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I've had better experiences with the STC competitions, it seems.
I submitted three entries to the recent Phoenix STC
competition. Out of the 9 comment sheets (3 judges per entry),
only one was what I would consider to be an unacceptable
reply. That one, a manual design submitted to the art
competition, had the words "wrong category?" scratched out,
with "OK" for layout, "OK" for quality, "So so" for design, and
no other comments. This judge seemed to feel I was wasting
The comments from the other judges varied in length, but were
all relevant and useful. I entered a local competition several
years ago and received useful comments then as well. I find the
competitions to be an excellent way of getting professional
For chapters that are having problems getting good comments,
maybe some of the following ideas would help. Please note that
I have never helped run or judge a competition, so these
comments are coming from the peanut gallery.
* Have a "quality monitor" person who keeps an eye on the
comment sheets as they come in. If a judge repeatedly
submits unacceptable comment sheets, talk with them
about what is expected from them or replace them if
* Set up a schedule in which comments on different
entries are due back in at different times. "Here's
your entries to judge. Your comments on the first
entry are due in N weeks, the second in 2N weeks, ..."
This might help if the poor comments are due to
procrastination on the part of some judges.
* Perhaps some of the judges need a more structured
framework in which to judge entries. That is, instead
of handing them an entry and saying "Critique this" (if
that's what's happening), have handouts explaining what
to look for, sample critiques, or even a short workshop
on how to critique.
* Make judging more appealing. Build it up into a
prestigious activity. Recognize the best judges as
well as the best entries. Have people apply to become
a judge by submitting a sample critique.