Greetings from Rauthulfr;|
I'm posting some of my thoughts and suggestions for entering competitions. At the very least I hope to raise some discussions about the topic. (After all, one champion's thoughts on this can hardly be the last word on how to do it!)
Many of these suggestions will apply toward entering any A&S competition which requires multiple entries and interaction with judges:
* Always pick one entry which is pure joy and which you can fall back on when you are sick of working on the others.
* Test the entries. Have some of your SCA friends look them over and ask you whatever questions they can think of. If you are doing something new, then ask the advice of folks who have worked in that area before. Feel free to ask former champions as well, they may think of questions you had not considered needing to answer!
* Make sure that you have some folks to help you at the event. This can involve schlepping, and setup of entries as much as it will involve making sure that you eat and take time to breath.
*Your judges will only have about 10 minutes to look over your documentation. This means that the limitation of 5-7 pages is a practical one. (Yes, it is also a limitation which I have never been able to achieve but I have tried to relegate lengthy discussions and quotations from period sources to the appendix. But most folks are aware that I virtually overdocument everything, so I plead guilty to this one.)
*Be prepared to explain what you would have done differently, but do not volunteer dissatisfaction with an entry. Always answer questions truthfully when asked about an entry. If there is something which you expect to have to defend in detail, or which folks may think is inappropriate or presume is out of period, then add an appendix to your documentation and address that issue in detail there.
**I have been given a bad time because of such things as failing to indicate that I opted not to use ingredients which were in violation of the marine mammal protection act or the endangered species act.
*OK, sometimes despite the best efforts of those setting up a competition, the folks who end up judging may not be the best folks to judge that entry. Sometimes a judge will not show up and an alternative is found at the last minute. Other times there may be a judge who has very preconceived notions which may indeed be wrong. Unfortunately there is only one thing to do in this case: Live with it and do the best job you possibly can!
*One really important thing: look at what the other folks are doing. As the only person who has been in the finals for Kingdom A&S THREE times, I can say that I learned much more the two times I did not win! And most of what I learned came from watching what other folks did that I did not do as well, or that I had not even thought of doing.
*Which raises another point. An entrant in an A&S competition is not actually competing against their fellows. They are competing with them. The person I competed against was always me. There is no time to worry about whether your translation from Sanskrit of the entire Vedic corpus on hand made paper will compare favorably with the other person's hand carved Viking ship created entirely from virgin oaks grown specifically for the project. Besides, an entrant lacks the perspective to compare these things since he or she is too close to their own project!
**Do the very best you can ahead of time, and strive to make a good presentation of your work.
**Try to cover every base you can for your entries ahead of time, and consider the advice of others if you have any doubts in your interpretation while creating a project.
**Present what you have with confidence and with honesty. If you cannot do that with comfort, than I would strongly suggest putting off entering, or entering to see what it is all about.
* No aspect of an entry can be considered trivial.
**I have had judges get extremely excited about a minor aspect of an entry which I did as just a bit of extra flourish.
**Remember that your display is not just to make the entry look pretty. The purpose of display is to place your entries in context. You will have about 20 minutes to present/defend your entry at Kingdom A&S, but the judges will probably have looked over your static display before that. If your display teaches them about what you are entering, then you are that much more ahead.
**Be very careful if you decide you have to cut any corners. A&S can come down to a case of which entrant cut the fewest corners. If you must substitute materials because of cost, or whatever: make a deliberate choice and be able to defend your choice.
*Plan on having a very long day. you may well present entries throughout the day so keeping your energy up is critical. I have burned myself out at Kingdom A&S, and all it did was detract from two years of work. That was a hard lesson to learn!!!
**Be sure to demonstrate both breadth and depth in your entries. Yeah, this is a rough one. If you have mastered the art of Irish peat digging, then be prepared for questions about how that differs from Scottish peat digging! Be prepared to answer how peat digging in 1503 differs from that in 1307. Particularly as a finalist you will find that the judges will look as your entry not only as a great example of peat digging, but will want to know how much you know about peat digging as a whole.
*The most important thing is to Learn From Your Mistakes. I have never seen an entry which could not have been done better. This is as true of every previous Kingdom A&S champion as it is true of me, and I am including the entries which made me the current champion.
*If you do not, then you are obligated to learn from that if you intend to enter again. Yes, it is possible to put together a very good entry and compete against someone whose work carries the day. And since it is a very good entry a person might enter again with the same thing in the hopes of different judges or of finding a field of other less skilled entrants. But, if a person does not learn, grow, and demonstrate that growth because of this process, then I would suggest they are entering for the wrong reasons. I learned vastly more at the competition by coming in second than I did by winning. And that was the key to finally putting together a successful group of entries!
Well, there is a bit of redundancy in this, but I'm not entering these suggestions in a competition. There are no hard and fast rules here, and each person considering entering is encouraged to make of them what they will. If any of you good gentles have questions of me, I will do my best to answer them.
Unto all who are considering at competing at An Tir's next Kingdom A&S I wish you good luck in your efforts. And for any who are considering entering any of the other competitions across the kingdom, I hope you will take the time to enjoy yourselves. Remember, we do this because we enjoy it!!
Yours, in service,
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