Competing With Friends for Writers’ Awards

Earlier this month, I applied for an Emerging Writer’s Grant and a Loft Creative Prose Mentorship, knowing full well that I’m competing with my good friends for these honors. I really want to win. So do the women in my creative nonfiction writers group.

We’ve known each other for years. We’ve visited each other’s homes. We’ve cried together when one of our circle died. These women often know more know about the contents of my mind and heart than some of my family members do—they read my innermost thoughts firsthand when our group meets.

They are insightful critics and steadfast cheerleaders. Because we share personal essays and memoir, our subject matter is always personal. Sharing our stories requires trust, and we’ve strengthened that trust over the years. The other writers don’t judge me or my life. But they do evaluate my writing craft and urge me to do my best. We all understand that the writer is different from the writing.

Perhaps the ability to draw the distinction between the person and the craft is why we’re able to draw other distinctions and balance two seemingly conflicting ideas: we’re friends and we’re competing.

Although there have occasionally been moments of frustration or resentment among the group members, we have been able to rise above them. For me, these aspects of our group dynamic have helped keep our competition from turning into conflict—

  • All of us are accomplished writers who deserve to win a grant or a mentorship. But we know that winning these contests is a crapshoot. Once you’ve met a certain level of competence, the next round of judging is subjective—my memoir about wrestling with feminism in 1979 might not appeal to a judge as much as my friend’s essays about traveling in Cuba. Luck plays a role.
  • Over the years, we have fostered a “one for all, all for one” mentality. When illness sapped our founder’s energy, the group mounted a submissions campaign to help her get published. When members ask the group to review their grant proposals, we give them our best advice.
  • Some of us openly state that we’re going after an award; others are more circumspect—each according to her personality. Perhaps that tact and reticence is what enables us to avoid open conflict.

I don’t know for sure what the magic is. And I hope talking about it doesn’t wreck it. I’m proud to be a part of a group that has navigated these tricky waters successfully . . . so far.

I want an Emerging Writer’s Grant or a Loft Mentorship. If someone else in the group wins, I’ll be sorely disappointed for myself. But I’ll be happy for her.

7 thoughts on “Competing With Friends for Writers’ Awards

  1. Pingback: Secrets of a Successful Writers’ Group | WordSisters

  2. I understand what this post is about, having applied for several grants, awards, and residencies as a writer and learning that my female friends were also entering the same competitions. I love the “all for one, one for all” attitude you speak of and it’s uplifting to hear that your group is so tight and supportive. There have been times when I thought I should have gotten the prize, but when I read the winner’s entry I understood why I would have to wait my turn. If we work hard, good things eventually happen. Meanwhile we just have to keep getting better! Writers, unlike athletes and other competitive hopefuls, only get better.

  3. So well spoken, er, I mean written. I wish you the best of luck on the Mentor grant and to everyone in your writing group who’s applying. It will be a great reason for a party if anyone from your writing group wins the grant!

  4. Good Luck!! I love reading your blog.

    From: WordSisters <> Reply-To: WordSisters <> Date: Thursday, April 11, 2013 6:59 AM To: Nell Bury <> Subject: [New post] Competing With Friends for Writers Awards

    Ellen Shriner posted: “Earlier this month, I applied for an Emerging Writers Grant and a Loft Creative Prose Mentorship, knowing full well that Im competing with my good friends for these honors. I really want to win. So do the women in my creative nonfiction writers group. “

  5. Pingback: The 7 Secrets to Becoming a Successful Writer or Blogger! | rohan7things

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