not on top of those black blocks. That's the only thing that throws me.

  7. What a fantastic accolade!!!Well done. Your command of the language is obviously first rate.

  8. Congrats! Getting feedback is always good. I've finished your writing book, but not Twisted Chains. I like what the editor said about it, though, I'm half-way through it. (I have to digest my poetry in bites, so as to savor it.)

    I've entered the WD contests a few years ago, and a few other contests. They can be great if you win or place, but frustrating as querying when you don't.

  9. Congratulations. I've known from the start, it is a great poetic achievement.

  10. Wow! That is fab feedback. It is so good to get an endorsement from soneone in the industry - it's hard to be your own cheerleader all the time. Congratulations!

  11. OMGosh Jess!! This is such exciting and encouraging feedback. So happy for you!! Rock on, sistah!

  12. Congrats! A surprise to you, maybe, but the rest of us know how talented you are! It does feel good to hear it from an unbiased source though. :)

    Keep writing!

  13. Wonderful comments from the judge. We all need a little boost now and then. Have you read about my new novel, "The Color of My Heart"? Are you doing any reviews for people? Hope we can stay in touch.

  14. Hi Jess - I bought your Anthology ... so now am looking forward to reading it ... so pleased that you had such good feedback ... good luck with the Novella ....

    Cheers and very good luck .. Hilary


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