Jennifer's Journal

 

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Judging

I’ve been reading contest entries this week, eight published books in final round judging.  Thinking about the process this morning, I was reminded of when I was a judge for the Miss USA pageant.  During orientation for this event, we were told by the coordinator to keep one thing in mind, namely, “None of these girls are dogs!”  The point was that each of the contestants had already been judged at the local and state levels so came with automatic high marks.  It would not be appropriate, then, to score any of them too low.  On a scale of one to ten, each of them was already in the high numbers.  The suggestion was that we score them, in fact, on a scale from five to ten.

 

So it is with the books that I’ve been judging.  They have already passed through the hands of agents, editors, readers and first-round contest judges.  None of them are “dogs.”  What I’ve been doing then is scoring them, really, between eight and ten, with minute decimal point differences.  What a task, when they are each excellent in their own way!  But it brought another point from the Miss USA contest to mind.  At a special dinner for the judges, I was seated next to a famous football quarterback who had been tapped for the gig.  To make conversation, I asked him what he would be looking for in a top contestant.  He said, quote, “I want a Tiger!”  To say that wasn’t my viewpoint would be a major understatement.  The perfect contestant, to me, was going to a classic beauty, poised, graceful, warm and articulate.  We were looking for totally different things.  And that was all right, because we were different people.

 

Every person, every reader, editor, critic or judge has a different viewpoint.  With the best will in the world to be objective, we can only make selections between things of similar merit based on our own ideas of what constitutes perfection.  It not exactly a new observation, but is something beginning writers, or maybe all writers, should engrave on a plaque and keep on their desks: Any judgment is always just one person's opinion.

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