Please welcome, Gary Dreslinski! He has a different kind of writing competition. See his interview below for more information:
1) Tells us about yourself and your background, writing, etc.
I’m Gary Dreslinski, host and creator of LJ IDOL. I’m the result of a genetic splice between Jeff Probst and Lord Voldemort! Or at least that’s what the contestants will tell you!
The truth is a little more pedestrian. I’ve spent the last 32 years of my life somehow involved with writing. I actually just did that math, that’s kind of weird to think about!
Even back in middle school I would put together collections of stories from my friends. Sure, I would write as well, but I’ve always been interested in seeing what other people come up with! That thread goes from there, to my zine days, into running a fanfic website and eventually to LJ IDOL itself.
I’m fascinated with people and seeing who they are, and what they can become.
It’s funny because I’m very much “the voice” of Idol and my footprint is huge on the competition. But I’m the least important thing to know about. The work is where the spotlight is, and should always be.
2) You host the LJ IDOL writing competition. How do new writers sign up and find out more information about it (rules, entry form, fees, etc.)
I post a “Frequently Asked Questions” section before the start of the season. By the time this is released, it will be up at http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/
If someone still has questions after that, they can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
To cover those specific questions though:
– The Sign Up thread will be going up on March 3rd. I’ll post it and people can declare their intentions to compete at that point. There will be more instructions at that point on specifics.
– There is no entry form. Everything will be covered in that post I mentioned, but there isn’t a standard form to fill out.
– There is no fee to compete in LJ IDOL. It’s completely free. There are some folks who fall in love with the site and want to help out, so I’ve set up a donation link, as well as a Patreon so that they can become sponsors. But those are completely separate from taking part in the competition.
– Specific rules will be mentioned in the FAQ, but for the most part they can be broken down into a rather simple formula of just follow along and keep a good attitude. How and where can be explained along the way, but the positive attitude is something people have to bring themselves! 🙂
3) You mention that LJ IDOL is not “just” a writing competition, but much more – what is the more? What sets your competition ahead of others?
Idol combines my love of writing with my love of competitive reality television.
I always need to explain that, because so many people tune out when you say those words. When I say “reality television” I am talking about things like Survivor, Top Chef, Project: Runway, Amazing Race, etc. I am most definitely *not* talking about a TLC show!
Actually, I think Top Chef and Project Runway might be the best examples of the genre I can think of at the moment for folks to get an idea of what LJ IDOL is like. If you know those shows, you have a head start. But if you don’t, there really isn’t any need. Most people who compete have never seen them.
So I would say, as a “surface answer”, that definitely puts Idol in a completely different playing field. That, and the fact that the competition tends to last for nearly a year at a time. It’s not just about putting out one or two great pieces, it’s about writing consistently over long periods of time.
What truly sets Idol apart from any other “writing competition” though is the community. We’ve attracted some amazing folks over the years. You see people coming back season after season, wanting to compete one more time! Multiple generations of families sign up, so that they can experience it together.
People have changed their lives playing LJ IDOL. That’s not something you hear every day about your average writing competition. 🙂
4) How are the entrees judged? I read something about a voter poll – is there a website promoted for voting during the poll?
Much like American Idol, there is a poll every week for people to support their favorites, which determines who is going to be eliminated.
The poll is posted on the website. Most weeks the poll is open to everyone, although there are special votes where it can be “community only”, “contestant only”, and even weeks where I bring in a panel of judges, called “Gatekeepers” to select their favorites.
5) How did you come up with this idea for a writing competition?
The ideas that ended up forming LJ IDOL have been brewing in my head for most of my life. The specific circumstances that created it though was the combination of having a lot of time on my hands. I was literally living in an apartment over an ice cream shop with my two cats! That creates some opportunities for reflection and “hey, what if I did THIS thing…” 😉
The competition started in 2006 with 9 people (8 friends and someone one of them knew). I didn’t have the patience wait around for the 10th person to show up!
Season 8 had close to 300 people participating.
Livejournal featured us on their site once. But other than that, promotion for LJ IDOL has been completely word-of-mouth. People compete, and they tell their friends about it, who sign up the following season.
6) What can new writers to the competition expect? (Fun, Promo, etc.)
Honestly? They should expect a little bit of everything. There will definitely be fun and a chance for them to promote their works in other venues! Those are a given. They are bound to make new friends with other writers, which is always a plus! Who knows what opportunities might arise from their time in Idol! I know quite a few people who have sold pieces that they originally created during Idol! So there’s definitely that!
If nothing else, it’s a chance to kick back and just write! Well, that and cursing my name! Always plenty of that going on as well! 🙂