Awards: Do they matter?

Two of my stories published in 2010 just received awards from the Association for Conservation Information, where they competed against articles published in other state wildlife magazines.

“The Native Solution to Mosquito Control” took second place in the “fisheries magazine article” category. It is about a species of fish native to Arizona that consumes mosquitoes like they’re going out of style.

“Get Outside, Arizona!” took second place in the “general interest magazine article” category despite being more than 3,000 words long. Those judges either have remarkable patience, or gave up after 2,000 words but liked it well enough to give it a high score anyway.

I’ll admit it—I like winning awards. It makes me feel like I hit some sort of mark with the talent that matters most to me. I rarely receive direct comments from readers, though I’d like to. Getting an award is a kind of secondhand commentary. Readers may not write to me, but other writers think some of my stuff is OK.

Good as I feel about these two wins at ACI, two other awards this year made me feel just as good. The Outdoor Writers Association of America awarded two of its top magazine-writing prizes to authors whose work was published in Arizona Wildlife Views this year.

Bill Watt, a freelance writer based in Flagstaff, wrote so compellingly about fly-fishing Arizona’s small streams in “Trout Dreams” that they gave him their highest award in the magazine-long article category.

Ann Hirsch, daughter of legendary outdoor communicator Bob Hirsch and a fine writer and radio producer in her own right, took top honors in the “family/outdoors” category for “Unplug and Reconnect: 10 nature activities for kids in camp.”

The reason I feel great about both those stories is twofold. First, I edited them, which means I engaged in the creative, collaborative partnership that (when done well) can take a good story to the next level. Second, and more important to me, I have worked with these two fine writers for more than five years. I am very happy to see their creative efforts recognized.

The 2010 awards season is over now, and I’m happy with how we did. Maybe I shouldn’t make a big deal about these awards, though. Publicizing them feels like self-congratulation. But if I don’t, who will?

Plus, it would not be authentic of me to claim awards don’t matter to me. They do. I respond well to systems of reward.

What about you? Would the chance to win an award in your professional life motivate you?

 

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6 thoughts on “Awards: Do they matter?

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  1. I loved every word of this post, and am especially pleased you honored the other two writers. Congratulations to Julie Hammonds, the writer, and to Julie Hammonds, the editor. Well done!

  2. I, too, love this post. It acknowledges that we all like to know our life’s work and passion is noticed and appreciated by others. Julie has a way with words that leads you right to the heart of the matter. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you for the nice comments! You are right: When we pour time and energy into something, it feels great to have that something noticed and appreciated. And I think the experience gives us encouragement to notice and appreciate the work of others!

  3. I tend to agree. While I don’t do my work to receive awards, it is nice when it does happen. Like you, I tend to work in a void, not always directly connected to the people that I am trying to reach. So, it nice to get recognized every now and then. Great post, Julie.

  4. Your post opened up that can of worms for me, Julie. I consider myself to be a modest person so winning that award created quite a conflict. But no less than three editors, including you, encouraged me to seize the opportunity and use the award to catch the attention of other magazine editors. And it worked; just finished a story on the Wallow Fire for The Drake fly-fishing magazine scheduled to appear in the fall issue. It’s unlikely that would have happened had I not taken the step to promote myself at the Outdoor Writers conference at Snowbird.

    Self-promotion is nasty business but we dwell in a competitive market and editors want proven writers and fewer headaches. During the Meet the Editors session, when I handed an editor the tear sheet and commented on the award, they immediately took notice. They wanted to read my work (“our” work :).

    Yes, awards do matter. As you said, it would not be authentic to say otherwise. (I’ve often wondered if anyone reads the By Lines besides other writers and editors. We write for readers, for their enjoyment and edification, so when we get positive feedback it means we have hit the mark with at least someone. And that is notable because otherwise it’s just the writer and the keyboard.)

    We should remain unassuming and not dwell on past success. Our skill as writers will be judged by our next effort so you will not see “award winning writer” in my next bio.

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