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What it means to be an RPLA finalist…

September 16, 2013

I got an email recently from RPLA Chair Jim Thompson that had a subject line of Dear RPLA Finalist. It was an email I worked very hard to receive–as did a great many other people.

To help pull the veil back and maybe create a little incentive for you to receive a similar email next year, I thought I’d share the secret contents of this email…

What does it mean to be an RPLA finalist?
When your entry scores a combined minimum score by two judges, it is sent on to a third and final judge. The third judge’s score is doubled and added to the previous score and the total becomes the entry’s final score.

My addition: It means a lot. It means your work has been reviewed by literary professionals and they’ve decided that it’s quality is such that you qualify…the score your work received exceeded the minimum.

Who sets the minimum score?
The RPLA committee sets the score before the competition is open for submissions. The RPLA committee is comprised of two former and the present RPLA Chairpersons.

My addition: The minimum score is not a low standard. To be an RPLA finalist, your work must have a high degree of quality, as defined by our judges. Once again, it means your work has been judged as a quality effort.

Does being a finalist mean winning an award?
This year to be a Finalist the entry had to meet the minimum score to win an award. This means that if there is a Finalist in the category an award will be issued in that category. Unfortunately, only the top three scores in each category will win an award, but if you received a Finalist Notification you do have a chance of winning an award.

My addition: I really want to win an award this year. I worked hard to win it. But if I don’t win, I’ve still created work that’s outstanding. And because only finalists are eligible to win, you sort of won already by being a finalist. Maybe not winning means you need to work a little harder. Maybe it means someone had an entry that’s unbelievably strong. Right now, I can’t write a better short story than the one I submitted. That’s my award. If someone beats me, then they’ve earned it.

When will I know if my entry won an award?
Awards will be announced at the Florida Writers Association banquet on Saturday night October 19th. Please be sure to attend the banquet or email me if you are going to have someone pick up an award, should you win. Finalists Certificates will be handed out on Sunday morning after the banquet, check your conference program for the time and location.

My addition: Not everyone gets to take the walk to the stage. But if you do, it’s a special moment you won’t forget. If you don’t, keep in mind that could be you next year. Use it to motivate you, not discourage you.

Who are the judges?
While their names will remain confidential, these hard-working volunteers are comprised of current or retired teachers, librarians, professional editors, college professors, published authors, former RPLA winners, journalists, and presidents of writing and reading groups. A good percentage have advanced degrees. Most are Floridians, but others hail from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, and New York.

My addition: The judges are volunteers. They take their time to support this contest so your excellence can be recognized.

When will I receive the rubrics for my entry?
They will be emailed to you in PDF format within a few weeks after the conference.

My overall addition: This year’s RPLA is closed. Next year’s will open in the spring. But it’s never too early to start planning to be a finalist next year. How will you do it?

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