I have been asked to judge writing contests and I always accept and this year I'm reading three books and judging the three finalists for the chance to be the winner for this year's award in... I can't tell you the name of the contest or the genre or the names of the finalists but soon after the ceremony I will announce the winner in my blog. It's a secret until then.
The reason I accept the task of reading books and judging for awards is simple. It makes me a better writer. I read the finalists' books and determine what made them so good. I learn how to write award winning books.
Mind you, I don't write to win awards, or fame, or money. They are nice perks but the reason I write is I'd go crazy if I didn't tell my stories. I love to perform on stage and I love telling stories to an audience, but I love reading stories even more. I get lost in a good book and all my troubles fall away.
I was reading a book and it was so juicy and tantalizing and my husband asked me a question and I closed the book, gave him the look, and opened the book and continued reading. Don't disturb me when I'm reading. If I want to have a conversation with you, I'll close my book and listen to what you have to say, if its important I'll put my book away, but if you interrupt me for a question like have you seen my car key, glasses, wallet, hammer... Watchale.
So I'm reading this book and it's so good I make a sandwich and continue reading. I read all day and into the night and the next day and the next night it's midnight and I have to finish the book or I won't be able to sleep. So I read the book in two days and I'm ready to take on the world. I've got the story in my head and I'm evaluating why I couldn't put it down and stop reading. I read for enjoyment but sometimes I read to learn. When I read for enjoyment, it takes me away from reality and into the story and I escape into the words on the page and my imagination. It keeps me sane.
I'm not being paid to write reviews or judge writing contests. Maybe someday I will get paid, but that's not why I do it. I enjoy it and it makes me grow as a writer. I learn from other writers how to be a better writer. I've been told by my mentors why bother to write if it's not going to be a great book. Don't write a good book. Write a great book. And that is what I strive to do. To write a great story and leave my mark in literary history as a writer who gave my best.
So if you see me in a bookstore, library, book bar and I'm reading, give me a nod and keep moving. I'm not really there. It's an illusion. I'm lost in my book and don't want to be anywhere else. If I judge a book you've written and you win the contest, just know that I chose your book because you are the best and your story is not good, it's great.