The pinwheel was my big prize if I was good at the grocery store.

The “big prize” this week?

Getting into the right frame of mind to read judge’s commentaries on my contest entry for the 2012 Pikes Peak Writers Conference Contest, and being rewarded.

The email from the contest has been sitting in my inbox for a month. I knew I hadn’t won (I hadn’t expected to), but I’d paid for a full critique. But I just couldn’t make myself open it up. It’s the mentality that as long as something’s “inside the box”, it can’t be bad, right? The entry was the first 4000 words of my novel and a synopsis.

I have to be in a certain frame of mind to accept criticism, even when the words are kindly and helpful. I need to care, but I can’t be on the edge of tears or too excited or angry. 

So a few days ago, I opened the electronic files.

Oh, relief.


I am pretty good at writing.

My area of strongest suck-itude was the synopsis, which I already suspected. Trying to sum up an entire book with the most important twists and revelations within a few pages is a skill under development.

What I most cared about was the manuscript commentary. I was so fortunate to have judges that took time to write a sentence about thoughts for improvement, rather than just dashing down a number score without explanation. The longer critique is so helpful I wish I knew who the judge was so I could send flowers.

With both scores (synopsis & manuscript) I earned about a C on a grading scale. Without the synopsis, it’s more of a B-B+ level. And I managed somehow to exceed the maximum word count which was an automatic 2 point deduction.

So, yeah, I drew myself a stringy pinwheel with all the colors. I’ll pull on my soft socks, head to the slippery kitchen floor, and do a little Zombie-Flailing dance celebration, and then I’ll get back to work.

At least I feel like it’s going to be worth the effort.


—Elizabeth Ellen Everson