Posts Tagged ‘writing contest’

tgnalogorevampOver at The Great Noveling Adventure, we are celebrating Christmas the best way writers know how, by writing some Christmas-themed flash fiction.

But that’s not all, we’re inviting you to do the same. From now until December 22nd, we are having a flash fiction contest. Using the picture prompts, write a 500-1000 word piece to enter. We’ll be posting the top three submissions on Monday, December 23rd and the voting will begin. The winner will receive a shiny gift package. Visit our site for details.

You can also stop by and read my own flash fiction story, The Christmas Train.

Some wonderful writing opportunities and gatherings are fast approaching, especially for those of you in the Oklahoma vicinity, so I thought I’d share my favorite one with you. I’m a giver, what can I say?

SCBWI OK Spring Conference OnceUponAtime
Marriott Tulsa Hills, Tulsa, OK
April 20,2013
9:00am to 5:00pm

I was first introduced to the world of SCBWI at one of these Oklahoma conferences about eight years ago. That one was held in a church basement in a small rural town halfway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Even though it was small, the speakers were excellent and the fellow writers were extremely friendly. I met one of my future critique partners for the first time at that meeting. She was the only one I had the courage to speak to that first time out. Since then, I’ve become much better at introducing myself to strangers. These conferences get bigger and better each year.

One of the best perks of attending is being able to submit to each speaker, even if they belong to a closed house. Another nice perk is being able to chat with the speakers, either during the catered lunch or more informally after the conference when we all meet up for dinner. This last event is optional and is not covered in the conference fee, but it’s always well attended and great fun. If you don’t live in Oklahoma, but think you could make the trip and you’d like to attend, fantastic! We welcome you with open arms. (Even if you’re from Texas.) ha!

Here’s this year’s phenomenal speaker line up:

If that weren’t enough, you can also get a written manuscript critique or a verbal portfolio critique for an additional fee. These slots are limited and the deadline for turning in your manuscript to get one of these coveted slots is February 15th.

Check out the SCBWI OK website for more details.

New SCBWI Oklahoma Scholarship – Attend the LA Summer Conference!

I wrote a post a few months ago about the passing of our oldest member, 97 year-old Nita Buckley. Recently a scholarship was started up in her name to help send an Oklahoma SCBWI member to the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA. This conference is a major investment for any writer, but well worth it. I attended my third LA Conference this past summer and shared a plethora of knowledge I absorbed during those three days right here on this blog, starting with this post. If you think you’re ready for this next step in your writer’s journey – and you’re an Oklahoma SCBWI member – but funds are a hindrance, consider applying for this.

The winner of the scholarship will be chosen from entries submitted to a writing contest and announced at the SCBWI Oklahoma Spring Conference on April 20, 2013.

TO APPLY FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP:

Send the first 250 words of a picture book, middle grade, or young adult novel using the following prompts:

Picture Book: Ellie found the book on a table in the back room of the old library. Running her hand over the shimmering cover, she thought she saw something move. “I’ll just take a peek inside,” she said. But when she opened the book?

Middle Grade Novel: A twelve-year-old boy or girl from a poor family receives a scholarship to an elite private school where he or she will go to school with kids from very wealthy families.

Young Adult Novel: You’re a teenager with a secret. Last night when talking with a friend, you admitted a terrible secret in confidence that had been weighing heavily on you, keeping you up at nights. Your friend reassured you, and you felt better after your confession. This morning when you arrive at school and notice everyone pointing at you and whispering, you soon discover that this same friend had recorded your conversation and posted it online for everyone in school to see.

Send your entry with your name and the type of book to Anna Myers at: amyers_author@yahoo.com.  Type Contest in the subject line. All entries must be sent between March 1st and March 20th only, not before or after those dates.

Good luck! And I hope to see some of you at the spring conference!

In less than twenty-four hours I will kiss the hubs and children goodbye and head off to Los Angeles to attend one of my favorite writing events of the year, The Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators Summer conference. I’m so excited that I can hardly think straight! ACK! It’s been four long years since I last attended this mega event. So many events and fabulous speakers – I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to be in two , sometimes three places at once during some of the break out sessions, even with the handy dandy conference phone app they’ve given us this year.(How cool is that, folks? I’ve been uber geeking out for weeks!) With keynotes from Arthur Levine, Tony DiTerlizzi, Ruta Sepetys, Dan Gutman, Clare Vanderpool, and Gary Schmidt, not to mention all the other fabulous editors and agents and authors on the faculty.

I’ve done a lot of pre-reading for the conference and have some more for the plane ride. I have my business cards ready to exchange this time. Pencils sharpened, notebooks ready. I signed up for a one-on-one critique, which is always nerve-wracking and yet very helpful. I have some prepared questions for my interviewer in case we have some extra time after the critique.  I’ve gone over all the conference dos and don’ts in my mind a thousand times.

(DO talk with authors when you bump into them in the elevator or in the Starbucks line and mention how much you enjoyed their presentation, book, etc. DON’T follow Jay Asher up to his room, telling him what a big fan you are. He WILL think that’s creepy.)

Gah! So excited! Did I mention that? I’ve even got my wardrobe planned out for the Hippie Hop Dance and I’ve been practicing my moves for the, oh! shh!…almost gave away the surprise. Yes, I have been unbearable to live with for a few days, now.

What do you do to get ready for a big conference? Are you going to any big writing events this summer?

Don’t despair if  you are watching your budget this year or your schedule just won’t allow for a cross-country trips to attend any of the distance conferences. There is another fabulous conference coming up that everyone can attend in their PJ’s and it is absolutely free! Yes, FREE!

WriteOn Con is two day online conference event that starts August 14th. To sign up for the conference or to learn more about the scheduled events, check out the website here.  They have a faculty of 56 industry professionals participating, including many editors and agents! They even have a convenient Twitter list of the entire faculty that you can subscribe to. The best thing about it is that most of the content stays posted after the scheduled event times, so if you can’t make it to one of the live chats, you can still view the information at your own convenience – wearing whatever you want. Not a bad perk!

Some of the fantastic events they have planned include blog posts, vlogs, live web chats, live forum events with opportunities to show off your queries, pitches, and first pages and even have them reviewed. Also, be on the look out for ninja agents! There’s also a writing contest with a $1000 prize! See details for the contest here.

I will be soaking up the California rays and the invaluable knowledge of the book sages for the next week. See you all back here then!

I woke extremely early this morning, knowing the results of the Christmas in July contest would be posted today. I still had about an hour to kill before the anticipated hour arrived and then, BOOM! It was up! My eyes scurried down the winners on both blog sites…

I didn’t make it.

Again.

I waited for the stabbing pain of sadness to hit me square in the chest, but it never did. Instead, a more subtle shift in mood passed over me, more like mild disappointment. Maybe I was starting to develop that thicker hide of skin required of writers in order to survive the querying and critiquing process. That’s about the time I noticed that I had received an honorable mention. One of the hosts, Ruth Lauren Stevens, explained how difficult making the final cuts had been and said of the honorable mentions,”I don’t know if it helps but I want all the people on the list to know that I wavered A LOT over this first set of mentions.” I was in this first set of ten she was talking about.

That was nice and it took some of the sting out of losing. I made sure to thank the hosts for the honorable mention and went about my day. I then got a response from both of them that made me start to feel even better and really look at my honorable mention and how well I’d done in a different light.

Here they are:

Did you get that?

Great query. Great! Query!

Someone had finally said I had a great query!

My. Query. Had. Improved. FINALLY!

Holy crap! Then I started to think about the number of entries. There had been 356. Only 30 entries were chosen. An additional 41 received an honorable mention. Even if I hadn’t made the cut, I’d done better than 300+ entrants. That is quite an accomplishment. Then I started getting congratulations tweets from other writers on my honorable mention and saw several posts congratulating the winners AND the honorable mentions. I thought, hey! That’s me!

A fellow honorable mentioner(?) pointed out that it was fate. She said that if we were involved in this contest as winners, we wouldn’t be actively submitting to agents and might miss an even better opportunity. Getting this close and not winning would only light a fire under our butts and encourage us to get out there and start submitting even harder while the others were hung up in the contest.

Perhaps.

It is a more positive way of looking at the situation, I admit. It also explains how I feel at the end of this day; completely charged up and ready to hit the querying trail. I no longer fear/despise/loathe the query. Bring on the submissions! Butt fire lit!

As a bonus for following me, and because I’ve had some requests to do so, I’m posting my query that doesn’t suck here. It’s quite a difference from the last time I posted one. Enjoy!

CHRISTMAS IN JULY CONTEST ENTRY:

Dear Agents:

The life Sara Peterson knows ends when she climbs the ladder to her sister’s bedroom and witnesses an unimaginable scene. She finds herself exiled from home, surrounded by deviants and sociopaths, while trying to convince those in charge that she’s not crazy.

Sara is admitted to Whispering Sands treatment center as an alcoholic runaway to protect a secret that’s not her own. She’s a straight talker but no believes her when she says she doesn’t need to be there. It’s like a convicted felon claiming they’re innocent. Abandoned in the middle of a strange, violent world with too many bizarre rules to learn and assigned a suicidal roomie who wants to rip everybody’s face off, Sara must find a way out. Never a rule breaker on the outside, she can’t stop breaking rules on the inside, especially when she meets Matt, the only one she trusts with the real reason she’s there. Stolen moments with Matt in secret places are Sara’s only refuge from the craziness and may save her dwindling sanity. Even if Sara does manage to escape her hopeless situation, her future is uncertain. One thing she does know, she can never go back home.

INSTITUTIONALIZED; I’M NOT CRAZY is a young adult novel complete at 86,000 words. I have worked in the mental health field directly with adolescents in psychiatric facilities similar to the one described in my book. This manuscript won first place in the YA category in the 2012 Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. annual contest. I am also an active member of the Oklahoma SCBWI. Thank you for taking the time to consider my book. I look forward to hearing from you.

First 500 Words:

That last rum and Coke was a big mistake. I gripped the aluminum ladder. The world swirled around me. I burped and the sickly sweet smell made me gag. Mom would be so proud. I giggled at the thought, letting loose with one hand and swaying a little.

“Damn it, Sara, hold on with both hands up there,” Dylan called from below.

“Shhh,” I held a finger up to my lips and looked down at my date. “I got this.” I adjusted the plastic crown that slid to the side of my head. I smoothed down the fly-away toile of the dress I borrowed from my sister Sam, straightened my shoulders, and started climbing. Man, is this thing wobbly. I started giggling again. I tried to choke it off, but ended up snorting instead. That only made me laugh harder.

“C’mon! You’re gonna wake up your parents.”

I sighed. Dylan was getting tiresome. He’d been awesome at the Spring Fling dance. He’d told me that I was beautiful and the kissing – oh, my God. I could’ve done that all night. My heel slipped on the metal rung.

“Ahhh!” I hugged the cold metal. It felt soothing on my cheek. Everything was spinning.

“Shit!” Dylan said. “Are you all right?”

“Mmm, hmm.” I clung to the flimsy ladder, still swaying. “Gimme a minute.” Looking up, I could see my sister’s light was on. She’d called me freaking out. I didn’t know why. So, I was out after curfew. No one else had noticed.

“C’mon, Sara,” Dylan said. “Do I need to come get you down?”

“I’m alllllll riiiight.” The spinning had slowed. Still there was no way I was gonna make it up any further with my heels on.

“Look out below!” I kicked off my obnoxious shoes.

“Nice.” Dylan mumbled.

I laughed and then started climbing again. He was so serious. I hadn’t noticed earlier. I’d been focused on other things. Like how strong his hands were when he’d held me and how I felt all tingly when he kissed me right on the dance floor – in front of everyone. And me just a sophomore. So surreal.

I made it to the top. I hitched up my dress, swung my leg over the railing, and climbed onto the deck. When I stood up, I knocked into the ladder. I caught it just before it banged against the house. Dylan swore below. I muffled a laugh.

The rough wood prickled my bare feet. I maneuvered between deck chairs to avoid the squeaky boards. I crept up to Sam’s window. It would be fun to scare her. She was always jumping out at me from behind closet doors or around corners. Now it was her turn. I stifled more giggles. She’d left her window cracked. For someone so perfect, she was pretty good at this sneaking around stuff. I could just see through a part in her curtain.

I peeked in and froze. My dad was there. Shit!

Have an excellent weekend. Good Luck to those who made the cut! And to those who didn’t, keep on revising, we’ll get there!

Valerie

In an effort to keep everyone informed of online querying opportunities that I come across, I wanted to make sure you all know about an upcoming event that two YA writers are hosting – a great contest called Christmas in July where you may earn the opportunity to share your query and the first 500 words of your completed novel with ten, yes TEN, participating agents. The contest opens this Monday morning at 6am EST, so dust off your queries and first pages, give them a fresh polish, and enter them into this most excellent contest. (I’d hoped to give everyone a little more notice than two days, but my modem died and I’ve been without internet service for a few days. Ack! So glad I got it back in time to enter on Monday!) See Ruth Lauren Stevens and Michelle Krys respective blog sites for more details. You can also follow the action on Twitter at #XmasinJuly. Good luck to all!

So no sooner do I open my big mouth and say how shiny my query is than I turn around and get a chance to prove it (or not). Daisy Carter is giving writers a chance to have their queries critiqued, all in preparation for a pitch contest with her very own agent, Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. The window is closing fast, so stop by her blog by midnight tonight if you are interested.

Here is my query open for all to critique:

Dear Fabulous Agent of My Dreams:

(I enjoyed meeting you/I chose submit to you paragraph goes here…)

 

Second born. Second place. Sara has been competing with her sister for attention all her life. Being perfect and never breaking the rules hasn’t made a difference. Frustrated, Sara sneaks out to attend the school dance. When she stumbles home drunk and tries to climb in through her sister’s window, she can’t believe what she’s seeing until it’s too late. Reality is forever altered. She runs away.

Lured back by her mother whom Sara hopes she can trust, she finds herself drugged and admitted to Whispering Sands Treatment Center as an out-of-control alcoholic runaway. Sara knows better; her parents are hiding her away to keep a secret that is not her own. She can hardly admit it to herself, so why tell someone else? She does tell the staff that she’s not crazy, but that’s like a convicted felon claiming she’s innocent.

Surrounded by the psychologically unbalanced and assigned a suicidal roomie who wants to rip everybody’s face off, Sara must find a way out. Hope comes from the baddest bitch on the unit. She tells Sara how to work the system, how to break the rules and pretend to be a sociopath on the road to recovery – she just wants a few favors in return. Her only refuge is with Matt, a boy who’s just as lost as she is. The stolen moments she finds with him after hours, in hidden spaces, might save the dwindling grip she has on her sanity.

INSTITUTIONALIZED; I’M NOT CRAZY is a young adult novel complete at 86,000 words. I have worked in the mental health field directly with adolescents in psychiatric facilities similar to the one described in my book. This manuscript won first place in the YA category in the 2012 Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. annual contest. I am also an active member of the Oklahoma SCBWI. Thank you for taking the time to consider my book. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Valerie Lawson

An excellent opportunity is coming up for writers out there with finished novels ready to practice their pitches. Brenda Drake is hosting a fantastic event along with the folks at Entangled Publishing on July 16th called the Entangled Mega Pitch. See her blog for the details here.

I know, I know. Blech! Pitches are worse than queries, you’re probably thinking. I used to think so, too. But recently I’ve forced myself to work on my query – and apparently after getting some mixed feedback from the Surprise Agent Invasion Contest, I really needed the practice. I tell you, after I kicked and screamed and held my breath and then actually sat down at my computer and then banged my head on my keyboard in frustration trying to write a query that anyone even liked, I finally started getting some positive results.

Mind over matter.

I really had to stop thinking that I couldn’t write a query and look at what a query is supposed to convey. It’s not supposed to tell us the entire plot of the novel, it’s supposed to give us the feel of the novel and entice us to want to read MORE.

Nathan Bransford boiled it down to “When X happens, your main character must do Y in order to Z”. Here’s a more detailed blog post he did called Query Letter Mad Lib for those who need help unraveling the beast that is the query letter. Actually Bransford’s site is a veritable cornucopia of useful information that all serious writers should plunder on a regular basis.

Once I finally felt I had conquered, or at least had a fair grasp on the query situation, another challenge beckoned – the The Writer’s Voice Twitter Pitch. Now I had to get my novel across in even less words? Are you crazy? Still, I thought I needed to be able to talk to people about my novel without rambling on like a blithering idiot, a rather awkward memory of just such a situation happening recently popped into my head. I shuddered, then realized I had to try it.

This one hurt my brain even worse than the query, but I did manage to eek out an entry just under 140 characters in time to participate. The one thing that shocked me during the manic activity of the twitter pitch was seeing some writers that had so many variations of their pitch. Seriously? They managed to come up with more than one workable pitch THAT SHORT? What was I doing wrong?

I needed more practice. And to stop being so rigid at how I was looking at my pitch. Trying out several different ideas and angles can sometimes be inspiring and help you find the one that really works best. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at both. I think these contest are great places to practice out your pitches and get some good feedback to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Recently someone asked me what my book was about and I sent them my elevator pitch. They were not only impressed that I had an elevator pitch ready off the cuff like that, but they also thought my pitch sounded like something they would want to read. Not that this was any guarantee that at the next social gathering I won’t blather on like an idiot about something, but at least it won’t be about my book.

So what are you waiting for? Brush up your pitch and give it a try! Hope to see you at the mega pitch!

As some of you may know, I participated in the Cupid’s Literary Connection Surprise Agent Invasion Contest. The details of which are here in this previous post. Well, the contest has officially ended and I was indeed struck by Cupid’s arrow a few times – such a giddy feeling! The contest as a whole was so much fun. It was also incredibly intense and nerve-wracking as well. I met some fantastic new writer friends. We bonded over on Twitter where we totally obsessed about what agents would stop by, WHEN agents would stop by, would the current agent browsing through the list pick our entry (please, please,PLEASE!!!) We really knew how to obsess. But the best thing we did was offer up support and congratulations to each other when an agent made a request – and there were many requests! There were a total of 86 requests made by 12 agents and 1 editor who stopped by for surprise invasions during the three week period that our entries were posted. Not bad! I’d definitely call that a huge success.

I learned some valuable things about my writing from the agent comments on my entry, mostly that they loved my first page and that I apparently lack the ability to write tight, clear queries. (I kind of already knew that part; I loathe the query.) It was a good thing my writing was strong enough on the first page for a few agents to over-look my atrocious query. As I am always looking for ways to improve my craft, I decided that I should suck it up and dispense with the query-loathing and master the damned thing. Several writing friends have already sent me in the direction of their favorite query sites and given me helpful tips, but I am always open to hearing more from others who excel in this area.

In the column of even more exciting news, hot on the heels of her vastly successful Surprise Agent Invasion Contest, our lovely, hard-working Cupid has a new contest starting May 3rd called “The Writer’s Voice”. She is patterning it after the hit show “The Voice”. Entries will be picked based on their queries and first pages and then a few select coaches will get involved to help the chosen candidates improve their entries for the final round where agents will pick their favorites and request to see their manuscripts. One major change in this contest is that you do have to have a blog to enter. Check out the details if you are interested in entering. It should be another amazing contest.

For me, I plan on watching this one and cheering on the hopeful competitors. I still have one agent reviewing my manuscript and once I brush up my query skills, I will start submitting. I may have a few more agents requesting soon. Who knows. Good luck to the new competitors!

I am now a firm believer in the powers of Twitter.

Oh, I’ve been paying lip-service to Twitter and dutifully tweeting every few days, saying random things I think you’re supposed to say, announcing my new blog posts over the past month. Everything a new young writer is supposed to do. Most of the time that I’m on Twitter, I feel like I’m riding an uncontrollable wave made out of people that don’t care for my comments, don’t get my sense of humor, and would rather I just browse quietly so they don’t have to acknowledge my existence – with the exception of my #writemotivation supporting crew.You guys have been awesome. I know it can be a powerful tool once you get the hang of it, and sometimes I can almost see the end of the enlightenment tunnel, but then someone uses something differently than I’ve been using it and then I know I’ve probably pissed somebody off by the wrong hashtag placement. So basically, it feels like high school all over again. Awkward.

Then, one day a few weeks ago, all my fumbling awkwardness paid off. While browsing through the tweets, I stumbled upon a post by Cupid for Writers re-tweeted from a fellow #writemotivation participant. It was about a contest of sorts called “Surprise Agent Invasion” that sounded very interesting and it had a fast-approaching deadline. The only downside was that I would have to write a query. I loathe queries. I have yet to feel comfortable writing queries. (Why can’t agents and editors just take my word for it that I am fabulous and just read my manuscript, right?)

The good thing about such a short deadline was that I didn’t have time to psych myself out; I had less than twenty-four hours to prepare an entry and submit it. Since I really needed the practice writing queries (stop being whiny and just do it because it’s good for you) this would be a great test-run for my manuscript before I started submitting earnest in April, I jumped at the chance. (Well, actually I closed my eyes and then leaped off the cliff.)

After I submitted my entry, I waited along with 200 others for two weeks to find out if we made the final cut.

I just received the e-mail today congratulating me on my entry becoming a “victim” for Cupid’s Literary Connection “Surprise Agent Invasion” . My entry along with 50 other lucky participants will be displayed for three weeks starting tomorrow. Invited agents will then make comments on our manuscripts and queries or even request our manuscripts. Pretty exciting, eh?

I know it may seem like a little thing, but any positive reinforcement my manuscript gets is like watching my baby taking her first step. When I read the acceptance e-mail, I laughed and cried at the same time, just like when my children were born. Happy tears; overwhelming feelings so hard to describe.

Will I make that ultimate cupid connection with the agent of my dreams? Will she (or he) knock me off my literary feet with an offer I can’t refuse? Who knows what will come of this unusual contest, but I’m ready for it. Wish me luck! (Oh! I better go tweet about it!)

UPDATE: My entry can now be viewed at Cupid’s Literary Connection at the above link. I am #17.