This week: What makes a winner?Edited by: Elle
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I was inspired to write this newsletter after being involved in "The 9th Annual Quills Ceremony" . Having a behind the scenes look into one of Writing.com's most exalted contests was fascinating, and I wanted to share some of what I learned.
"The Quill Awards" have been going for nine years now, longer than I have been on site. Last year I was given the opportunity to assist with judging, and this year, for the first time ever, I had a chance to see behind-the-scenes, and I found it fascinating.
Anyone can nominate a poem for the Quills. There are seven different poetry categories - free verse and structured are both divided into three different lengths, and then there is a category for best poetry collection. There are also a variety of genre categories that nominated poems are sorted into, that are judged by public vote. Nominations come in from the community, so if your poem is visible on the site and written in the current year, it is eligible to be nominated. Of course, the more visible your poem, the more likely it is to be nominated, and by that I mean if it is entered into contests, shared on the newsfeed, etc. Quality will always be a consideration of course, because the Quills is about selecting the best of the best, the cream of the crop, but yes, any poem written in 2016 can be nominated for the 10th annual Quills.
So the question then is...how is that winning poem selected? What makes that winning poem so great, and how can we learn from it? How can I go out and write the next winning poem?
There didn't seem to be a consistent pattern with the judging. Sometimes the judges would agree on a winner, but often they wouldn't. And it didn't seem to make a difference if it was a panel of selected judges, or a community vote. In some cases, judges (or voters) would rank poems in exactly the opposite order from each other. It was more obvious with the poetry categories than any other. Whether it was three judges or fifteen voters, they never ranked the nominated poems in exactly the same order. Eventually the accumulated rankings would settle to reveal a winner (and honourable mention in most cases), but while there was occasionally a unanimous winner, that was rare, and none of the judges ever agreed on all the placings.
So what does that tell us about how to write that winning poem? Well, I think the answer is that you can't sit down and decide to write a winning poem. Write the poem that's in your heart, and it will speak to some people but not to others. Some people will love it, others won't like it all. Some will rate it five stars, and some may rate it just one star. Feedback is a wonderful thing, and we can certainly learn from it, and grow and expand and experiment... But in the end, write the poems you want to write. There will always be some who like it and some who won't, and that's okay. It's when we give up and decide that we're not even going to try that we truly lose.
These items recently won a Quill or honourable mention at "The 9th Annual Quills Ceremony" . There are some amazing poems here that are well worth the read.
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Have you read a poem (written in 2016) that you thought was a winner? Nominate it for a Quill, and put it in the running for next year's ceremony!
Feedback from my last poetry newsletter - "Poetry Newsletter (March 9, 2016)" :
Great NL, Elle! It is amusing that we came up with different educational (but fun) poetry activities based on the same few discussions. Hopefully, people will enjoy both and also learn from each other along the way. ~ Cinn
I love the idea of listening to other writers poems. I look forward to hearing them and hopeful I can record one to read as well. ~ Madsmom
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