Things I Discovered While Sponsoring a Writing Contest

At Over 50, Still Kickin’, we just finished sponsoring our first-ever Baby Boomer humor writing contest.  I had noticed that there were a lot of literary and poetry contests available, but not much in the humor line.  So I thought it would be fun to provide an opportunity for the funny folks to show off what they can do.

I enjoyed the project immensely, but it was an eye-opener.  We tried to keep the directions uncomplicated, with as few rules as possible.  Still, we had a number of disqualifications on basic points, like word count.  The rules stated it must be clean humor — clean enough that I wouldn’t be ashamed to read it to my small grandchildren.  Wouldn’t you know, we got some entries with four-letter words and sexual themes.  Tsk!

The guidelines also indicated that entries would be heavily graded on writing mechanics — and then explained in detail what that meant.  Alas, writing mechanics were a grave problem in the majority of entries, which just about drove my perfectionist brain bonkers!  I may be naive, but I always thought good writing went beyond an excellent story angle to constructing a grammatically-correct sentence, tense consistency, conciseness, and knowing how to use direct quotation marks.  I’m not trying to be mean, just honest.  If any of our contest entrants are reading this, know that my intent is not to criticize, but to put out a cry for improvement in the writing world.  Reading Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and The Writer’s Harbrace Handbook will fix a lot of problems.

A few entries were not humorous by any stretch of the imagination.  Literary journal material, yes.  Humor, no.  A couple were lovely, heart-warming anecdotes.  I fell so hard for one of them (probably because the writing mechanics were perfect ) that the other judges had to remind me that, well-written or not, it was not humorous, no matter which way we turned or stretched it.

There was one that was laugh-yourself-into-cardiac-arrest material, but the writing mechanics were not only poor, but not even there.  Such wonderful raw material!  I would love to be that lady’s copy editor!

Perhaps I should take up copy editing.  It would be tempting, if I had the time.  Maybe I’ll make time.  Just ask me; I might nibble at the bait.

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