The beginning part of last week was consumed with a project that comes up each year; the annual North Dakota Professional Communicators communications contest. And I hesitated greatly over whether I’d submit anything to this year’s contest.
As a freelancer, communications contests can be especially important, because it’s possibly the only chance we have to hear from our peers how we’re doing. Since I don’t work directly in the newsroom, I no longer hear the buzz over my articles, for better or worse, so it can be hard to know how, not just readers, but peers might be receiving my work.
But another benefit happens with contest submission. Because they require a glance back through the previous year’s work, it means sorting through all the stories that have been pored over in the course of that year — ideas ruminated about, interviews secured, photo requests made, stories run, and then the rolling up of sleeves and doing it all again the next week.
I have to admit, though, it’s a lot of work to do so, and most freelancers also bear the brunt of submission fees. I always try to store away a small fund for this purpose; I consider it a professional obligation of sorts. But each year I wonder, is it worth it, in time and money?
After hemming and hawing, I decided to go for it this year, in part because I realize that I won’t always be so prolific. But writing at least one story a week the whole year makes for a nice collection. And oftentimes, we forget just all the work we’ve done until we take a glance back at the pile and remember.
Midway through, I regretted it. A glitch in the system of this year’s contest entry form, now fully online, meant for some late nights, and a fair amount of stress. By the time I realized I maybe shouldn’t have entered this year, it was too late; I’d already invested hours in looking back, sorting through, categorizing, and preparing to submit. Really, there was no turning back, at least not in a way that made sense to me.
Finally, many hours after I thought I’d be done, I finally clicked “submit,” and another year of contest sorting was over.
This weekend, while tidying up a pile on my dresser, I found my winning entries from the past year. There’s two parts to this; first, the state competition. All the first places from that then go on to the national competition. This year, I came away with five national awards.
Soon after the envelope arrived, life took over and these awards were quickly forgotten about. In finding them again, so soon after my submissions fiasco, I decided it would be worth it to share here which of my entries fared well, and post them for anyone who may want to take a peek (okay, truth be told I realize I’m mainly doing this for my mother, who, lovingly, reads every word I write):
1st place: Special Articles/Religion: “The Calling” and “Prayer Warriors: Monastery well-known as spiritual sanctuary”
2nd place: Feature story (print-based newspaper): “Walking the Camino”
2nd place: Personality profile (more than 500 words): “Foundation of Faith: Ordination brings young man’s faith journey full circle”
2nd place: Non-fiction book for adult readers (biography or autobiography): “Redeemed by Grace,” Ignatius Press
I have to be honest, looking through them, the greatest satisfaction comes in knowing that someone, somewhere, had the chance to read through my stories; articles I’d worked long and hard to refine and share with our community. Knowing that in a quiet moment, a judge somewhere in a state far away was pulled into my world for a short time and found it worthy of praise does make me feel grateful.
So, despite the sweat and maybe even a few tears came this year as I tried to pull off the feat of collecting and submitting my pieces for contest this year, I can now say that, for now, yes, it’s worth it. And though I expect nothing, I look forward to seeing what this year’s contest brings, for no other reason, than for the satisfaction of knowing my work has made a small mark in the world.
Q4U: What glance-back in your life this year brought a renewed sense of gratitude?