Perhaps the most effective way to empower yourself is to become an “award-winning” writer, even if you are a business writer. It looks great on your resume, and you can put plaques or framed certificates on your cubicle or office wall to impress visitors. You can also get feedback about your work from a friendly but objective source. In this post, I will talk about three competitions and their sponsors and about my recent experiences with Writer’s Digest University courses.
Society for Technical Communication International Summit Awards
The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is a professional society for technical writers and technical marketing writers. They offer publications you can write for along with educational opportunities and many other goodies, including competitions where you can become an “award-winning” writer. The downside is that it is relatively expensive to join, although a good company may either reimburse you or sponsor a membership for your department.
Early in my career, I won STC awards and was also a judge at the local level. It is relatively easy to win an award locally, but becomes increasingly more difficult as the awards are judged nationally and internationally. Bear in mind that companies generally send only their best work since there is a submission fee, and in later rounds entries are competing against winners from previous rounds where large and very well-funded corporations can have an edge. But you only need to win once on a local level to become an “award-winning” writer, so it may be worth the expense to you whether you are an employee or running your own business.
Many of the leading technical writers and thinkers in the profession are STC members. If I were a manager, I would be impressed if a prospective employee or agency belonged to the STC – or even knew it existed, especially if a prospect was just starting out. If the manager doesn’t know about the STC, it is a good thing for a neophyte to talk about in an interview. They also sponsor a “job bank.”
I have not been a member for almost a decade, but I would suggest looking into what the STC offers to see if a membership would be worth it for you. The website is also a good place to go if you are a writer thinking of moving into technical writing or technical marketing communications.
I only discovered the Apex awards recently and Writing That Works when I was doing research for a course in freelance writing. I was impressed enough by what looked like a professional attitude to consider keeping my eye on this publication and organization, but I have not had time to do any in-depth investigating.
My advice is to check out both this publication and the APEX Awards to see if they can work for you in your quest to become an “award-winning” writer.
Writer’s Digest Competitions
Although Writer’s Digest serves mainly professional and amateur popular fiction and non-fiction writers, their competitions are worth a look. You have to pay a fee for each entry you submit, and I would guess it is fairly difficult to win. I think you may receive some objective comments from professionals, which is always valuable. Objective criticism is hard to come by, even from professional friends.
The Writer’s Digest organization also publishes the venerable and sometimes very useful Writer’s Market for freelance writers. I prefer the online version.
My Experiences with Writer’s Digest University Courses
I have also had some very good and occasionally disappointing experiences with various classes and courses at Writer’s Digest University, which are often very timely. I was lucky enough to have Zachary Petit, the managing editor of Writer’s Digest as a teacher in the first course I took, and he was excellent (even though he delivered the lecture over his smartphone!). He also provided detailed and very professional criticism on my assignment, which I greatly appreciated.
The second course I took was free, so I can’t really complain, but it was not up to Pettit’s standard. I also disagreed with a lot of the ideas in the book the teacher was pushing, but the course was on a timely topic.
I was also disappointed in the third course I took, but I learned a lesson. If you take Writer’s Digest University courses, make sure you read carefully what they will cover and ask questions about how they will be taught (you may end up reading the lectures and not listening to them). My experience is that the courses deliver what they promise, but you have to make sure that the course is suitable for you and your goals – and neither too advanced nor too elementary for you.
Other Possibilities for Courses and Awards
I have now exhausted my knowledge of courses and awards, but I intend to go on searching.
You might want to visit your local Barnes & Noble and check out the magazine section. My local B&N, which I love, stocks publications such as The Writer, which is mainly for popular fiction writers and sponsors a short story contest, and a wide variety of publications for writers of literary fiction and poetry. My local B&N also has a selection of literary, small press, and popular publications (like Analog and Ellery Queen Magazine). I am especially fond of a British publication I found at B&N called Writers’ Forum, if only to get a different perspective on the writing life from across the pond.