Contests, Scholarships and YA

on May 15, 2008


PASIC–the Published Author Special Interest Chapter of RWA–runs a great contest. The judges are those who know what readers really want–booksellers and librarians. The deadline is May 27th, and the nice thing about this contest is that anyone can enter–published or unpublished; RWA member or not. Check out the details HERE on the newly designed PASIC website.

Speaking of contests, people who know me know that I used to be a major contest slut. I entered around 45 contests in 2003, the year I joined RWA (the year before I sold.) I finaled in 15 contests with 13 different manuscripts, but only one editor request. I overnighted that manuscript to the editor in November of 2003 . . . and have never heard from her since.

Recently as I was cleaning out my file cabinets because of the pending move, I found some of my old score sheets. (I kept the score sheets in case the IRS came knocking about the expenses I wrote off from entering contests.) I had comments ranging from, “Wow! I can’t wait to see this on the shelf at Borders!” to “This is unmarketable.” to “Editors don’t like prologues.” Since it’s been five years, I’m going to toss these, but not before I compile some of the best. Stay tuned, because it’s sure to be fun!

I’m a big proponent of contests. I think it’s a great way to get your work read by someone who doesn’t know you. It’s anonymous and relatively inexpensive. If you target the contests right, you can benefit greatly from the advice, and maybe even final and win! I know many people who sold off contests, and many more who received great advice from judges–even the final editor/agents judges, even if they didn’t sell. And the Golden Heart–RWA’s unpublished author contest–is truly golden. Many people sell off the contest, but more important, it gives them an in that they may not have had before.

Of course, you need to learn to discern the advice given, because the judges aren’t always right. Never do anything the judge tells you unless you completely agree. This is also good advice when an agent makes suggestions. If the suggestions deter from your story direction or diminish your voice, don’t do it. But if you get that “Ah ha!” moment and hit yourself on the head thinking, “Why didn’t I see that before?” then yeah, make the changes. Also, if more than two judges comment on something, take a second or third look at it. They might not have the right solution to the problem, but if several people are stumbling over something, it’s worth figuring out why.


ITW is offering TWO debut author scholarships for ThrillerFest in NYC this July. Here’s the email that went out with all the rules and regs:

Are you a debut author with a book out in 2008 or 2009? Would you love to attend ThrillerFest in New York City but haven’t quite figured out how to pay for it?

ITW is offering two scholarships for debut authors to attend ThrillerFest 2008 in New York City July 9-12. The scholarship is for the conference registration fee, craft fest, and any ITW sponsored meals (including the Thriller Awards Dinner.) Lodging and transportation is not offered as part of the scholarship.


You must have a debut novel published or scheduled to be published in 2008 or 2009 by an ITW recognized publisher. Individuals previously published by non-ITW recognized publishers or in a short story format (under 40,000 words) are eligible provided that the novel to be published in 2008 or 2009 is their first full-length novel published by an ITW recognized publisher.

You do not need to be an ITW member to apply.

Please send the following information to the Scholarship Committee Chair, Allison Brennan at

Contact information (address, phone number and email)
Pen Name (if any)
Book Title
First Book? (yes or no)

All applications also must include the following:

Release date (tentative is okay)
Brief synopsis (one page or less)
Essay telling the committee in 500 words or less why you would like to attend ThrillerFest and what you hope to gain from the experience.

All submissions are blind. Only the committee chair will know the identity of the applicant; the synopsis and essay will be sent “blind” to the committee for review and discussion.

The deadline for applications is May 27, 2008. Two scholarship winners will be notified by June 3, 2008.

If you have any questions, please email the committee chair at


I’ve been wanting to write a YA novel for a long time . . . I’ve had lots of ideas that just didn’t work in my mind, and frankly I don’t have the time to focus on any of them. Of course all the ideas are suspense related because that’s where my heart is. And I think my Seven Deadly Sins series will appeal to older teens. Two of the seven main characters are high school seniors in the first book, then go off to college. However, I was asked to participate in a YA anthology (more details when I can announce them) and I’m really excited about it. I have an idea that works perfectly for a short story. But I’m nervous. It hits a little too close to home for me and a lot of kids.

It started percolating when my oldest daughter told me they had a lockdown drill a couple years back. Lockdown? What’s that? It’s where the school is literally “locked down” and no one can enter or leave their classroom. The doors are locked, lights off, blinds drawn. It’s used if there is a potential threat on campus. All I could think about was how sad it was that my kids have lockdown drills, that they have to know at a young age that their lives are on the line at a place they should feel safe. I had earthquake drills–get under the desk, hands over your head–but lockdown wasn’t even in our vocabulary.

School violence is real, and kids face it daily from a variety of sources. Other students, teachers, strangers.

And that’s why I wanted to write a story about a lockdown–but not a drill. My heroine is a 16 year old junior and her dad is an FBI Agent. He can’t get into the school and she can’t leave. I don’t have all the details worked out in my head, and fortunately I don’t have to write it for nearly a year, but I’m still a little concerned about the subject matter. Except that kids today witness and read about violence every day.

So, what do you think? Too dark for a YA suspense anthology? Or just about right? Think what I write now . . . without sex or bad language or detailed crime scenes. I’m interested in your opinions.