To contest or to critique?
After months of making critical choices — type, colors, designs, theme elements, coverage — do you want to put your work out there for the world to judge? Or worse yet, do you ask someone to pick apart every point and pica of your newly-minted masterpiece? Well, besides the students who are the ultimate judges of your book.
The decision to enter contests and request critiques can be a weighty one. Consider both.
Enter the contest:
Gaining recognition for your work from an outside source, can do amazing things for your program, whether it’s your state student publications organization or one of the national heavy-hitters, Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) or National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA).
First, and most importantly, it builds pride in the program. It’s a great way to have the community give the staffers a pat on the back for all their work. Principals and parents all love sports trophies. Why not give them an academic trophy to put in the case?
Also, winning a contest and collecting your award opens up so many opportunities for staffers. The process of getting a group of students from point A to point B is a bonding experience. Travel, even if it’s in-state, gives them a chance to see new places and things, meet new people and gain independence.
You may just win. One thing’s for sure, you won’t win if you don’t enter.
Where to start?
Study the winning books, which are often shared on the websites of the organizations. Size up your competition, and see how far you have to go. Look at your last four books, and find habits that may be holding you back.
Organizations offer different types of contests. There are whole-book contests, like Crowns and Pacemakers, but both CSPA and NSPA also offer contests for page spreads, stories, photos and other smaller feats of genius. Turn this into a lesson plan: Have students comb through their own work, especially graduating seniors, choosing a few things they might enter. Then assign them to write a self-critique and present it to the class.