Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Scoring Criteria for Writing Contests

When I was a judge for an annual writing contest, the scoring criteria was based on the Diederich Scale.  Six categories were described and points/ scores were to be given( high middle and low), based on your interpretation of  the writing  within the category descriptions. Not all criteria applied with some entries you were given, but you as a judge would determine which most applied to the entry you were judging, and score points accordingly. It was not an easy task, but after "judge training" and a few contests under my belt, I found the system had a hidden bonus. It sharpened your insight about your own writing. Because it was a boon to me, and I  assume many  writing contests may  use a similar system, I thought it might be helpful to new writers to view the categories and use them as a guideline for their own writing.







The first three category descriptions, Characterization, Plot, Conflict, and Dialogue  are fairly general  expectations to follow and score, but deciding which range, (high,middle and Low) most applies to an entry was difficult at times. If you as a writer did your homework about rules of manuscript given by most publishers, the last two categories, Mechanics and Presentation should not  result in a problematic scoring in that category.
Of all the categories, I seemed to have  the most difficulty with number 4. Style and Pacing, so I summarize below the guidelines for giving the high point rank for  that category. Hopefully, it may help new writers view what contests or publishers are looking for.
High award of points: 
Writer's Voice rings true without being overwhelming, The story moves at an appropriate pace to the story situation, Compulsion to turn the page stays with the reader; Author puts words together in an interesting or unusual  way, sentence length varies as necessary to tone and mood, Opening and ending hooks work well; may need polish, but the concepts are effective

This type of guideline for judging writing contests may have changed over the years, but I feel that the categories may always provide a tool to give one a good measure of their writing, regardless of genre. O f course, a good editor will help, but if you consider a future writing contest, do check out your entry with the above categories. and best of luck to everyone.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Interview with Author Pamela Thibodeaux by Jacqueline Seewald

Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a Lifetime Member of Bayou Writers Group. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!”™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”  Pam first interviewed with us when her Five Star/Gale novel THE VISIONARY was published in November 2011. We invited Pam to return and update us.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and hero of your Five Star  novel?
Answer:  Actually Jacqueline, there are two h/h in this novel. Twins Trevor & Taylor Forrestier (pronounced Foresjay) are the main characters along with their sweethearts Pam LeBlanc and Alex Broussard.

Question: What is the genre of your novel?  Why did you select it?

Answer: The Visionary was my debut inspirational women’s fiction novel and the inspirational genre chose me when I recommitted my life and committed my writing to Christ. Before that fateful day in 1989, I wrote straight-out romance.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: When I initially wrote this story, I thought it would be a light, sweet romance. But one day, a friend read the first few chapters and remarked that I should be careful of the ‘closeness’ of the twins. Well, twins are normally close, but further discussion with her and other beta reader, revealed a closeness not considered ‘normal’ but extreme. Well as a writer, that put me on a quest to find out what had happened to or between the twins to make them cling so tightly to one another and not let other people into their world. What came out of those questions both humbled and scared the daylights out of me as I’d heard about such abuse toward children but never experienced such treatment, much less explored the true depth and meaning of the healing available through the awesome power of God’s love to the most wounded of souls.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other newer published novels?

Answer:  Currently I have five other novels (4-part Tempered series & The Inheritance) along with six short stories, and a how-to book for authors, published and available for readers to enjoy. Blurbs and reviews of all can be found at my website:

My latest release, Love is a Rose, is a devotional which parallels the love of God and the Christian life to the words of the song, The Rose, written by Amanda McBroom and sung by Conway Twitty & Bette Midler. Love is a Rose is available for Kindle and in print @ Amazon, and electronically at B&N, Deeper Shopping & Smashwords

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I’ve always been an avid reader but didn’t consider writing until, in my early twenties and pregnant I read one-too-many insipid, boring and disappointing romances. Thinking I could do better turned out to be not only the catalyst to my writing career, but a mite arrogant as writing and writing well are at two totally different ends of the spectrum.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?
Answer: Don’t give up and don’t quit. Writing is a gift – a talent given to you from God. Don’t hide your gift or bury your talent. If the novel isn’t moving, try writing something different – a short story, article, poem or essay. Take a break if you have to or even a hiatus but don’t quit.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: The Visionary is available through Deeper Shopping, Amazon & Barnes & Noble in hardcover. The Ebook is available for Kindle, Nook and other E-readers @ Smashwords. Website address:  

Pam, thanks for being our guest today at Author Expressions. Wishing you continued success in the future.

Pam is available for both questions and comments, so join us!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Clubs Rock!

My first REAL introduction to "book clubs" was as an author. I have had the privilege of speaking to several book clubs, of answering questions, and finding out what readers thought of my book, Feisty Family Values.  I'm not a big joiner, but I must say those folks seemed to have a great deal of fun. And each time I've been tempted to ask if I can join their club.

Last year I joined a book club. We meet once a month and I've only really enjoyed reading a couple of books on their list so far. They seem to gravitate toward the dark stories. Deep. Sad. Traumatic. When someone suggested something fun for Halloween, a witch bounty hunter, I was ALL in. And it was great fun to read. But the other books, not so much. The gals are great. We have a lovely visit and talk about the stories and characters, family and spouses - which I do enjoy. But...

A week ago I visited one of our local independent book stores (Watermark Books) for their annual book club event. Not only did we get free books, we got delicious cookies and a discussion with a global pub house editor. Great stuff. Watermark has a Chick Lit book club that was reading The Language of Flowers, which just happened to be on my "to be read" list (actually on my bookshelf waiting, in fact). I read it and LOVED it, but the night of their meeting landed the day after a huge snow storm and I decided to stay out of the muck. So disappointing.

I was at Watermark this past Saturday to cheer on Lois Ruby, a YA author buddy of mine, who has a new book out Rebel Spirits. Having arrived an hour early I grabbed a delicious lunch and chatted with Ann, who is the Chick Lit book club leader. We both loved The Language of Flowers. She asked me if I thought the main characters (who are terribly flawed, but endearing) would stay together. "We always like to speculate on that," she said. Laughing, my response was yes, they spoke the same language - the language of flowers.

What I love about book clubs is the shared experience of the book we all read. When we share our reactions and thoughts, the story opens up, becoming even bigger and better. We each find something that resonates (or not) with us and our experience, and it's nice to be able to share that with others who may have felt the same way. Often we disagree, but it's wonderful to hear the "why."As an author I am really into the "why." The emotions and stories that one small word generates can inspire is amazing.

Do you belong to a book club? What was your latest book club read? What books do you recommend? 

I have such a backlog of lovely books on my shelves that Ann suggested I begin my own book club and read through it. What a great idea? Who wants to join?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Great Love Stories in History and Literature by Jacqueline Seewald

I confess. Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. I suppose it’s because I’m a romantic at heart. Last year I blogged about how my older son and his wife were married on Valentine’s Day. It was a joyful wedding, loving and romantic. No big fancy affair, just the bride and groom, my husband and myself, the bride’s best friend, and a judge happy to officiate, followed by a wedding breakfast at a local hotel. Afterwards the bride and groom took a long drive so that my son could represent in court a couple accused of white collar crime.

Love stories have always been an important part of history and literature. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. Cleopatra and Julius Caesar--Cleopatra got around. As Shakespeare said, “she was a woman of infinite variety.” Then there is the story of Napoleon and Josephine, another passionate love affair. In the Bible, we also find some of the world’s greatest and unforgettable love stories. What can be more romantic than the story of Ruth or Solomon and the Queen of Sheba? And there is the story of Esther which is celebrated on Purim.

A lot of the world’s most famous, classical love stories, of course, did not end happily: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Helen of Troy and Paris, Lancelot and Guinevere are tragedies. 

Thomas Hardy wrote a number of tragic love stories as did the Bronte sisters. For something lighter, I prefer Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy are memorable. I’ve read and reread that novel numerous times.

Love quite literally makes the world go round. Give yourself a Valentine’s gift today and choose to read a romance. Candy will make you fat. Flowers wilt and die. But a great romance can be read and reread offering continuing enjoyment.

 If you’re of a mind to read some romantic historical fiction, I suggest a look at my contest-winning novel THE CHEVALIER, available in all e-book formats from:

If you enjoy romantic short stories, consider my collection BEYOND THE BO TREE:

All my romances have happy endings. I won’t consider writing any other kind.

Can you think of any romances you would recommend to readers? What sort of romances do you particularly enjoy reading?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Keeping up with changes

Language is changing, but this is nothing new for writers. We know this, and for us the struggle is which side to stand on when the issue is any one particular word. For instance, I have a few pet peeves when it comes to writing, and I know I’m not alone, but am I right to want certain words used in certain ways? Or am I merely recording my resistance to a change in progress?

When writers get going on what bugs them, the list of pet peeves ends up longer than the telephone book. (Remember those? No? They were long.) Anyone who follows the discussion on word usage, either by lurking or sharing, is sure to find one of his or her own quirks on the list.

I know one of my writing habits annoys other writers. I have taken to using then as a conjunction. For example, “Anita directed the driver to pull up at the next stop sign, then gave him a new set of directions.” In this sentence I omitted the conjunction and and let then serve as the conjunction. This is an error according to some other writers. My Webster’s (2d College edition) does allow one usage of then with conjunctive force, but the manner in which I use it may go farther than that allowed. But the use of then as a conjunction is clearly the sign of a word in transition. Nevertheless, I was pondering correcting this error in my own writing and enjoying The Ballad of the Sad CafĂ© by Carson McCullers when I came across not one, not two, but three sentences in which then was used in the sense of the conjunction and. What’s a writer to do?

Of course, I have a few pet peeves of my own. I cannot hear the word humble without thinking of Uriah Heep, who was anything but. Furthermore, when I hear or read it today, I think the writer must mean modest, moderate in one’s behavior or opinion of oneself, not boastful, rather than humble, not proud, aware of one’s defects, and even a lack of self-respect.

Another word pairing that comes to mind regularly is enormous and enormity. The first, enormous, suggests great size. The second, enormity, suggests great wickedness or outrageousness. Only recently has the dictionary come to recognize that enormity can be loosely used for great size.

Back in the dark ages, in the late 1970s, I carefully read the instructions for preparing a dissertation to be submitted to the graduate school office, not my professors or a panel of academics, but the secretary of the department. One requirement concerned the word none. The word none was to be treated as singular throughout. “None was available” was required, not preferred, usage. Students were warned that no exceptions would be made on the issue of this word. Apparently, the office grammarian could overrule the dissertation committee on a technicality.

Less troublesome but still startling for me is the overuse of the word hero when the word winner would be more appropriate. Indeed, I see the word hero applied to instances of simple good behavior when the person might simply be called decent.

Last, I offer up the fading use of disinterested to mean without bias or interest for personal gain; objective and fair minded. It is not synonymous with indifferent, which can mean neutral but generally means lack of interest. These two words are like ships passing in the night.

The words I have examined here are words in transition. Their meanings are changing, and purists pounce on examples of the new usage as though by correcting one writer we can stem the tide of change. We can’t. We can no more make ain’t acceptable usage for the first person contraction “I am not” than we can change other points of grammar and word usage. Our lectures to our fellow writers are really records of our response to the change happening around us. And sometimes (note the use of a conjunction to begin a sentence, another no-no in the 1970s), we’ll be on the wrong side of the change, and sometimes on the right side. And I personally never know which side I’m on.