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  • Writer's pictureTina Radcliffe

Exploring Contest Mood Disorder

Updated: Jun 9, 2018

This post was first published in 2008 when I was on the contest circuit as an aspiring author. This was also in the days of snail mail contest entries. In truth, nothing much has changed. Keep writing, keep entering contests. They are a great way to get your pages in front of an editor and/or agent.

Contest mood disorder is defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated mood, referred to as mania brought on by contest results.

Individuals who experience manic episodes also commonly experience depressive episodes or symptoms, or combined episodes in which features of both mania and depression are present at the same time.

Depending on the number of contests entered these episodes which are normally separated by periods of normal mood, may rapidly alternate between mania and depression, this is also known as rapid cycling. Extreme manic episodes can sometimes lead to hallucinations and delusions.

Symptoms and Examples

Contest mania:

Contest Coordinator Sally Bliss calls to tell you not only did your entry take first place but the editor called it "charming" and she'd like the first three chapters immediately.

Dear Lord, all is well with the world and you are going to sell a book.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Contest depression:

Contest Coordinator Harriett Hardheart emails to tell you that you took Second Honorable Mention.

(Honorable Mention?? There were three finalists and three places. How could there be an HM?)

And btw, she sends along the editor comments.

The word "flawed" jettisons from the screen and stabs you in the left eyeball.


You don't need that eyeball anyhow. It's not like you're a writer or anything.

Extreme contest mania:

A double whammy!! Perfect scores from the contest judges on the Chewed Pencil Contest for Unpublished Writers. you tear open the manila envelope that just arrived.


It's a request for a full from your DREAM AGENT who judged your first 25 pages in the Heaving Bosom. She even put little smiley faces on the manuscript pages. She loves you and your soon-to-be, New York Times best-selling manuscript.

You immediately quit your day job, go to the bank ---no you Snoopy Dance to the bank and withdraw your meager savings for a ticket to Paris to write the book of your heart.

C'est la Vive.

Rapid Cycling:

The combined phenomena of manic and depressive stages for a contest entrant.

Think up, down, up, down.

You finally have time to read the contest results sitting on your desk.

Judge ST (upid) 404 says, "Characters are without feeling."

Judge ST 88, "I love these characters. Especially the grandmother!!"

The postal carrier tosses the mail at your front porch and runs away. Oh, look, the return address is that other DREAM AGENT who called you on the phone and requested the full of your new paranormal historical, Lord Demon Lover, after you won the prestigious Golden Harp.

"I apologize for keeping your manuscript for forty-five months. I was torn, but in the end didn't love it. Best of luck placing this elsewhere."

As you reach for a sharp instrument, you notice,


From the editor who requested your manuscript after judging the first five pages in the Opening Peek Contest.

Your heart leaps into your throat and your stomach roils (honest) as you read her email.

Dear Susan (my name is Tina!),

Regretfully, Kiss and Tell is not quite right for our line. The heroine is flat (no, no, no, she wears a 36 D!!) and your hero Ben (his name is Sam) lacks motivation.

Thank you for the opportunity to read Kiss and Tell.


Agnes Butterbaum, Editorial Assistant to the Editorial Assistant's Editorial Assistant

(Who? You submitted Kiss and Tell to Winifred Mupple, Senior Editor)


The phone rings and wouldn't you know it....'s your mother (insert mixed feelings here).

She loves your new manuscript but wonders if you can tone down the s-e-x.

You explain that it is an inspirational romance and there is no s-e-x.

Treatment Options:

Consume PRN.

Photo 1 by on Unsplash

Photo 2 by ian dooley on Unsplash

Photo by Hannes Wolf on Unsplash


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