As it was, I didn't make the cut this year, but a big shout out to those who did! On a personal note, I can't wait to get my critiques back from the judges.
The thing that surprised me about this contest; I thought this was an amateur contest, as in only unpublished authors. Apparently not so, as at least one of the finalists in my category appears to have a book out. No, it's not sour grapes, but I'm still surprised, as the major prize at this conference (very small cash prizes) is meeting editors and agents.
Why do you think, is it a good practice to toss amateurs and professional writers in the same ring? Does it just sharpen our young claws, or push us out of the way of potential breaks into the industry?