Saturday, October 18, 2008

Too Much Competition!

by Caren Crane

When my older daughter was about 3, I picked her up from daycare one day and found her in a frowny mood. This daughter has always, since birth, been moody and prone to deep thinking, so her 3-year-old frowning didn't concern me overmuch. I did, however, ask what was wrong. She pulled the finger she was sucking out of her mouth and said (very clearly), "There's too much competition."

Yes, friends, my preschooler had figured it all out. There is too much competition in the world. Some people love it, some hate it. Daughter dear despises it. Now that she is a sophomore in high school, she still avoids contests and competitions like the plague. She had to take the PSAT Wednesday and was in a twist about it Tuesday night.

On the other hand, my younger daughter stayed up late Tuesday night baking cookies until almost 11 o'clock. We let her do this on a school night because...she had to finish baking her entries for the NC State Fair baking competition. The exhibitors had to turn in their entries Wednesday morning. Her cookies turned out great and she is likely to place this year. Again. Like she has the two other years she competed. This daughter thrives on competition and the chance to let her talents shine.

As you will note from the sidebar, many of us Banditas have a competitive streak. We love (and hate) writing contests. Many of us compete in other areas, too. We have Banditas who have played instruments, played sports, competed in pageants and baked competitively. I'm sure there are other contests we have pursued in our lives and not yet discussed. What drives us to compete? Why haven't we decided there is "too much competition"?

For me, writing contests are a way to measure where my writing stacks up in comparison to other writers. I am not published, so I can't point to sales numbers or fan letters. Writing contests, flawed as they are, are a real chance for validation of the most important work I do. Contest finals also give me a bit of a boost - an impetus to keep going when things are hard and my stamina wears thin.

So, are you competitive or do you, like my older daughter, think there's "too much competition"? What sorts of contests have you undertaken? Any big wins or shows you would care to share?


Joan said...

Wow, it's me!

Joan said...

Man, the GR couldn't have come at a better time. I'm trying to learn how to download music from Napster to my on sale Mp3 player. Maybe he can figure it out!

Very timely post, Caren. I'm only competative in the baking arena (as referenced by the infamous "Nanny Nanny Poo Poo" incident). I entered that first decorated cake WAY back a small, green honorable mention ribbon and I was hooked! 100 plus ribbons and one sterling silver platter later and I still feel the itch to compete despite the high cost of eggs and butter.

The writing competitions are, as you say, a nice validation for the unpublished writers especially. My boys have done well between them, winning The Suzannah, The Molly and placing very well in other well thought of contests.

They give me energy, boosts the drive (which is already PRETTY high) to keep at it, to win the publishing contract, to work and succeed.

Sending good luck vibes to your daughter! May she conquer the NC State Fair with nary a Nanny Nanny Poo Poo in sight!

Donna MacMeans said...

Way to go Joannie! I thought I saw the GR preening. I think he might be after your cooking ribbons.

I'm curious -- how many of the competitive ones (like me) are NOT the oldest (I'm the middle child). I wonder if there's an element of birth order at work here. We're number 2 (or 3 or 4) and so we try harder via competition to shove the first born out of the limelight. Works for me (grin).

About the other competition I've entered beyond writing are art competitions. My paintings have won ribbons at a local level. However, I think I'm competitive in most of the things I do. I've always credited having a brother only two years older than myself for that. We've raced each other since birth.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

WTG, Joanie T!

I'm sure with the right motivation (promise of your special choccie chip cookies) the GR will gladly assist with the MP3 player. ;-)

Great post, Posh! And no wonder you thrive on the competition of writing contests, you've done REALLY WELL with them lately.

I really never liked that killer competitiveness that was needed in most things. I preferred sports and other activities where you competed against yourself. I think that is one of the wonderful things about writing romance. While there certainly is competition in our business, there is also a wonderful sense of community and of generosity. As you can see after two minutes in the Lair, we romance writers are THE BEST PEOPLE!


Margay said...

I think I am kind of a passive competitive person. I enter contests, but I don't aggressively fight for them if they are the type that is more of a popularity vote (I think Caren knows to what I refer). I have won at least three contests where the prize was a chapter critique - a great prize, by the way - and I did final in this year's Stella Cameron Scarlet Boa Contest. I agree that contests are a great barometer for measuring where - or how - your writing stacks up against the competition.

Tiffany Kenzie said...

mmmm, baking contest... I'd be all over that. My youngest is prone to moodiness and deep thinking too! She's almost five now, though.

Contests... sigh, contests. It's a total love hate for me and contests. I enter many contests, just to waste time, not to fill in for submitting work to agents. But contests generally get back to me quicker than agents. I finaled in contest with works in the past, I've finaled my new work in two (Melody of Love and GothRom) I hope to final in more :)

I'm a very competitive person (but in the sense of bettering myself, pushing myself, it's not about winning). Just ask my CPs. If I catch up to them in wordcount (we measure it daily between the four of us) then I'm like come on M, you can get to the end, that way I'll stay hot on your heels.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Congrats on the GR Joan, doesn't he have some girlfriends that could donate to your egg stash for baking??
I am not competitive at all, I am so with your daughter Caren, it is just not my thing.
Donna you might have a very valid point, I am an only child, there was no one to compete with as a child. I had lots and lots of cousins and they were all a competitive bunch. I would compete with them but whether I won or lost was immaterial to me, it was just that I was with them and doing things together.
I have won several sewing competitions when I was in school.

Joan said...


I think that is SO cool that you won sewing competitions.

Those who have been in The Lair with us before, know that I've blogged about the creative talents I inherited from my Mom. One of them that I did NOT was the ability to sew.

My Mom made wonderful clothes for me as a child, she made my Barbie clothes. She could have sewn a HOUSE into existence if she'd tried.

I had to get her to fill the bobbin and thread the machine EVERY time I tried!

When I was in 8th grade, I made a jumper...a very simple a class project. I even put decorative piping around the neck and sleeves.

I STILL can hear the pride in her voice as she bragged about that simple dress.

Louisa Cornell said...

And Joan won the competition for the GR!! Way to go! If he DOES figure out how to do the download thing send him my way!

In my early singing years, competitions were a way to make some goals and to gauge how my voice compared to others. I did pretty well and even managed to final in the Metropolitan Opera and Baltimore Opera competitions. Didn't win, but a final was a big honor! And I managed to catch some great scholarships with my voice. By far the biggest win I had voice-wise was winning a position into the prestigious Mozarteum.

I was very competitive in high school and even won some baking contests in 4-H. I don't have your fair ribbons, Joan, and I envy you that. Especially in cakes which is a tough test!

Caren, I think it is great that you allow your daughters to decide their own interest in competition or in not competing. Many parents don't! Good luck to your daughter on her cookies!!

Writing contests were the only way I could figure out how to see if my writing was just for me or might be something others might want to read.

I have been stunned and blown away by every single final and win. More important I have gotten a lot of great feedback in these competitions and that has made me a better writer .... I HOPE!

limecello said...

I love/hate competition. Sometimes it's fun to really get into it (and then win!) Sometimes I can't help but getting intense about it :X
But... other times, I couldn't care less and just have fun - and usually laugh a lot at other's machinations.
As for contests... I've entered some. None recently though... but when I was little - coloring contests, writing, story telling, public speaking & debate, art - textile, mixed media, watercolor, oil pastel, oh the list goes on. (For more recently... I will say some scholarship/jobs are almost like competitions...)

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Joan, my mother didn't sew but she did beautiful hand work, embroidery, crewel, some crochet. I would make the clothes and mother would embellish them. For the competitions I had to do it myself but mother was right there guiding me. One time in particular I was going to embroider a collar on a blouse, not a big deal, just some little daisies and greenery. I made the same collar for that blouse 4 times before I got it right. The material I used showed the stitches and I had to start over each time. Mother was so proud of those little daisies!

Deb Marlowe said...

I'm not a very competitive person. Although, I have to say, I was thrilled the couple of times that I snatched the GR!

My kids are not overly competitive either. My youngest's soccer team recently suffered a hard defeat. There were some long faces and a few tears. My little guy is just so thrilled to be playing; he was the one trying to cheer them all up. "At least we had fun!"

I am happy to be the first to out Caren, though! She just won her category in the Indiana Golden Opportunity contest!

Yay Caren!

Margay said...

Congratulations, Caren! You've been holding out on us!

Anonymous said...

Caren, I've got a little of both of your daughters in me. Certain kinds of competitions I don't like -- namely, the ones that have ribbons and medals attached. Though I liked writing competitions, it was more for the feedback from other readers and from editors. Finaling in a contest was the big prize -- after that I didn't care about placement.

Where I am horribly competitive is when I'm arguing with people. (Can you guess I'm a lawyer?) I love to debate and I guess I'm pretty intellectually competitive. The most fun thing of all is to argue with someone who enjoys arguing back. It isn't fun if the other person isn't enjoying the game as well.

Funny thing is, I didn't even really know this about myself until my husband called me on it. I always thought I was not competitive, because I didn't like sports and didn't like to enter traditional contests with prizes and winners and losers. My husband, however, pointed out that in other areas I am one of the most competitive people he knows.

Lil ole me? *g* I guess he was right, but it was a big surprise to me. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Joanie, 100+ ribbons? Man o man, that's impressive!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Caren!!! We are so proud of you!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh, just to let you all know, I'll be posting THREE winners tonight of the Mistress of Pleasure (Delilah Marvelle's steamy Regency romance). Sorry for the long delay, I've been living under a rock for a couple of weeks!! :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, Caren! Great topic, & timely as you just WON THE IGO! Yahoo, Bandita!

As for competition, I'm sort of with Kirsten. I have a certain thirst for the sort of validation that placing in contests (or winning an argument) provides. But I hate losing like nobody's business.

But I also hate beating other people, too, if that makes sense. I mean, I like winning. But I hate being the cause of somebody else's misery. I solved this by playing team sports. It sort of diffused the glow of winning but diffused the pain of losing too. You have teammates either way.

Is that weird? I just like company, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Donna, I'm a middle child too, but I thought the middle child was supposed to be the peacemaker, not the competitive one. Did anyone read that book on birth order? I though the first born was the competitive one. Hmmm....

Anonymous said...

AC, I agree with you about the romance community being really supportive and generally non-competitive. I've heard very different things from people who write in other genres, and I've heard horror stories from the competitive nature of MFA programs. Thank goodness we're all romance writers and all want to spread the love. :-)

Anonymous said...

Margay, congratulations on your contest finals! I was also one who steered clear of popularity contests. I never ran for anything like student counsel at school (shudder). The last thing I'd want to do was enter a popularity contest and LOSE. Yeesh!

Anonymous said...

Tiffany, it sounds like you've actually got a great attitude toward competitive as a force to push you forward and make you better. Same with contests. If they get you motivated to do more, then I think it's a success.

Margay said...

Thank you, Kirsten! Yeah, nothing like a little win to boost your confidence.

catslady said...

I like fun competitions. Any kinds of games from board games, cards to darts, bowling or bocce. I also like contests. But only if things are done fairly and no one takes it too serious. I won a few art competitions and so has my daughter, it's nice to be recognized once in a while. I don't think I would go into anything with tons of pressure.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Yeah on the rooster, Joanie T! You must'a been up late...working..or were you making sock puppets? SNORK! (Anyone ever read If you Give a Moose a Muffin?)

Great post, Caren. I'm like your younger daughter. :>

You know, I've read that book about birth order and a lot of it made sense, but I'm the 4th of 4 and I'm wickedly competitive. Now, like Susan, I had to have it pointed out to me at some point, but when I realized it...BLAM! I owned it. Snicker. A lot of the competing though is against myself. Can I do better? Can I make it better? My first question is always, what did I do wrong and how can I fix it next time?

That's been pointed out to me too, that I seldom see the bulk of the work as being done RIGHT, I only see the little errors. It's like that one drippy place in the whole room you've painted. I walk in and my eye goes straight to the error, rather than taking in the whole. Workin' on that! :>

I love races and games too though. I'm terribly comptitive in Scrabble and Monopoly and all that. :>

As to other competitions, I have scads of ribbons for showing my dogs, including a big fat red-white-and-blue Best In Show ribbon for one of my Dalmatians. I'm about to go back to the show ring with a new dog too, after a 10+ year absence.

I've gotten ribbons at the Fair for sculpture, painting and sewing, but never baking, although I love to bake.

Caren, CONGRATS on the contest win! You ROCK! Woo-hoo!

Joan said...

Yeah, Caren for another Bandita win!

For those of you wondering where are blue ribbon winner is she is apparently in the NC woods battling giant moths and brewing French coffee.

Don't ask me. Girl Scouts has changed a LOT since I was one!

The burning question remains. Who will win the fight? Caren or "Mothra"?

Joan said...

Joanie T! You must'a been up late...working..or were you making sock puppets? SNORK!

ROFLMAO! Duchesse you are so EVIL!

I like that in a Bandita.

I'm also trying not to imagine two sock puppets in battle like Punch and Judy


Anna Campbell said...

JT, enjoy the rooster! He's definitely become the prize in a competition, hasn't he? I'm not quite sure why. Last time he was here, he shredded all the cushions on my sofa with his feet!

Caren, what a great post. And how timely given your recent major success in a writing contest! Congratulations again!

I think I'm competitive - and I'm the oldest in my family which shoots your theory down, Donna! I certainly compete with myself. It's that Virgo thing of you never do quite well enough and you can always do better! And I think sometimes we need to measure ourselves against what's out there - that's a great thing about writing contests!

Joan said...

I'm first born too, Anna. I'm an Aires so I'm thinking I'm just too hard headed to take no for an answer and will head butt to get my point across :-)

BTW, Chookie came through for me. I figured Napster out! Now to just tray and pick and choose which of thousands of songs I like to put on it!

Understanding playlist assembly is next.

Suzanne Welsh said...

good morning, or afternoon! Congrats on the GR,Joanie...good luck with the Mp3 loading!

Competition...ugh. I don't thrive on it. I prefer to walk to my own music, but like you Caren, it's a necessary part of my writing career right now, as I need to see where my work stacks up against the current stuff being submitted to editors and agents. But I do have to say it's really cool to get a phone call or e-mail telling me one of my babies is makes the cut! Whoohoo!!

Anonymous said...

Ms Crane, You create ‘the best’ topics. What a wonderful intellect older daughter has. It normally takes a gifted teenager to establish where they slot on the scheme of ‘things.’ She’s miles ahead of them, so I’m guessing that makes her super-gifted.

Daughters aside, it’s an interesting topic. --- To avoid competition in itself doesn’t consider whether the motivation is concern for not winning, concern of winning or no concern for either. The same could be said for those who willingly submit to competition, in terms of what they seek. ---- I’ve always been fascinated by people who desperately desire ‘team star’ status in the B grade and avoid moving to A grade for fear of loosing the ‘star quality’ status. --- For my thinking being a member of the A grade is the achievement, speech-night (fame) the cost.

I’m aligning myself with gifted elder daughter. I’m thinking she has a ‘lone ranger’ quality. She doesn’t mind people noticing the result and hearing, “Wow; I wonder who did that?” ---- She knows.

Which novel made the cut at the book club? ---- Eric

Anonymous said...

Louisa, it's interesting that singing has contests just like writing does--I had no idea. And if those contest got you scholarships, well that's the real prize, isn't it? more education? I guess that's the best we can hope for with the writing contests as well. Like you said, if they make us a better writer, than it's well worth it! And you certainly have produced things MANY MANY people want to read, judging by all those contest wins and finals!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Ooo, limecello, are you an old public speaker/debater? me too! My favorite was the American Legion. They had great speaking contests with $50 savings bonds as prizes. :-)

But I want to hear more about the story telling contests. That sounds really amazing.

Anonymous said...

Deb, maybe your kids will end up like me--secretly competitive. *g* I couldn't care less about winning or losing sports. But try to put one over on me in an argument...hoo boy! Now you're spoilin' for a fight.

And I say the GR is the best prize of all. Until he starts getting into the secret chocolate stash...

Anonymous said...

Catslady, you have a great attitude! I think as long as you approach things ready to have fun, it doesn't really matter who wins or loses, which makes it that much more fun to try. :-)

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Thanx for "outing" Caren on her latest contest WIN! Now if she survives the wilds of Girl Scout Camp and close encounters with Mothra, we will make her get her good news UP ON THE SIDEBAR!

Eric, the winning manuscript is one Caren calls "the redneck book."


Keira Soleore said...

Caren, at three, if your younger daughter could figure that out, I'm sure she's very self-aware: What she can/can't do. All the best to your older daughter!!

I hate competing. I hate tests. My stomach cramps. My hands and feet chill. My knees shakes. My breathing... Having said all of that, it's rare that I've wanted something and haven't got/won it. It's just that I hate the nerves, the pre-competition nightmare.

JoanieT, hooray to you. I'm sure Chook the Crook can figure out Napster in a jiffy.

Keira Soleore said...

Caren, I meant, all the best to your younger daughter for her baking competition.

Louisa Cornell said...

Congrats, Caren!! Can't wait to see "the redneck book" on the shelves! LOL

Yes, Kirsten, there are singing competitions and there are different levels depending on your level in college or your age. I think the age limit to enter to actual opera company competitions is 16 or maybe 18. It is very similar to writing contests in that you usually have three judges and you get critique sheets back and scores. And yes the ones with scholarship prizes were very helpful to this poor girl from Alabama!

flchen1 said...

Hmm... I think I tend to be the "too much competition" type--I'm scared of falling on my face so I'd almost rather not go for it. On the other hand, if it's something that I'm confident at, I've got a competitive streak a mile wide :) Board games and that sort of thing are a mixed bag because of that ;p

Congrats on the win, Caren!! And congrats on the GR, Joan! Has he been helpful with the MP3s?

Anonymous said...

Aunty C, "the redneck book" sounds like one of those ‘I love to hate’ reads. Who would have thought Caren could do that to me. My mother warned me what ‘quiet’ girls were capable of. ---- You Bandit guys are going to send me broke. I have this thrill ‘thing’ from reading novels with a living connection. I’m quite sure I’ll be searching for twenty ‘bandit’ authors very soon. The postage cost on eighteen is murder. --- Eric

Joan said...

Has he been helpful with the

Yup, he sure has. I now have 14 songs downloaded. And I couldn't help it. The first one was "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" :-)

I'm going to troll for Irish music tomorrow!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Sorry about the postage expenses but THANX a BUNCH for reading Bandita books! :-)

Joanie, be sure to search out tunes by my fave Irish band, The Chieftains.


Anonymous said...

Joan, Re: mp3 players. One can tell a lot about a person learning what they choose to listen to in the privacy of their own mp3 player.

I keep a list of my favourites at ---- (the link it only works correctly while I’m on-line (it’s here in my office)) ---- I’m just a sentimental cowboy who doesn’t like horses. ---- Eric (Aunty C --- I'm the real winner)

Keira Soleore said...

JoanieT, might I put in a suggestion for the AfroCelt music groups? I love, love, love their sound.

Anonymous said...

Joan, I'm impressed that you've mastered the electronic beast. I can barely get my iPhoto to talk to my Kodak...and they are suppose to play nicely together!!

Anna, do you know signs? Is Sag supposed to be competitive?

Anonymous said...

Eric, what a sweetie you are! We are so lucky to have you stopping by and hanging with us. I just hope you save room on that shelf for my book, which doesn't come out until Fall (or at this rate Winter?) 2009. :-)

Anonymous said...

Keira, I get a wicked shot of adrenaline when I get into a "real" argument with someone --whether it's in a hearing room, or during a negotiation (or at the dinner table with my spouse!) -- yet I still go back for more. (shakes head). Odd. Very odd.

How ya been? Busy?

I got the spiders out, BTW. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Keira, what about Ingrid Michaelson? She's on my iTunes right now...

Joan said...

My first selection was "Cry of the Celts" featured in either Riverdance or Lord of the Dance but God, it touches the Celt in my soul.

And right now I'm listening to one of the most sorrowful yet telling song of the Irish and the oppression and heartache they've long endured. Fields of Athenry...Breaks. My. Heart. Every. Time. I. Listen.

Joan said...

Ok, how did the music for "The Chicken Dance" end up on my MP3????

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Joan said...
Ok, how did the music for "The Chicken Dance" end up on my MP3?

I would suggest you talk to the GR, sounds like his work to me.

Louisa Cornell said...

Did you check for The Funky Chicken, Joan? Or Turkey in the Straw? The Barnyard Trot?

Joan said...

Ack! Louisa! They're all there!

I will NOT work out on the treadmill to Turkey in the Straw.

Excuse me while I replace it with "Dancing Queen!"

Helen said...

Well done Joan

Great post Caren I am chimming in late I have been away on the Central Coast for my nephews 21st birthday party had a great time there were lots of sore heads this morning.

I am not into competing it is just not my thing but I am sure glad all of you entered into the same competition otherwise we may not have had The Romance Bandits.

Congrats on your win Caren well done.

Have Fun

Pat Cochran said...

Competition is a favorite thing to do in our family! Entered a sweepstakes
and won a trip to Venice. Entered
a school district competition, was
selected Volunteer of the Year. Then represented the district in a National competition, didn't win
but was honored by the district.
Enter the church cook-off each year,have taken 1-4 trophies home each time. Most proud of the year we(daughter, grandson and I) became
the first 3-generational winners,
all first places. Taylor entered
his favorite PB and M&Ms Sandwich
and recipe!

Pat Cochran

Keira Soleore said...

Caren, many congratulations to you on your win.

Kirsten dear, I'm so-so glad you got those spiders out. Gave me the heebee jeebees thinking about them crawling in your hair.

I have heard Ingrid Michaelson. Off to check her out. Thanks for the suggestion.

Caren Crane said...

I'm back from the wilds of the sandhills to say, "I WON!!" I totally beat Mothra's fuzzy butt this weekend. *g* Actually, I think it was first too rainy, then too COLD for dear Mothra.

Thank you all for coming to play while I was off camping and for the lovely thoughts and good wishes for the darling daughters. They are both fabulous in their own ways!