4 reasons why entering writing contests is a good thing

“It is better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.”~Elizabeth Kenny, Australian celebrity

Do you need outside validation to consider yourself a “real” writer?

I don’t. I know I am a good writer…but it sure feels good!

This year, I celebrate my 10th anniversary as a member of the National Federation of Press Women. I was introduced to NFPW when I moved to Delaware with my fiancé-now-husband. I was already a published writer, someone who had magazine and newspaper clips to fatten her portfolio, but I was seeking more opportunities. NFPW–which is not exclusively a women’s organization–offers its members the opportunity to enter the organization’s annual Communications Contest. The variety of categories is mind-blowing. The writing category includes news and specialty articles, headlines created, investigative reporting and editorials. There are divisions that focus on: photography; radio or television interviews; PR campaigns; speeches; educational advising; and books, blogs and screenplays.


What a surprise–my nonfiction book won 2 first place awards–so far…

How cool is that list? If you communicate, you can enter this contest.

Not all contests are the same. Most contests charge a fee to enter, which is often a deterrent. Is that a gimmick to snag gullible writers? Are free contests a waste of time because there is no entrance fee? Contests may have certain requirements that your work does not meet, and that can be discouraging. Some contests offer a monetary award, some offer a blog badge and some offer absolutely nothing. Who judges these contests? Can anything be trusted?

An artist to me is any writer producer photographer or designer of something creative. As an artist, you need to value your work. A contest is an easy way to explore that for yourself.

I have entered the NFPW contest every year since I joined. Why not? The entry fee is minimal, and I’m curious about how my work compares to others. Artists in the area you submit in–writers, photographers, media professionals, authors–are the objective judges in each category, which validate the results.


You’re reading an award-winning blog

This year, I entered my Michigan Scrapbooker articles, two blog posts and my two books published in 2014. All but one entry has moved from the statewide At-Large level to the National contest. This blog you are reading, it is an award-winning blog, two years in a row.
Electronic media has recently exploded in the contest, so if you “only” blog, you can enter. But why should you enter this or any contest?
1–Experience and exposure

By entering a contest, you discover what opportunities exist out in The Real World. You see categories and opportunities available to you. That’s valuable on so many levels. Maybe through that, you explore a new medium. Maybe you challenge yourself to enter a piece of art you didn’t think was valuable to others in the world. The more you do enter contests, the more you explore outlets and possibilities. Research new areas for your work, medium for writing, new groups to join.


State awards for my Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine articles

2–Critique and Feedback

In the NFPW contest, entries get short but critical feedback about what worked and what needs improvement. My hobby articles are cited as easy to read and informative, but could be longer. I can’t do much about that, as there is only so much space available in the magazine, but that encourages me to make my writing tighter. My books have been cited as being fun and creative but needing technical assistance with editing and/or formatting. Lessons learned.

I belong to a fabulous local writers group. These fellow writers, published and not, offer honest and brutal feedback. I love it! Seeing my work through objective eyes is the only way I can improve. If you don’t have such a group in your area, contest feedback is a useful tool in your creative art.


Awards from my entries in the statewide contest sponsored by Michigan Press Women


When others are exposed to your work, opportunities for connections abound. Writing is generally a solitary activity, even if you write in libraries or coffee shops. Contest may offer the opportunity to meet other like-minded artists. NFPW has an annual member convention; entrant or not, you can attend.

What a great way to socialize, hand out business cards–you do have some, right?– and share stories over a drink in the lounge. Last year, I attended my first convention, and I reunited with some of my old Delaware members. It was also a reminder that I have access to a network of people to help me achieve my goals. Remember that “needs an editior” comment above…?


Yep, bravery. You make a commitment to your work, trusting your art and setting it free. I’m a big believer in the empowerment of writing “The End” at the bottom of my document Sending it into a contest accomplishes that even if you don’t believe The End is the end. It is The End for now, and that’s strong. Don’t deny yourself any measure of success.

If you finish something once, what’s stopping you from creating and completing a second project, or a third or a fourth? Enter a contest and find out what that’s like.


…And we move onto Nationals


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wendyj59
    Jun 07, 2015 @ 14:26:26

    Passing through on the A-Z roadtrip. Good luck with the nationals.


  2. Suzanne Fluhr
    Jun 11, 2015 @ 01:20:29

    I’m over here from ZentangleLandia. Is there much overlap between Zentanglers and writers? I’d love to find some kindred spirits—-if you can get past the recovering lawyer thing ;-)


    • dwhirsch
      Jun 18, 2015 @ 16:46:48

      Actually, there is. A lot of Z artists share their work visually in books, and some write books to share techniques and their work.
      I have a good scrapbooking friend who’s a lawyer. I don’t judge. :)


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