Recommending Someone for an Award
Awards and honors in the SCA generally come from the hands of the Royalty. But they don't make those decisions by themselves: in a Kingdom of thousands of people like the East, it's impossible for the Royalty to know more than a small fraction of the populace. So they depend upon the citizens of the Kingdom to tell them about folks who are deserving of awards.
This page describes how to write a recommendation letter. These letters are the heart of the awards process -- letters written to the King, Queen, Prince and Princess, telling them who is deserving of recognition.
This page does not cover Baronial awards, since each barony has its own system for honoring its people.
Below, we'll get into lots of detail about how the process works and how to write a great letter. But here are the important bits:
- Anyone can recommend anybody for anything.
- Write a polite, friendly letter to the Royalty, saying who you are recommending, what award you think they should get, and why. It's often best to write to the Prince and Princess rather than the King and Queen, especially for polling orders: the process can take a while, and the Heirs have more time to deal with it.
- Be clear and to the point: focus on why you think the award is appropriate. Some details are useful, but don't go on for pages.
- If the award is for a polling order like the Silver Crescent or Laurel, the recommendation will be passed on to the order for their opinion.
- The Royalty will make a decision, and if they want to go forward with the award, someone will probably contact you to help set it up.
That's most of it. The rest of this gets into the ins and outs, but it's really just expanding on the above points. It's pretty easy to do, and the Royalty depend on your words, so don't be afraid to write someone in.
Deciding to Make a Recommendation
As mentioned above, anybody can write a recommendation. This can't be stressed highly enough: you don't have to have the award or order you're recommending them for, or indeed any awards at all. If you know that someone has been doing good work, write them in.
Before you start, though, make sure you know what you're recommending them for -- writing someone in inappropriately can make them look bad, and you don't want that. The East has many honors, and each has its own meaning and purpose. Some are general and given widely, such as the Award of Arms; others are very specialized, or very high-ranking. If you're recommending someone for an award and you're not sure exactly what its criteria are, talk to someone who has it if you can. Or, if that doesn't work, take a look at the SCA awards page, and particularly the East Kingdom awards page.
It's usually a good idea, before you spend the time to write the letter, to check the East Kingdom Order of Precedence, and make sure they don't already have the award. Some folks are just quiet about their ranks and titles, and turn out to have things you didn't realize. Also, if they are in service to a Peer (that is, they are an Apprentice, Squire, Protege or something like that), it is usually considered good form (although not required) to check with that Peer, who might have specific opinions about when the right time is.
Finally, keep in mind that the process takes a fair while: you should usually expect it to take 6-8 weeks for an Award of Arms, and at least several months for a polling order. So if there is a particular event at which you think the award should happen, make sure you allow enough lead time.
How to Write a Good Recommendation Letter
The recommendation letter itself isn't actually complicated: you're simply telling the Crown who should get what, and why. Let's look at those pieces.
Recommendation letters can go to the King and Queen, the Prince and Princess, or both. When in doubt, make sure you include the Prince and Princess -- they have more time to make things happen, especially for polling orders that can take a while. You can submit your recommendation online by using the East Kingdom Recommendation Page, or by writing the to Crown via email or postal mail. (Their email addresses can be found on the Officers Listing.)
The letter should include your own name and some contact information for you, at least your email address. This helps if they need to ask questions, or if they need your help setting up the award ceremony.
Make sure you give enough information about the person you are recommending: their SCA and mundane names, the SCA branch they play with, their household or fealty relationships if you know them, and their mundane location. This will help identify them. (If they have a picture online somewhere, a pointer to that can also be helpful.)
Say which award or order you think would be appropriate for them, and describe why: the good work they have done. If you are recommending them for an award with a specific focus, concentrate mostly on that: for example, focus on their work in the Arts if you are recommending them for a Manche, or their archery for a Sagittarius. Peerages (the Orders of the Laurel, Pelican and Chivalry) are a special case, since they are supposed to be role models -- it is usually appropriate to talk a bit about their leadership, their teaching, and generally ways in which they exemplify the ideals of the Society.
Describe their accomplishments, concentrating on those which pertain to the award for which you're suggesting them. Have they held local offices? For how long? Autocratted or been on the event staff for particular events? Taught specific skills, individually or to groups? Contributed the output of their skills to the local group or the kingdom? Competed in forms of combat, or in the arts?
This doesn't need to be a detailed resume of everything they've ever done in the SCA -- if they've done a lot, focus on the high points. An Award of Arms recommendation usually runs 1-3 paragraphs; a Peerage might be as long as a page. If you run much over a page, you should probably edit it down, or the members of the Order who are reading it aren't likely to read the whole thing.
It can be tempting to exaggerate in the letter: be careful not to. Exaggerations tend to get caught, and it usually makes the candidate look bad. Similarly, make sure that you get your facts straight -- it is very common for a recommendation letter to list things that were actually done by someone else, and that winds up reflecting poorly on the candidate.
Focus on the positive. Occasionally, you'll know about some history or bad blood around this candidate, but try not to be defensive about it -- people pick up on defensiveness, and it tends to overwhelm the positive. Instead, briefly explain why you think that these past issues aren't relevant or have been resolved appropriately, and move on to their good qualities that moved you to write the letter. (Similarly, don't insult others in the recommendation. Occasionally, this can be tempting -- for instance, if your candidate did work for which someone else commonly gets credit. But this sort of negativity almost always comes across badly to the people reading the recommendation, and can often be rather harmful.)
If you know of particular Royal Progress events that this person will be attending, mention that: it can make scheduling the award easier. But remember that awards need a lot of lead time -- it's often impossible to arrange an award with just a couple of weeks' notice.
What Happens Next
Once you've written and sent your letter, what happens to it? Mostly, the Crown will read your words, consider them, and decide what to do. But here are some other things to think about.
Many of the Eastrealm's awards are "polling orders", which means that the members of the Order provide their opinions to the Crown about candidates. The details vary from reign to reign, but usually the Crown bundles up the recommendations that they have received (sometimes edited and condensed, sometimes exactly as received), and sends them to the Order. The members of the Order discuss these candidates among themselves, and individually send back their opinions to the Crown. The Crown collects all of these opinions, and then makes a decision about what to do.
For the most part, you don't need to worry too much about this process. Just keep in mind that, while you are writing your letter to the Crown, other people may well see it: if it is a recommendation for a polling order, the members of the Order will probably read it. If the award is to be given, the scribe may also see the recommendation, even if they are not part of the order. Consider your words carefully, for they are not private.
The polling orders of the East are: the Chivalry; the Pelicans; the Laurels; the Silver Crescent; the Manche; the Tygers Combattant; the Sagittarius; and the Golden Rapier.
If it doesn't happen
Sometimes, the decision will be to not make the award. There are many reasons why this can happen: the Order may feel that the candidate isn't ready; the recommendation may have been a bit thin or unfocused; occasionally, the Crown simply can't find an appropriate event where both they and the candidate will be there.
In most cases, it's not a good idea to resubmit the recommendation immediately the next reign. Especially if the recommendation is for a polling order, this can simply produce a bad habit of rejecting the candidate. Instead, it's usually better to find a member of the Order, and ask about it. They won't be able to tell you who said what (that's considered confidential), but they might be able to provide some general pointers about issues that came up about the candidate -- ways in which they need to improve. It's often just a matter of a few things -- a little more teaching, defending their knees better, running another event or two. You can help this candidate cross the line from an indifferent response from the Order today to an enthusiastic one in a year or so.
Setting up the Award
If the Crown does decide to follow your suggestion, they may well come back to you for help. Planning an award ceremony always involves some work -- at the least, someone needs to figure out what Royal Progress events the candidate will be attending, and make sure they get there. For more information about how this all works and how you can help out, see the page about Planning an Award Ceremony.