Showing posts with label writing contests. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing contests. Show all posts

Writers: Enter Writing Contests

These words of wisdom by Annie Oakley
were made into a needlepoint, framed,
and now hang above my desk. I follow
them every day.

By Linda Wilson

If you read last month’s post, “Writers: Let Mistakes Be Your Teachers,”, you will know that recently I entered my first picture book story in a contest and won! The only thing was that I forgot a niggling little detail: that the story had to be unpublished. During the time it took to receive the contest results, I published the book. Painfully, I had to disqualify myself and someone else won the prize. Bottom line: I got so involved in publishing the book that I’d forgotten about the contest until it was too late.

Never fear! If we indie authors have anything, we have determination and just plain guts! As a positive remedy, I vowed to enter other contests, and more importantly, I vowed to enter a new story in the contest that I forfeited next year.

Lists Don’t Cut It

The first thing I did was submit a few of my works in four contests. I thought I would keep track of the entries in a list. Quickly, I realized the list did not work. Since then, I have made a chart: much better.

On this chart I have sectioned off the contest name, date entered, deadline, date winners are announced, submission information, the folder where I’ve saved the info, and contact information. Some of the contests are not open yet, so I’ve noted the opening dates and cross-checked the dates by putting them on my daily calendar. In all, I have collected information for ten contests.

Where to Learn about Contests

Here is the list of the contests I have researched so far that appear on my chart. Check them out. I was amazed to find that quite a few of my works fit into the various contest categories.

Moonbeam Book Awards:

IPPY Award—Independent Publisher Book Awards:

CIPA EVVY Award: Colorado Independent Publishers Association:

ICL Awards:

Searchlight Writing for Children Award:

PNWA: Pacific Northwest Writers Association Contest:

Southwest Writers Contest:

New Mexico Book Coop NM-AZ Book Awards:

Foreword Reviews Awards:

The Sky is the Limit

I have just scratched the surface. I haven’t even looked into what SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) has to offer. And as you can see, in some cases I've stuck close to home as a resident of New Mexico. But it’s a start. There is an entry fee for each contest, some steeper than others. I have budgeted what I can afford and then am going for it.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but entering contests is a great way to practice submitting professional manuscripts that agents and editors expect, as is encouraged by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Referring to the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, the organization’s site explains that, “As our society has gotten more complex and growing up has become more complicated, children’s book authors and publishers have risen to the occasion, creating books that not only celebrate the joys of childhood, but also help kids and families deal with its challenges. The Moonbeam Awards will recognize and reward the best of these books and bring them to the attention of booksellers, librarians, parents and children.

For the 2021 Moonbeam award, somehow my entry did not appear in my submission. I didn’t know that until Director Jim Barnes was nice enough to email me to request that I attach my submission in my return email to him. I was most thankful for his concern so that my entry would not be overlooked.

Entering these contests has taken time and effort, but it has given me a new outlet to vet my work. Who knows if any of my stories will win any contests? The best part of it is, if they don’t, I am spurred on to continually improve my stories until they are worthy of becoming winners in the eyes of discerning judges, and finally in the minds and hearts of my readers, who deserve the best that I can offer.

Photos by Linda Wilson

Annie Oakley quote: Jotted down and kept close to my heart ever since,

from the Garst Museum and National Annie Oakley Center, in Greenville, Ohio.

Linda's current WIP is the picture book,
Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me!
 Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher, has published over 150 articles for children and adults, several short stories for children, and her books, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, and A Packrat's Holiday: Thistletoe's Gift, which are available on Amazon, Secret in the Mist, the second book in the Abi Wunder Myatery series, and the picture book, Tall Boots, will be out soon. Visit Linda at

Writers: Let Mistakes Be Your Teachers

Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery
was self-published in June, 2020

By Linda Wilson

Three mistakes—whoppers, and very painful, I might add—stand out in my writing career, all the rest are small (and many!)

Mistake #1: Taking on more work than I could handle. Back when my daughters were growing up, both in their 30’s now, I landed a terrific job as a writer for a well-known library journal. I had left teaching elementary school for a while and had made the big time! Our subjects were short biographies, called by the journal “biosketches,” about famous people. The editor gave me my pick of subjects and any number of sketches I wanted to write. Up to that point, I had experience writing newspaper articles, period. Not to worry! One of the other writers advised me that my sketches needed to be conversational as well as factual.

I started out with only one or two, with 2-3 weeks to research and write. A research assistant sent me articles and information, but the perfectionist in me decided that wasn’t enough. So, while my husband was at work and my daughters were in school, I did more research in the library. My subjects were such interesting personalities as Stephen King, Troy Aikman, and William Shatner.

The extra research paid off. My sketches were tight with information, and friendly. The editor was pleased.  

Piece of cake. I decided to take on more, 3-4 sketches at a time. That’s when I hit the wall. I didn’t realize the time crunch I was getting myself into while volunteering at my daughters’ school, being a girl scout leader, and more. I missed a deadline, and I was toast.

Lesson Learned: Take on only what you’re sure you can handle.

Mistake #2: Signing up with a Vanity Press without doing a search for complaints. According to Wikipedia, “a vanity press or vanity publisher, sometimes also subsidy publisher, is a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published.”

About two years ago, I chose a publisher that I’d been following, sold by the way the company presented itself on their website and in phone conversations I had with the company rep. I loved the packages they offered, which included everything under the sun that I would need.

My husband and I lived in a small town at the time. I didn’t have the advantage of a critique group or contact with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s chapter as I do now, living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I joked that my package—the Ultimate, mind you, promising the moon—was my “Harley,” a gift from my husband a few years after he bought his dream Harley. I would buy my dream: a way to publish my book with the help I believed I needed.

Now, after finding help in critique groups with my fellow SCBWI-NM authors, and information from the SCBWI organization itself, I see how misguided I had been. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As luck would have it, just days before my book—my first, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, a ghost story for 7-to-10-year-olds—was to be published, I read a book that changed everything: 10 Publishing Myths, by W. Terry Whalin. I had barely turned the first few pages before a feeling of dread crept into my soul. In Chapter One: “Myth One: I Will Make a Lot of Money Writing My Book.” Of course, I understood that. But in this chapter, Whalin makes the case that “to be a best seller, the book needs broad distribution to online plus brick-and-mortar bookstores who report their sales to a bestseller list. Balboa Press [a press that he uses as an example] is online and their books are not sold in brick-and-mortar bookstores.” This was not the case with my company, I assured myself. Whalin goes on to say that the overall production of these books is not good quality. Not mine. I'd already seen the cover and had worked closely with the artist. My book was beautiful. Whalin hoped this author didn’t spend a lot of money to produce her book.

Well, I did spend a lot of money. Harley's are expensive! As my alarm grew, I turned to the next page, where Whalin suggests doing a Google search to check out potential publishers, by typing "Publisher’s name + complaints." I did that and was in for the shock of my life. Not only were there a substantial number of complaints against my publisher, but these complaints were made by twenty-nine authors who had published with my company and created a revolt on a private Facebook page. Why? Not one of the twenty-nine had received one royalty check. Not one. Today many more authors have joined the group, an attorney has gotten involved, and the owner is facing several lawsuits. 

I spent two taxing days and sleepless nights reading the authors’ experiences, sent an email to one of them, and he invited me to join the group and tell them about my experience. The group welcomed me, and in their posts, I found the help I needed to obtain my files from the company and proceed to self-publishing my book.

My caveat: I was lucky. I already had possession of my files which were print-ready and easy to publish on KDP. Some others are still battling to obtain their files and as a result, are unable to publish their books.

Lesson Learned: Before doing business with anyone, do a Google search to see if there are any complaints against them.

Mistake #3: Being out of touch with my calendar. Recently, I entered a picture book manuscript in a contest, and it won an award—first, second, or third to be announced at a later date. I wrote to everyone I could think of with the news, then read the fine print. The manuscript had to be unpublished. I forgot that tiny fact when the illustrator finished her work. I went ahead and published the book on Amazon as soon as I could. 

Lesson Learned: Make sure you write down your important dates on your calendar. If I had written the date the announcement was to be made about the contest, I would have waited to publish the book and received the award. Instead, I had to disqualify myself and the award went to someone else.

Ultimate Lessons Learned: It’s become natural for me to know how much work to take on now. I check the companies I work with on Google, and am making it as a self-published author. As for the contest? I’m determined to win an award with the same contest next year. It’s taken me about a week to come up with an idea. Soon, I will begin work on it and when the contest opens, I will enter it and put the important dates on my calendar. This experience has also encouraged me to search out other contests which I plan on submitting to. Who knows? Maybe I will win another contest.  

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher, has published over 150 articles for children and adults, several short stories for children, and her  books, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, and A Packrat's Holiday: Thistletoe's Gift, are available on Amazon, Publishing credits include biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; PocketsHopscotch; and an article accepted by Highlights for ChildrenSecret in the Mist, the second in the Abi Wunder series, is coming soon. Follow Linda at

Writing Contests for Summer of 2017

This post is short and sweet and is about entering writing contests. These contests are a great way to move your writing career forward and boost your visibility. The link below has a list of contests for the summer of 2017.

Check out the free guide and see which ones will be a good fit for you:

Free - Guide to Writing Contests for Summer 2017


One Last Edit? Rethink Before Submitting
Are You Living the Writer’s Life?
Self-Publishing – The Pros

Summer Writing Activities

Here we are at the end of July and as usual, summer seems to be slipping by us.

I hope you found time to get away, even if it's a spot in your own backyard.

Maybe you've set your writing aside while vacationing or working on projects around the house.

Sometimes rest isn't just sitting around. It can be doing something different and changing up your schedule a bit.

Here are some summer writing ideas that may be fun, help break up your routine, and energize you to finish the year out with gusto.

1) Read, read, read.

I don't read as much as I should. I used to think it was a luxury for people who had the time. Then I realized I have to make the time. Not just for relaxation but to help make me a better writer.

If you haven't been much of a reader, now is the time to start. It's been said, good writers read. Some benefits include mental stimulation, increased vocabulary, inspiration, and improves memory.

So, while you are escaping with a great novel, you are getting added benefits along the way!

2) Enter a writing contest.

My very first success came when I won in the inspirational category of one contest and Honorable Mention in another one. Both boosted my confidence and started my list of credentials. It was also very exciting to see my name in print in an anthology!

There are many, many (did I mention many?) contests out there. Do a search and you will find them. Most offer cash prizes and/or a free trip to a conference.

3) Take an online course.

Last year I took a course, How Writers Write Fiction. I am a non-fiction writer and do not enjoy writing fiction, but by the time I completed this free course, I found I could write fiction and I actually enjoyed the assignments. 

Choosing a genre you aren't interested in will help you grow as a writer. The challenge is not only fun but taps into an ability you are unaware exists.

4) Write something new.

I don't like to read poetry.

But I can write it!

Go figure.

I didn't know this until I was assigned a poetry lesson at the end of my free writing course. 

Summer is a great time to get adventurous with a new writing experience. 

How about you? What are some ways you have enjoyed the summer? 

Have you taken a full break from writing? Or is summer a time to play catch up?

Please share your comments below.

Image courtesy of Naypong at


Kathy is a K - 12 subsitute teacher and enjoys writing for magazines. Recently, her story, "One of a Kind", was published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts

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