Monday, April 13, 2015

On Contests and Community

Since I'm usually the one watching our OpAwesome6 Twitter account, I get to see a lot of excitement flitting through the Twittersphere about our Mystery Agent/Editor Contests. I love the support and sense of community that comes from cheering on, and commiserating with, our fellow authors in the query trenches. Some of the writers who I went through contests with remain friends to this day, even as much as five years later.

In particular, I was thinking back to when I was submitting Crow's Rest (by query and in contests) around this time in 2013. My manuscript had been out since February, after some early interest from the WriteOnCon forums, but hadn't found a home yet.

Each contest round was a learning experience--it can be a tremendous motivation to nail down your specific voice and style, once you've read a dozen entries for your genre. Seeing them all in one place really brings home what the agent experiences in their inbox, and how your work must be fresh and different to stand out.

One of the last pitch contests I entered was The Writer's Voice, run jointly in 2013 by Brenda Drake, Cupid of Cupid’s Literary Connection, Krista Van Dolzer of Mother. Write. (Repeat.) and Monica B.W. of Love YA . The format was meant to encourage writers to establish their characters and voice right away, and grab the attention of an agent in those first 250 words. I entered Crow's Rest and crossed my fingers.

But here's the thing--I never made it past the first round in this contest, and I still learned a ton (and made those connections that I started out talking about in this post). And yes, it stung that CR didn't make the cut, but I also knew there were other opportunities out there--and I just needed to find the right match.

That right match for Crow's Rest didn't end up coming through a contest--a few weeks after TWV, I submitted the winning bid on a 70-page critique with editor Vikki Ciaffone of Spencer Hill Press in an auction. That critique turned into an offer of publication, and Crow's Rest is coming out from SHP in only a month (okay, so I glossed over a TON of steps in between)!

I likely wouldn't have even heard about the auction without my writerly connections, nor would I have taken a chance on bidding for the critique if I hadn't earned some confidence from the contest feedback.

So in honor of those connections, I caught up with some of the Alumni of The Writer's Voice 2013:

Leslie S. Rose, who I actually got to meet in person recently! She's had several short stories included in anthologies

Me on the left, Leslie on the right!

Marieke Nijkamp, who blogged about the part contests played in landing her own agent, and whose debut THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS is coming from Sourcebooks in 2016

Lucas Hargis, whose TWV entry is here, and who got two agent offers (and accepted one) by the end of that year

Christie Murillo, who also feels the contest camaraderie so strongly that she thanked a bunch of us who had been in the trenches with her in her "I Have An Agent!" announcement

Molly Pinto Madigan, whose TWV entry also had a contemporary twist on a fairy tale/legend

Pete Catalano, alias Billy Payne, whose debut novel ARTIFACTS is coming from Month9 Books in Fall 2016

Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski, co-authors of Mystic Cooking, who signed with Jen Azantian in February

J Larkin, who signed with Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency, as a result of TWV 2013

And, if you'd like to read an excerpt from Crow's Rest, Brenda Drake is hosting a reveal on her blog today! Go check it out by clicking her banner below!


Stephsco said...

Contests really can make a huge impact. I'm amazed by all the Pitch Wars success stories just within the last 6 months!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

This is awesome, Angelica! Congratulations on your upcoming book birth, and thank you for reminding me that the energy and community we all enjoyed years ago is still there for those who are searching. It's been a while since I entered a contest or queried anything, but I plan to change that this year.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Do it, Katrina! It's a great way to jump back in, with a built-in support group!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I know! It's really exciting to see successes