Thursday, October 25, 2018

Announcing the 2019 Strelitzia Awards

One of the most rewarding aspects of running ROSA is seeing how we learn and grow. Every year we improve upon the last. We learn from our mistakes, we make changes, we push the envelope, and I’m sure those of you who have been here since the beginning will agree that ROSA today is a much better organization than the ROSA of five years ago.
This is why we always welcome feedback – we use it to improve not just the organization but the individuals within it.

Which is my long way of saying: following feedback from entrants, mentors and judges, we are once again making some changes to the Strelitzia Contest for unpublished authors.

What is new in the 2019 contest?

• The deadline for entries is much earlier this year, in order to provide more time for both the mentorship phase and the second round.

• Entrants will need to submit a synopsis and writing sample when entering. This will assist us in allocating appropriate mentors to entrants, and also encourages entrants to start working on their novels before they start working with a mentor.

• Finally, entrance will not be guaranteed in 2019. Sending in an entry form will not guarantee a place in the contest. Once all entries are received, only the ten strongest candidates will be accepted to proceed to the mentorship phase. This might seem cruel, and not in the ROSA spirit of developing beginner writers, but we need to bear in mind that this isn’t solely a mentorship program but also a contest, and as such it is only fair that writers who actually have a shot at winning the award be entered. Part of ROSA’s mission statement is to promote excellence in romance writing, and in order to promote excellence we need to set the bar high.

This last change might upset some prospective entrants, but please bear with me…

I’m not unhappy with my body shape, but if you meet me you’ll know in an instant that I don’t like exercise. I especially dislike running, so the chances of me getting up early to go for a quick 5km run before starting my day are even slimmer than my chances of winning the lottery (at least I buy lottery tickets!)

But I’ve just signed up to run the Comrades Marathon next year. That’s seven months away, so even though I’ve never even so much as run around the block, if I force myself out of bed one morning a week and go for a run, I have a real shot at a gold medal. You know why? Because I hired myself a trainer, and it’s the trainer’s job to get me there.

You’re laughing at me, aren’t you? You think I’m crazy. You’re shaking your head and thinking “Romy needs a serious reality check.”

That’s what these new contest requirements are: a reality check.

No one seriously believes that an unfit novice with no motivation is going to win the Comrades marathon just 7 months after taking up running. No one seriously believes that a beginner violinist will be able to play in a professional orchestra a few months after picking up a bow for the first time. No one believes that a running coach or violin teacher can work miracles.

Yet there are beginner writers who do expect these things. (Not too many, thank heavens, but a few!)

Just as it isn’t a running coach’s job to get me to gold medal status with virtually no effort on my part, it’s also not the Strelitzia mentor’s job to get a beginner writer to award-winning status in a matter of months with virtually no effort on the writer's part. If you want to win, you need to be prepared to do the work. You need to show the Strelitzia organizers and mentors you are serious about doing the work.

The one thing our 2018 Strelitzia finalists have in common is that they were disciplined enough to complete a full manuscript before the deadline. They took the advice of their mentors, they edited to the best of their ability given the very tight time constraints, and they had realistic expectations. They did the work.

And that right there is why we are introducing the new entry requirements - to ensure that more writers with this kind of dedication and motivation get a chance to enter.

For every entrant who hasn’t yet started to learn or practice the craft, who is not prepared to dedicate time to their writing, who believes that their writing is already award winning and that the mentor is wrong to suggest it’s not, or who spends the entire mentorship phase writing a first draft and then doesn’t have time to get the mentor’s feedback, it means that another writer who is serious about the craft and who is prepared to do the work, loses out on the chance to enter and receive the benefits of mentorship.

This contest also relies on attracting and retaining good quality mentors, and we can only achieve this if mentors feel that their efforts are valued, and that they are making a difference.

And so in the next Strelitzia contest we ask that entrants both manage their expectations and commit to doing the work. By entering a synopsis and writing sample you will show the organizers and mentors that you are not expecting your mentor to wave a magic wand and provide you with an award-winning entry even though you don’t have the time or dedication to write the book, learn the craft, or polish your work to be the best it possibly can be.

Every single one of our mentors is a published author because they had the dedication, made the time, and did the work. They will expect nothing less from their mentees.

If this blog post hasn't put you off entering, and you are determined to do the work, win the award, and take home the crystal trophy, then check out the entry guidelines and download an entry form from the ROSA website here.

PS: in the interests of full disclosure, I haven’t really signed up to run the Comrades next year. And no, I don’t plan on taking up professional running any time soon. (I’m going to use that time to write my next book instead.)