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“Keep your eyes peeled, this is just the beginning.”  So said Jacob Hoggard the day after his Canadian Idol elimination.

Contests are the most wonderful, awesome, miraculous creation… when we win. When we don’t, they are rigged, biased, unfair. Or are they?

Me & fellow Maggie Finalist Gloria Richard, Moonlight & Magnolias, Atlanta, 2011

I am Writer, and so, I have entered my share of writing contests. Sweet when I place, bitter when I tank. And boy, have I tanked. But I’ve also taken top prize.

Proof that you can’t have everything.

Though mechanics are an element of scoring, judgements are, for the most part, opinion-based. But there are times when a judge is just plain wrong. Bad news for a contestant.

Or is it?

Not all judges are created equal, yet it is in those differences that contests can give entrants a realistic vision of how their work will be viewed. This is good, because not all readers are created equal, either. And so, I have tanked, but I have also soared. Inconsistent? Yes. But I prefer those ranges to being mediocre.

Some agents don’t get me and I’m okay with that.

Some judges get me but don’t know that they get me:

What’s up with all the cloak and dagger? (Homecoming is paranormal s-u-s-p-e-n-s-e, hence entry in that category.)

The main character’s best friend doesn’t talk to her the way a best friend should. (Best friend is not a good influence and stepping away from that relationship is part of the main character’s arc.)

Some readers get me. Period. Those who get me tend to love my writing. I’m good with that, too. Ka-snort.

I’m not the only one who has received judgements that set finger to head in an eternal scratch. A French-Canadian-born writer I know and love, a writer who grew up speaking French and learned English as an adult, was told that the snippets of French in her Revolution-set historical romance sounded trite. Her entry was a finalist in a contest against stiff competition. The final judge, a well-respected agent whose word should be taken as gold, advised the writer not to use French since she was clearly not familiar with the language.

The judge’s verdict: The French-Canadian author’s translations were taken straight out of a google search.

If that agent/judge only knew.

Don’t get me wrong. Many judges, even the ones who don’t get me, respond with good, even brilliant feedback, designed to develop my skill and make my manuscript better. For that, I am thankful.

Misinterpretation is one thing, personal taste another. But when a contest judge is wrong, ‘corrects’ words that were not mis-spelled then deducts points, for example, the righteous gene in me jumps up and shouts, ‘Foul!’ and demands a re-judge. But the reading audience does not work that way, so why should the contest circuit?

Here’s the thing about contests: One winner. One victory dance.

Check out the new releases in your local book store. More than one book on the shelf.

You don’t have to place in the top spot, or even final, to achieve publication. Heck, you don’t even have to write a good book to get published, but that is fodder for another post, a post I don’t have the wherewithal to write.

We would like all judges to be created equal. We would like our scores and feedback to be consistent and reliable. But here’s the thing:

Judges, like readers, are human. 

And that is why contests, with their inconsistencies, misinterpretations, and biases based on personal taste, are, in fact, a brilliant representation of the reactions we may hope to garner from agents, editors, and the reading public.

So there you have it. I’ve placed, I’ve earned top honour, and I’ve tanked, but I’ve also received validation: I belong in this industry. I know how to write, and I write rather well.

Carry a tune?

Not so much. In fact, when the children were young, Momma Bear’s singing, or rather, the threat of a ditty delivered by Momma Bear, was enough to correct any and all unwanted behaviour. The threat of a verse was enough to make teenage boys unroll sweaty socks and put them in the hamper, chorus enough to make bickering sisters compromise.

I consider my singing (dis)ability a gift.

Others are gifted with the ability to tickle a tune up and down the scale and across the universe. Talented as they are, they fail in a contest.

Jacob Hoggard, singer, songwriter, front man of the rock band Hedley, is mega-talented. A stand-out in the second season of Canadian Idol, Jacob walked away third.

Not to take anything away from taker of the top prize, Kalan Porter, or second prize, Thersa Sokyrka, but it is Hedley Canadian drivers hear on their car radios, Hedley who have achieved international fame, Hedley who consistently top the charts.

Hedley, and that fellow in third place, Jacob Hoggard.

Hedley is Canada’s answer to Daughtry, and front man Chris Daughtry, who placed fourth in American Idol’s fifth season.

Take a peak at Jacob’s Canadian Idol audition:

Judges say yes, judges say no, viewers cast votes, only one contestant wins. Jacob may not have won a national singing contest, but he clearly stood out in 2004, and as front man, he stands out in front of an amazing group of musicians, his bandmates, Hedley. Together, unique, authentic, awesome Hedley has enjoyed number one hits and recently released their fourth album, Storms.

Time to get jiggy with Kiss You Inside Out, Hedley’s latest single. Note to readers: I love this song! And don’t get me started on the Psychological Sizzle of afterlife in the video.

Second note to readers: Fans get Hedley. 

Who do you get?

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