Demystifying Contests, Winning, and My Results

When I discovered I was a contest finalist in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Contest (that’s a mouthful), I felt like I already won. I knew many had participated, so I was grateful to be selected. I had noticed the finalist distinction on book covers and in descriptions. Whoa!

I didn’t understand how the prizes would be distributed.

There were six in my category since there was a tie, so would they start with 6th place? I checked out past winners. RMFW listed the first place winner and the rest in alphabetical order underneath. I was mystified, baffled. I held a blank, open-mouthed, “What?” kind of stare while trying to make sense of it. I’ll admit, I’m easily confused. I would find out Saturday night.

Some of the past winners had entered from as far away as Australia, Japan, and United Arab Emirates.

Wow. All they needed to do was join RMFW. I figured they had won a contest and then continued entering others with the same manuscript.

When I checked into the conference, I received my name tag and a finalist ribbon. It was an honor to wear it and a great icebreaker. Many others wore lots of ribbons – volunteers, authors, presenters, agents, editors…

The conference was amazing. My head is still spinning from all the information and sensory overload. The night of the award ceremony, I sat with a great group of new and old friends: super sweet agent, Rachelle Gardner, me, and old hands at winning, Kim Lajevardi and Judy Rose.

rmfw-conference-2016

I met another contestant from my category, Craig Holt, from Washington and wondered if any others were in attendance. He had already finaled in the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference and one other contest. Since his manuscript was on a roll, he planned to enter in several more. Just like I thought.

The emcee started with action/thriller finalists, so I had to wing it. *gulp*

I walked onstage and waited for the rest of the contestants to join me. After a minute of standing alone, Craig and Val Moses joined me on stage. When they announced Val’s name as “the first finalist,” she didn’t understand what they said. Neither did I. She walked past me to receive her certificate. I was announced as second finalist and for a moment thought that meant 2nd place. I was thrilled until she announced 3rd place, who wasn’t there to receive the award. Oh! That’s when I understood what was going on. Craig took 2nd, then Charles Kowalski, who lives in Japan (the same guy who won in 2013!), took 1st. I figured I took fifth place by the order of announcement.

I talked to my friends who explained there were 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places and the rest remained finalists. Ohhhhhhh! I was glad of that. I’m not 4th, 5th, or 6th. THE FOREBODING is listed in alphabetical order on the list of finalists. If I had called my book FOREBODING, I would have jumped higher on the list. Ha!

One of the prizes in being a finalist was my first pick of an agent or editor to pitch, which can be a nerve-wracking experience.

I’ve had some nightmarish pitching sessions, so I always get a little nervous. Okay. I get reeeeeeally nervous. One time the agent stared at me without blinking and I thought my poor pitch had sent her into a catatonic state. She finally said she didn’t represent my genre. Then, there was the time when I couldn’t complete sentence without the agent interrupting me to tell me how I was pitching all wrong. That pitch became a lecture and our Skype interview ran overtime and cut her off mid-sentence.

This time, I sat down with a lovely editor from a publishing giant. Her interest and questions put me at ease. After requesting pages (YAY!), I told her my plan to have a second draft of another thriller done by the end of November. Then I launched into my Boob Reports and how I want nipple tattoos and plan to publish the book after I hit five years cancer-free . Talk about relaxed. She mentioned it was good to include future projects in a pitch to convey that I am a career writer. Good to know. I’ve got lots of projects lined up.

Another huge bonus of entering in the contest happened on Monday when I opened up the envelope with my certificate and read notes from the judges. They blew my mind and gave me the best advice EVER. I sat down to study the notes at 9:00 AM and tweaked my manuscript until 5:45 PM! Now it’s a cleaner, clearer story. Then I tackled their notes on my synopsis and answered their questions. Now its 925 words. Most agents want a 500-600 word summary. Oh, well. Simplifying it will be tomorrow’s project. Synopsis is the bane of my existence. 

Now that contests no longer mystify me, watch out Japan, Australia and United Arab Emirates. I may enter THE FOREBODING in your local Writer’s Conference.

Do you know anyone who can rewrite a manuscript in Japanese or Arabic?

So I came to the conference a winner and I left a winner.

Celebrating with my finalist certificate!

Do you enter contests? Do you plan to enter contests in the future?

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68 thoughts on “Demystifying Contests, Winning, and My Results

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  1. What a thrill, Susie! Sounds like you had the time of your life. I hope that editor falls in love with Foreboding and publishes it. Congratulations on your win! I love your new haircut. Really, really cute!

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    1. Thanks so much, Lynn! I took the judges notes to heart and have gone over the pages quite a few times. Now I just have to get my nerve up to “send.” That’s still so nerve-wracking for me!

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    1. Thanks so much, Ted! I kept my Finalist status, but I’m very happy nonetheless. 🙂 I have been thinking about you and that book signing. Ha! You’ve been a huge support since the beginning! Hopefully this will help me out of that humongous slush pile agents keep on their desk. *fingers crossed* I’ll keep you posted…

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  2. I read this post with a lot of interest. I recently found out that I am a Finalist in the Independent Publishers of New England Book Awards contest. At first, I thought, yay, I’m a Finalist! I didn’t win, but I was in the top three. Whoo, hoo! Then I was told that I still could be the winner, but I wouldn’t find out until the conference two weeks from now. Talk about nail-biting. I don’t know how it will turn out, but being a Finalist, I still feel like a winner. Congrats on your Finalist award!

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