Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why I Entered the Frasier and Why I'm Entering Again

With 2011 MBT Frasier winner
(and my crit partner!!) Andrea Nell

It wasn't because I wanted to final or had any ideas of winning when I entered the 2011 My Book Therapy (MBT) Frasier contest. (You can read my reasons for entering last year in this post I wrote a year ago)

It was with scoff that I didn't get off the exercise bike when I heard the phone ring on the fateful day when I knew the finalists were being called--that won't be for me. And it was with overwhelming amazement when I finally finished my work-out and called Susan May Warren find out I had finalled in the Frasier. 

I can still hear that message on the machine. W.O.W.

But that isn't what my post is about (think memory alert flash). Because, do I plan to enter the Frasier again this year? YES!

Do I expect or plan to final only because I did last year? NO!

Oh goodness, no. But that deserves a little bit more explaining.

What prompted me to enter the Frasier?
Two things:

Susan May Warren.

And the judges results.

Susie is an incredible coach and teacher and when she said she was debuting a new contest, I knew this was something I could learn from and that leads to my second reason: the judges. Goodness, did I ever learn! From that first year and again last year. Constructive comments and I so appreciate the judges taking the kind of time they do to leave comments and encouragement, but also point you in the direction you need to steer clear of and what you're doing right.

How did the judges' feedback strengthen my writing?

 In both years that I entered the contest, I got fantastic feedback. Both in praise and criticism, done in such a way that was an incredible learning experience. Because you send in a smaller chunk of story (1500 words, about 7 pages or so) the judges get less to see (so make it really good!!) but it also gives them a bit more time to give constructive comments. Now with every contest, it's going to be subjective, but what I learned is  the judges really do have a spirit to help you learn and grow. Fantastic!

What was my contest takeaway--and how did it affect my overall writing dream?

I didn't need to win to feel successful. Wow, just a final--and I'm still floating a bit. It was a validation I was doing what I needed to do. My writing connected with someone and my hard work to make it better has been paying off.

Not everyone who enters will final, but you should still look at this as a huge step forward. Overcoming a bit of unease (okay, flat-out panic!) over submitting to a contest, putting your work out there to be judged in a more critical manner. It's a great exercise for you as a writer and author to see what you can do to improve. Because, let's face it--we all can! 

Before I close the post, I wanted to share with you a couple comments from one of my Frasier judges and just what and how they will grade your entry. (this is a second round judge's comments to me)

Susan May Warren and I at the
MBT Pizza Party

Dialogue: (30 points)
Dialogue should move the story forward, should be tight and interesting.  They should use tags sparingly with a concentration on meaningful action (meaning, the characters are doing something as they are talking rather than just making facial or body movements).  Also, the correct use of internal dialogue is third person, (if the story is in third person, if it is in first person, then it should stay in first person), no italics unless it follows the “other voice inside your head” rule, and no use of he thought, wondered, pondered, etc. 

__4___Was the dialogue purposeful in moving the scene along?
__5___Did the author use meaningful action?
__5___Did the author use body language?
__5___Did the author correctly use internal dialogue? 
__5___Did the Dialogue capture you?

There was soooo much to love in this scene. Not a ton of dialogue, but it was packed with meaningful action. The internal action had spark and spunk. Loved it!


Emotional Layering: (60 points) We touched on Showing versus Telling in the first round, but in this round we are going to be more picky.  We want to see real attempts at Emotional Layering. The point of Emotional layering in a scene is to isolate the main emotion of the pov character in the scene and show that emotion without naming it.  The reader should feel in the skin of the character through the eyes of the character – revealed through the way they experience their world.  Also, the use of symbolic language (simile, metaphor, etc) deepens our understanding of the emotion.  If you have questions or would like a reference to this, see appendix 1.  There are two parts to this question – mechanics (objective) and the mood (subjective).

Part One: Mechanics (30 points)
___5__Has the author shown us the story in active voice? 
___5__Has the author employed the use of the 5 senses?
___5__Have they used use specific words to create a mood?
___4__Have they employed the use of other characters to mirror or accentuate the emotion? 
___5__Did the author refrain from telling (rather than showing us) us the main emotion of the scene?

Wonderful job with the five senses (though, did she taste anything? I might’ve missed it) and specific nouns and showing verbs. I’m so impressed. I actually printed out a hard copy to read and I wrote the same note over and over throughout: “love it!” 

Part Two: Mood (30 points)      
___5__Did the author show us the main emotion of the scene through thoughts?
___4__Did the author show us the main emotion of the scene through dialogue?
___5__Did the author show us the main emotion of the scene through meaningful action?
___4__Did the author use a symbol that depicts the emotion of the character?
___5__Did you sense the emotion of the scene?

I didn’t catch on to symbolism too much here…so you could probably do a little more with that. Otherwise, I just loved it. I could hear her voice and feel her emotion along with her! 

Voice: (30 points)

We judged the mechanics of Voice in the first round, so this round is about how does the story capture you?  Are you wooed by their voice?  Please take a moment to find two sentences that you particularly enjoyed and copy/paste them here:

Soooo many lines to savor in this! Here are a few of my faves…

Loved the opening lines: A girl can only take so much truth.
            Which is probably why I found myself in a two-bit-cow-town restroom, at the exact moment the walls of my life crumbled.
            Waiting for the pregnancy test to confirm what I already knew. 

I stared at the harshness of what I had done in the face every morning and again every night when I watched my trusting husband sleep.

Loved hearing her voice in these lines: It had been so long since I had known Grandma’s warm embrace. I still had an eternity to wait. And nothing said God would let me through the pearly gates to see her once I got there.

Whoever said a lady doesn’t sweat never lived under the fire of past mistakes. 

Then, on a scale of 1-5:  __5___Did the author “woo you with their words?”  (Your answer will be multiplied by 6 to equal 30 points.)

Truly superb writing, in my opinion! I could totally hear her voice and feel with her. I would definitely read more…and hope I get to someday! J


The 2012 Frasier Contest, My Book Therapy’s storycrafting contest for unpublished novelists, is open now through March 31. The winner will be announced at the annual MBT Pizza Party during the 2012 ACFW Conference in Dallas – and will receive a free MBT retreat (a $500 value!). Final round entries will be judged by award-winning author Susan May Warren, Tyndale House acquisitions editor Stephanie Broene, and Karen Ball, literary agent with the Steve Laube Agency. All guidelines and registration details are available here.

Feel free to ask me your MBT Frasier contest questions!


Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.


Lindsay Harrel said...

I'm planning to enter the Frasier this year and am looking forward to the feedback! :) Glad to hear yet another ringing endorsement.

Angie Dicken said...

Sounds like a fabulous contest! I heard the pizza party was sooooo much fun last year. Still deciding of I can budget in the contest fee.:)

Julia M. Reffner said...

The timing just wasn't right for me to enter this year, but I definitely can see entering next year after I do some serious work on my first MS. It sounds like a great experience, whether you final or not.

Casey said...

LINDSAY, oh you'll hear bells from me that's for sure. ;-) Just a really great learning experience!

ANGIE, oh it was rocking last year. Totally fun and we laughed so. hard. Or at least I did. It is less than the Genesis, but not by much--you've got a month to decide. ;-)

JULIA, it is a great learning experience. I entered my historical that first year and it really wasn't ready, but I didn't know that--I didn't know what I was doing! But it gave me GREAT feedback and encouragement. I'll be here to cheer for you when you do decide to enter!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for this great post, Casey!

I had thought about entering but with only 1500 words I wondered if it was worth it.

Your example of the feedback was so helpful. I just may have to enter after all. At least I have time to think about it!

Your writing is awesome, btw, just from those few lines!


Casey said...

SUSAN, it is a pretty small amount, but even in 7 pages, the judges get a pretty good taste for the story. They are looking for the all the main story elements. Hook, setting, show don't tell, wooing with words, etc. The My Book Therapy site is a great place to get info on what the Frasier contest is looking for.

Glad it was helpful! If you want to see if of my other score sheets, just shoot me an email. I'd be happy to share. :)

Unknown said...

Casey, what you shared about the Frasier is true. I entered for the first time last year, and I learned soooo much from the judges' comments. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm. I just got back from Deep Thinkers, and I'm hoping I can get a good opening scene ready to submit for it this year.

Loved your writing! No wonder you finaled! :)

Casey said...

Jeanne! I just saw a pic of you and Beth on Facebook, looks like you guys had a great time. :D Looking forward to what happens for you after learning so much and being able to apply it to your writing!

Keli Gwyn said...

Wishing you and all the Frazier entrants the best, Casey.

Congrats on all those great comments on last year's entry. Impressive!

Pepper said...

Wait a MINUTE!
You didn't post the Frasier dancing picture?!?

Maryyyyyyy! Casey didn't post the picture!

Btw, wonderful post, Case!
I'm tempted to enter the Frasier this year - but only if my life slows down enough to get my manuscript ready :-)

Casey said...

KELI, thanks so much! I'm excited to enter for a THIRD year in a row. :D

PEPPER,you probably won't believe this, but I don't think I have that picture on my computer anymore. (I think you can guess why).

Don't go tattling to Mother Mary!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I'm checking my picture file for that fun pic, Pepper.
Wait--I can't add it to this post...oh bother.
Any way, thanks to Casey, I have dabbled in the My Book Therapy related helps.
Thanks, Case :)

Unknown said...

Yay, love your post, Casey, and all the great things you had to say about the Frasier. I love MBT and the Frasier! Glad you're entering again! Thanks so much for being a part of the blog tour!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oooh, Casey, such a great voice in this story entry :) Thanks for breaking this down for us. It sounds like the feedback is really helpful. All the best with this year's entry!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Those are awesome comments! You do write really pretty!!!! :)

Casey said...

MARY, are you entering again this year???

MELISSA, right there with ya. :) I'm excited to enter another year, just got to wait for a bit of cash to magically land in my account. ;-))

CINDY, I've really grown from their contest and the both years I have entered.

SHERRINDA, you should enter too! :D