I received my Emily contest results in the mail today. I didn't final in the contest, and was bracing myself for some harsh criticisms, but they weren't so bad. In fact, the finalists must have had perfect scores because mine were so strong. One judge gave me 112 out of 115 points, while the other gave me 111. The deductions were small, and the only thing they agreed on was I had a few comma splices.
"Wonderful pacing" and "I love Waverly's patience and sense of responsibility" were among the comments from the first judge, who is a published author. "Overall, a fun story sensitively written. The comments here are tweaks and easy to resolve. I'm looking forward to one day seeing Natasha and Waverly's story in print!"
"Great setup" was about all I got from the second judge.
These comments are encouraging to me, because I've been having doubts about the strength of the opening. My gut keeps telling me that that middle and end of the book are stronger than the beginning, so it's good to have some positive reinforcement on that section.
Speaking of the middle of the book, I reported on my web page in December that I was a finalist in the First Kiss Contest, receiving a perfect score from both judges. Right before Christmas I got the final results, and I placed second. I already have my comment sheets from the first-round judges and don't expect to get anything in writing from the final judge. I did see on the contest web site that she requested a full manuscript from the first-place winner.
On the other end of the contest spectrum, I'm coordinating the paranormal category for the Windy City Four Seasons Awards, and just received the first entry in the mail today. So things are off to a start. Some good news is that I didn't hear from RWA about Golden Heart judging, so I think I'm off the hook this year in that area.