I was dismayed by the recent unrest within our writing community. Things were written and feelings were hurt. I am told there is an effort underway to improve the You Want Blood Awards, and that is worthy. In my opinion there should be recognition for our writing. There have been statements made that if there were suggestions as to how things could improve in the process, these suggestions should be put forward. I am happy to make my suggestions public in the spirit of full transparency.
First though, I’d like to address an educational concern:
- 49 states in the U.S. have laws on the books making cyberbullying either a misdemeanor or a felony (a crime). It is already considered a matter for civil litigation. While most case law is specific to school-age individuals there is a growing body of litigation involving other classes/types of individuals
- Those who can be sued: Those bullying or anyone who aids, abets, incites or otherwise encourages cyberbullying
- Those who have cause of action: Those who are the target or any person who witnesses the bullying and suffers damage as a result. Damage can include stress, anxiety or depression
- How does the law define cyberbullying? Sending hateful, threatening or frightening messages online or through texting; spreading slanderous rumors online; harassing the victim with persistent insults or threats via internet
- Is information within Facebook or other media sites private (not discoverable) if a group is private? No. The courts have determined that Facebook and other media sites are public by definition, so there is no confidentiality of information permissible regardless of security setting.
My suggestions for improving future You Want Blood Awards:
- Be clear about the reason for the award: This is, in my opinion, the primary cause of our current confusion. I have seen two different purposes stated: recognition for writers of popular works that have drawn readers; a method to reward and recognize new writers/new stories as a way to build this writing community. If the purpose is the first, I think the current way of operating works well aside from the suggestions I make below. If the purpose was the second the current method did not work. Bottom line: If the purpose of the award is clearly defined, then rules can be set to drive toward that end and participants should have no confusion as to what it takes to win.
- Limit the number of categories for any author/story: There will always be one story/a handful of stories that are the ‘favorite son’. If you do not impose a limit any contest will resemble a lifetime achievement award rather than an open contest.
- In no case should anyone associated with the running of the awards be a nominee: Perception is reality. It is not possible for a person, no matter how well-meaning, to be perceived as impartial if their work is up for recognition and they are in any way active in any part of an awards activity/contest. I applaud padfoot4 for removing herself as a nominee in this most recent contest. It was an honorable gesture. To that end: I will volunteer myself to help in running any future awards of this type. I understand that would remove my body of work from any consideration in the particular contest and I am good with that.
- Voting is one per person: Unlimited voting can lead to an appearance of impropriety. Again, perception being what it is, limiting voting to one vote/one person avoids confusion.
Suggestions if contest/award is for the purpose of building the body of work:
In addition to the above suggestions I would add:
- Do not differentiate new writers from more seasoned writers: If the playing field is level and the purpose is to encourage writing, then anyone with a new story should be eligible.
- Only new writing (not updated writing) is eligible with a clearly defined ‘as of’ date: This encourages writers to flex their creative muscle regularly and continue building on the body of work.
- Only completed works are eligible: Stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Readers should be able to judge the whole work on its merits. One hopes a story will end as well as it started, but that is not always the case.
- Authors must self-nominate: Let the writer choose the work(s) they feel best exemplifies their skills. This method is tried and true in other writing contests and it allows participants to put their own best foot forward.
- Works are posted without authors/titles identified: While it is a certainty that there will be some who will identify themselves privately to their friends, this approach does promote a more level playing field. This also implies that the period between nomination and vote would be longer, but if the category and date restrictions mentioned are in place, the number of works within any one category should be limited by definition.
- Voting within any category is one story – not multiples: First, second and third will be determined through the natural fall of numbers. Should a run-off be needed that could trigger a second round of voting for that category. Current survey software makes tabulation the easy part.
- Different rules apply to betas, banners and those who provide service to our community: The rules that apply to stories do not make sense for those who provide their talents in these other disciplines. Rules that are specific for their disciplines should be developed. And, if this moves forward, I would be happy to make suggestions for those as well.
Last – I’ve seen references to rules from the Academy Awards in some emails.
The specific comment I saw mentioned that in the Academy Awards nominees are allowed to vote for themselves. I would agree – and why not? People should always be allowed to support their own work! With that said, there are many more rules that apply to the Academy Awards. Here are a few: 1-Nominations can only be made for work that is released/published within the prior calendar year; no other work qualifies. 2-Categories are, by definition, self-limiting. An actress can only be nominated in two possible categories: Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. 3-All results are assembled, tabulated and reported by a neutral, disinterested third party. I would be in favor of making rules more like those used for the Academy Awards.
I hope that my suggestions are helpful in improving any future awards event. I would hope that mine are not the only suggestions. With the creativity and talent we have in our midst I am sure there are other ideas and suggestions.
I am honored to be among you. You all make me want to be a better writer.