Friday, December 18, 2009

Lucky #7: In Which I am a Winnah!

I won my first writing contest when I was a sophomore in high school. I started writing my first novel in eighth grade--I still have a copy of it. (It's not bad for someone that age, and I occasionally break out the manuscript and wince at it. It's a good measure of how far I've come in my writing.) I finally finished it when I became a sophomore, and I showed it to my English teacher, Mrs. Ambrosia. She was a brave woman, because she read the whole thing and gave me feedback on it. (I should send her a thank-you email too. Okay, seriously making a list now of people I need to thank.) She encouraged me to submit the first scene it in to the school's literary magazine, which I did, and it made it in. My very first published story. ;) And then one day after class my teacher mentioned that she'd entered that same bit in a writing contest. I was surprised, but forgot about it, until a month or two later I arrived at class and she handed me a plaque and told me I'd won. I still have it, I was extremely proud of it. My parents and my little brother are jocks, and they have a ton of trophies from various sports. I, as you might have guessed, am a book nerd. No sports for me, so this was the closest I'd ever gotten to having my very own trophy.

Fast forward to 2007, after I joined RWA. For those of you who aren't RWA members, you may not know that the various chapters of RWA love to hold writing contests. Like crazy. Tons of them. I get a few emails a week advertising different ones. Generally, you submit the first chapter or 25 pages of your novel, maybe a synopsis, and if you're a finalist your work will be judged by an industry professional of some sort like an agent or editor. It's a good way to get feedback from people who don't know you and won't censor themselves to not hurt your feelings, heh. Or at least it is hypothetically--there's really no guarantee that you'll get any commentary other than the score sheet. And for contests like the Golden Heart you get zero feedback, but that's generally known.

There are a lot of contests, and I was a little intimidated by this, but in early 2008 I finally decided to enter two of them. One I did well at, but I had points marked off for not following "standard publishing" formatting. This still irks me, because it wasn't mentioned in their submission rules and I followed their rules to the letter. It was just assumed I'd know that the chapter title should be dropped down to a certain line on the first page. In my day job, we're lucky if we get manuscripts that are legible and in the right order, much less following rules for formatting. But, lesson learned.

The other contest I entered was Chicago North RWA's Fire & Ice contest. I'd already registered to attend their Spring Fling conference, so I figured hey, why not? And then I found out that I was a finalist in my category, and much happy dancing occurred. This was awesome because the winners were going to be announced at the big dinner at the end of the conference, and I was hella excited about that.

Next time, I discuss my very first conference, and related awesomeness of it.

No comments: