It was an interesting discussion - at least I thought so. I've never been a coordinator - and from what I hear, I never want to be. It's a huge hassle. But I have been involved both as a participant and a judge.
When you are just starting out, many people ask if you should enter your stuff in contests so you can get it in front of the editor of your choice. The quick answer to that is - maybe. If the editor is one who normally only takes partials from agents and you don't have an agent, it is a possibility. BUT remember, you are not the only entrant in the contest. You have to first win the contest in order to get that manuscript in front of that editor and like any contest or lottery, the odds are not in your favor. If this is a contest where the editor is available for un-agented queries, I'd say no, unless you're looking for feedback. You have a much better chance of getting through the slush pile than you do getting through the contest route.
If all you are looking for is feedback on your manuscript, then yes, enter contests. But remember, the feedback is only as good as the person doing the judging. Some contests have anybody and everybody doing the judging, no matter where they are on the publishing ladder. Some of them are merely warm bodies. And their comments may or may not be accurate. Other judges are further up the ladder, from having finished and submitted something all the way up to published author or even those with agent/editor experience.
If you do get comments, read over them. Is more than one person saying the same or similar things? Pay attention. Do they seem to know what they're talking about? You may need to change some things.
Don't be surprised if you get widely disparate scores. Judging is a very subjective business. One judge may score you low because she just doesn't like that kind of story while another may score you high because she does. What matters is their comments, if any are given. Does the one who gave you the low scores give you specific reasons why she scored you low in certain areas? If it's just sour grapes (I don't like this kind of book), you may want to drop a *nice* note to the coordinator telling her the judge may be too biased to be a fair judge. But if the comments make sense and actually help you, take them to heart and use them in the way they are intended - to help make you a better writer.
In addition to being subjective, judging is very difficult at times. When I run across a manuscript that needs so much help it would be better off in the shredder, I work hard to give the person constructive criticism and to point out any good points in the manuscript. Even if it's only "This was formatted nicely". As a writer, I know how hard it is to write a book - and then to get up the courage to send it out so I try to find *something* good to say somewhere.
Bottom line is, contests can be a great way for beginners to get feedback. But think about this too, you could save your contest and postage fees and join a good critique group for free. Most writers groups have these available and there are several on-line. The choice is up to you.
Birthdays: Marquis de Sade, Thomas Hardy, Karl Gjellerup, Dorothy West, Carol Shields
Tips and Teasers: Go through your local paper and pick out names that you can mix and match for characters. Keep these in a file for future use.
Thought for the day: "You cannot write for children … They’re much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them." - Maurice Sendak