Thanks to everybody who left a comment on the Quilt National post. Lisa, I think that you're probably the exception that proves the rule. Except that since the entry deadline is September of the year before the show, you're not holding them back for as long as it seems, the longest being about nine months. But still, I'll bet that's longer than most people hold a piece back.
How does one decide more than a year before the entry deadline that a particular piece is going to be the work that is good enough to enter, and then hold it back? My hope would be that over the course of those months I would be continually improving and that I would have something better to enter. Otherwise, one would have to hold out nearly the entire body of work in order to be able to pick the best three.
I don't mind the the 2 year rule. It's that prior publication thing that gets me. And it only applies to venues in the US. So someone in Australia can show her piece in several shows, maybe even win some prizes, and it's still eligible for entry into Quilt National because supposedly it hasn't been seen here. And it can also be published in a foreign magazine or book, no matter what it's distribution. Just not an American publication. Why is this fair?