|May Sarton with painting and live photo|
We've talked about SCN before, and founder, Susan Wittig Albert, is an occasional guest at the Blood-Red Pencil. The award is her brain child, and is yet another tool the organization uses to foster "lifewriting" for women. We all have stories to tell, and there are many reasons to tell them. The Sarton award is meant for women who have taken their stories to the ultimate goal - publication.
I don't think we've discussed writing awards here, but they are an important part of the publishing world and book promotion. The process of choosing award winners is also an important, sometimes complicated, and often time-consuming process. Ask any writer or editor who has ever served on a jury.
I asked if I could share the judging criteria for the May Sarton Award because the scoring system is so enlightening and useful. It's one of the best I've seen. This guideline is specific to memoirs, but can easily be modified for any genre of writing, and indeed, offers a marvelous scoring system for an author to apply to a piece of personal writing.
It goes without saying the writing must first meet all entrance requirements, and must be free of noticeable and distracting grammatical errors. Then the judging occurs with the following rubric:
Characters not well developed, without complexity, stereotyped
Characters' actions not well motivated, not very believable
Characters' speech and/or dialogue stilted, awkward, not very interesting
Characters fairly well developed; fair complexity, minimal stereotyping
Characters' actions fairly well motivated, generally believable
Characters' speech and/or dialogue fairly natural, interesting
Characters richly developed; striking complexity; no stereotyping
Characters' actions well motivated and believable
Characters' speech and/or dialogue natural, engaging
Beginning slow, doesn't pull the reader in; unsatisfactory conclusion
Storyline poorly developed or confusing (unmotivated jumps in time, unclear sequence of events)
Story unfolds slowly, inadequately, or with too many distracting side-stories, making it difficult for the reader to stay engaged
Beginning adequate; conclusion fairly satisfying
Storyline fairly easy to follow, even if complex (flashbacks, etc)
Story is developed in a way that moderately engages and holds the reader's attention most of the way through the book
Beginning engages the reader; conclusion very satisfying
Storyline clear, even if complex or otherwise challenging
Story is developed in a clear, compelling way that fully engages the reader's attention from beginning to end ("I couldn't put it down!")
Settings, Sense of Place
Settings are uninteresting
Settings described inaccurately, insufficiently, or in clichés
Story establishes little sense of place
Settings are fairly interesting
Settings described with some clichés, with fair accuracy
Story establishes an adequate sense of place
Settings fully and vividly described, accurately and without clichés
Story establishes a strong, compelling sense of place
Please click here for the rest of the scoring list. There's lots more!
You get the idea of how this award judging works, don't you? It's a very fair, insightful, and accurate way to judge a good book. Thanks to SCN for letting us share this information, and by all means, if you have a memoir that fits the criteria, put it into the running for the award. Click here for submission information. Everyone else can adapt the rubric to judge writing of their own.
How many of you have submitted work and won awards for your writing? Have you ever been on a jury judging other writing? What did you like or dislike about the experience(s)? Please leave us a comment!
~~~~~~~~~Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil, a free-lance writer and editor, special projects coordinator for Little Pickle Press (a small publisher who has won lots of awards for their children's literature!), and teaches authors how to plan and execute their own blog book tours. Her last class of the year is coming up in September and is free to published authors who haven't taken the course yet. Click here to sign-up.