I love to enter contests. Ever since I won a transistor radio in a McDonald's coloring contest when I was in first grade, I've been hooked. My prizes have ranged from a trip to Paris in a national scavenger hunt to $40,000 for describing in twenty-five words why I like Healthy Choice foods. The picture above is when I won a 7-minute grocery shopping spree in junior high for creating a winning contest jingle for Shasta soda pop.
Not surprisingly, several of my books (including the first book I ever had published) began as contest entries. But why do I find contests so intriguing? Why do they fuel my inspiration so strongly? Here are a few reasons:
* Contests have a set deadline. This is great motivation for someone like me who will work on an idea forever, waiting to get it perfected.
* Contests have rules, which help give me focus.
* Contests have rules, which I love to stretch (the rules say I can use only twenty-five words, but they don't say I can't also include pictures with my entry).
* Contests are competitive. I like the challenge of trying to come up with an idea or approach that will stand out from the thousands of other entries.
* Contests are an excellent venue for taking creative risks. If I try something totally off-the-wall and I don't win, I haven't lost anything.
* Contests offer great prizes ($40,ooo is nothing to sneeze at, but I've also gotten excited over winning a t-shirt or a deck of playing cards).
For me, writing books is a lot like entering a contest. I love the challenge of coming up with an idea that will be different than anything my editor has seen before. I love stretching the boundaries of what can be done in a picture book format. And of course I love the possibility of winning the "grand prize" of a publishing contract.
The joy I feel when working on an exciting picture book idea is the same joy I've felt when working on a strong contest entry.
Now all I need is for my editor to give me a specific deadline and my inspiration will kick into high gear.