I'm delighted to introduce Donna Caubarreaux to my blog readers. I met Donna through the contest loop she started. In addition to hosting many writing loops, Donna started the Divas With Tiaras. If you don't know what that is....stay tuned. If you've finaled or won writing contests in the past few years...YOU might even be one of Donna's Divas...and didn't realize it. Thank you for joining me for an interview with Donna.
Cheryl: Let's talk about the Contest Alert Group.
(ie: When did it start? How did that come about? ie: Was it your idea? What gave you the idea for it? How did you execute it? Were you surprised or dissappointed at the initial response? Has it increased? etc, etc)
Donna: Contest Alert started at the end of May 2002. I'm one of those people who seem to misplace things, and I really wanted to know what contests were available. Then, I figured that others were organizationally-challenged as well as moi; and the loop was formed. I was suprised at the response and with comments made to me from members, organized an 'Contest Alert Published' and 'Contest Deadline' which is an announcement only list. Presently there are 705 members on Contest Alert...all of whom stated that they would buy my first book...and I'm holding them to it!
Cheryl: How important do you feel contests are to an aspiring writer?
Donna: With the addition of final round judges being editors/agents; it opens doors that might have been closed. It also gives the entrant of having fresh eyes look at her work and give her their opinion, which the entrant must remember is subjective.
Cheryl: Has it helped your own writing career? If so, how so?
Donna: Well, I haven't sold yet. But, I've brought a heroine who no one like to someone they can finally root for. I've gotten two requests, but only if I changed the book to meet the genre guidelines. If anything, I think the most important thing I learned is that I'm not going to please everyone, but if I do the best work that I can, I will please some readers.
Usually every year, I go through a day or two of thinking of quitting, then get over it. One year, I was on my third day. When I received a call from Linda Hill, that I finaled in 'The Gotcha' contest. I broke down and cried on the phone, Linda was so sweet. So, it's a validation that you aren't wasting your time, that people who are complete strangers thought your writing was the best they had read. I believe in contests.
Cheryl: Is the contest loop exactly as you envisioned it? Is there anything you wish was different?
Donna: I wish I was better organized...LOL...but I have this massive spreadsheet that I use to keep track of contests. I wish that more coordinators would notify me of their contests. I have to literally search for the majority of them.
Cheryl: How can folks become a part of the Contest Alert Group?
Donna: Super easy-send a blank email to ContestAlertemail@example.com Now, there is chatter on this loop, and if you have any contest questions, there are always members who will help you out. If you only want notification of contests without the chatter, there is ContestDeadlinesfirstname.lastname@example.org
If you're published, ContestAlertPublishedemail@example.com they are a quiet bunch.
Cheryl: Is there anything Loop Members can do to make your job easier?
Donna: My job is easy. They are a friendly bunch, very supportive whenever anyone finals or wins a contest. We have both women, and our designated male finalist on board. It's really a great group of people...and they all are going to buy my first book.
Cheryl: Are there any other contest loops you host?
Donna: Oops, I answered that in the first question.
Cheryl: How do you think contest-ers can get the most out of Contest Alert?
Donna: By paying attention to what loop members are saying. We have several American Title finalists on board, questions were flying then about the process, which was very informative.
Cheryl: Let's talk about Contest DIVAS. What gave you the idea for this? How did you execute your idea? What kind of response have you received? How does the tiara thing work? How long have you been doing this?
Donna: Ah, my Divas...several years ago, my d-i-l had a Maltese...a beautiful dog. And the dog had a tiara. I wanted one so bad, so I asked for one for my birthday. (I learned that you can't hint...just ask.) I thought she understood that I wanted one the same size that the dog wore, I thought it would be funny to clip the thing to my head. (Don't shake your head...I live for stuff like this.) Anyway, my two daughters and her got together and bought me a really nice one. I really felt special wearing it. Sometimes I wear it while writing, cause with my social life it would never get out of the house.
In 2003 I started to keep a database of contest finalists. The contest deadline had to have occurred in that year. I was 'hot' that year and was mainly keeping track for myself; then thought that others might enjoy it as well, and started the 'Top Divas.' Who had the most contest finals/wins; who placed with the most titles; and who received a first, second, third or more with one manuscript.
That led me to think, what would the leader of the category like...well, a Tiara. So for the last two years I've awarded a tiara to the top three winners. It was difficult during the Dallas conference with all the Mary Kay ladies; one was extremely eager to purchase Jessica Trapp's tiara, and didn't want to hear the word 'no.'
The leaders are still up at the 'official' website...2005 winners won't be determined until July, and the leader board is updated often. It's fun...doesn't cost anything...and I'm hoping everyone listed there will buy my first book.