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How The Stories Are Judged
There are four judges in all.

I am the first judge and try to cut the  entries down to ten or fewer in each  category.  This is the first cut.

Since I have already read most of  the stories this isn't too time 
consuming.  My work as a book  editor in the past was good training.

Photo of Sherry, Richard, and Rockin' Croc on New Year, 2000.  (c) 2001 Richard Loller.
Sherry, Richard, and Rockin' Croc whoop up the new century.

Then my wife, Sherry, who was a  copy editor for a Nashville  publisher for many years, reads  these stories.  Then we compare  notes and reduce the number in  each category to six or seven. 

Finally, we send these finalists to our two outside judges.

All four of us independently rate the stories and give points to each one.  If there are 5 finalists in a category , then the one judged best will get 5 points.  The next best will get 4 points and so on.  When all judges are finished we will have four lists for the stories in that category--one from each judge.

When I have all the lists in hand I make a count and the story with the most points is the winner, the next the runner-up, and the rest get honorable mention.  

We then make the announcement--first to winners and finalists and then to all participants, the press, etc.

As for how long this will take--consider these factors:

I can't start the judging until I have posted all the stories.  Many stories come in just before the deadline of August 31.  After they are all posted I'll have to read them again and make the first cut.

The second cut can't be made until my wife has read the stories and we agree on which ones will go to the outside judges.

After that, we have to wait until the outside judges have read (or re-read) the stories and have made their final ratings.

That's how it's done and why it will take at least two months.

So be patient.  Stories aren't easy to judge.  They aren't cows or pumpkins.  Each one is unique.  It takes time to read them carefully and to judge them properly. 

(To see a further explanation I wrote to an unhappy contestant who thought she should have won her contest instead of getting honorable mention.  Click here.)

Best wishes,

Richard Loller