Dear Chapter Members,
One of the major items that had been discussed last year, when the board was getting ready to transition into the 2017 year, was bringing back the Stiletto Contest. A contest that had been well known among RWA members as one of the best among RWA chapters to enter. But how did we, as a new board, bring back a contest that had essentially been abandoned and make it great and a sought after
A contest that had been well known among RWA members as one of the best among RWA chapters to enter. But how did we, as a new board, bring back a contest that had essentially been abandoned and make it great and a sought after contest, again? It begins with a list of to-do items.
1. Pulling together a great committee.
It’s not easy for chapters to get volunteers, especially online chapters like the Contemporary Romance Writers. But we put the call out and sure enough, we got a great group of members who not only gave great input but have stepped up to contribute to make this contest great again.
2. Improving the judge’s score sheet.
Luckily, writers and authors save everything. And I mean everything, right? We tend to not delete anything on our laptops. One of the committee members had saved the Stiletto Contest score sheet from the last year it had been held and the committee agreed that it needed an overhaul. Entrants enter contests for reasons. Maybe it’s to nab an award-winning author tag or to get their manuscript in front of a specific judge or to get feedback from judges on their manuscripts. Whatever the case, a good score sheet is vital and the Stiletto’s now has more in-depth questions to help writers get better feedback for their entries.
3. Final Round Judges.
This could have been a daunting task. Finding final round judges for the unpublished division was something that we wanted to be sure we got right. Thankfully, even though the Stiletto hadn’t been around in a few years, editors and agents jumped at the opportunity to judge the unpublished final round. Yay, CRW! We still got it! ;-)
Another discussion in the committee was categories. Naturally, we chose only contemporary romance, because, well, we’re a contemporary romance chapter. Leaving paranormal, fantasy, historical, etc to the chapters that focus on those genres was a bit of a no-brainer for us. But, choosing the subgenres within contemporary romance was a further discussion. There were reasons for the categories chosen and reasons for categories not picked, but mainly it came down to max number of categories and leaving some to chapters that focus specifically on those subgenres, like YA and erotic.
We also wanted to include published authors as a new part of the Stiletto. Many of our members are published and self-published authors and we wanted to give them the opportunity to enter the contest. So we unanimously decided on two divisions−published and unpublished−to give every CRW member, and author and writer outside of CRW, an opportunity to enter a contest.
We are also one of the few chapters that has given published authors an entry choice of either ebooks or paperbacks. Many traditionally published authors don’t have access to their ebooks or maybe an author isn’t comfortable handing off their ebook. The committee came together and agreed that having both options available would be best. We’re truly happy with this decision that includes every author’s publishing route.
5. Category Coordinators.
Recruiting category leaders was not an easy task by any means. No one wants to volunteer time that they don’t have. But once again, the women who have agreed to be categories coordinators have been fantastic. And I can’t thank them enough for stepping up for the chapter.
6. Last but not least - Entrants!
We need your entries! The Stiletto Contest cannot run without entries. So if you’ve been on the fence, enter your novel or manuscript. If you’re a member, a published ebook entry or an unpublished manuscript is only $15! That is the lowest price of any chapter contest. How could you possibly beat that for the possibility of becoming an award-winning author or getting your manuscript in front of some of the best editors and agents in the industry?
I’ve severely paraphrased the process of bringing back the Stiletto Contest. It has been a great undertaking by all involved, from the committee to the category coordinators to the board. Every member who has played a part has been significant in bringing this contest back. And for that, the Contemporary Romance Writers board cannot thank you enough. We’re thrilled to have the contest back and better than ever!
Now, get those entries in before the submission date ends on Friday, April 7th.
Contemporary Romance Writers
So, you're thinking about entering a contest sponsored by RWA, or one of RWA's local or online chapters?
Good! I have some thoughts to nudge you along.
Some of us are plotters, some are pantsers, and some of us have created a hybrid of the two that works. Some of us are traditionally published, some of us are self-published, and some of us are hybrid.
What's important is we all started somewhere, and if we're even contemplating entering a writing contest, it means we also finished something we started. Woot!
A contest can also provide you with feedback, from a bare-bones numbering system, to a few sentences, to a healthy chunk of pages that have been marked up by thoughtful, attentive judges.
A contest can also help you find other writers within the vast community that is the RWA. It can be daunting to wade in to a thriving organization and find your place. Entering a contest is one way to get to know the waters. Volunteering to judge the preliminary round is another.
But, if you're curious, then just do it. Pressing send might feel a bit like jumping into your favorite swimming hole a few weeks too early, but the plunge is worth it.
Before you press that send button, let's review:
- Do you have a completed manuscript?
- Have you polished that manuscript so it's nice and shiny?
- Run it through spell check and grammar check one more time. Just in case.
Go back to the contest rules page and read through carefully. Then, look at your manuscript.
- Does it fit into one of the contest's categories?
- Have you formatted it correctly?
- Have you removed all traces of identification from the file(s) you are sending?
Go back, again, and triple check those pesky formatting rules. They're important. You're submitting a piece of writing you believe in. It hurts to be disqualified because you forgot to remove your name from the file's properties, or you've formatted your pages into .docx, not .doc.
Liza is a pantser who craves organization and deadlines. She has a modest amount of experience with entering writing contests and knows what it's like to press send on a polished project, and what it's like to press send on something half-baked. Believe her, it feels much better to send in a piece of writing that is ready!
Most days, she can be found in her writing cabin, working towards her next Life Goal: becoming a published author. You can find her blogging at https://lizakeoghblog.wordpress.com, and on twitter @lazy_liza_k.
The 2014 Stiletto Contest for Unpublished Contemporary Fiction is OPEN!
Entries Due by September 5, 2014
Questions? Please contact our Contest Coordinator, Lisa Siefert at lisalisalisalisalisa (at) gmail (dot) com.
***JUDGES NEEDED: PLEASE CONTACT LISA SIEFERT AT THE ABOVE EMAIL!***
CATEGORIES AND FINAL JUDGES:
Single Title Contemporary Romance (70,000 words and up)
- A love story set in the contemporary/modern world in which the romance is the main focus of the novel and it has an optimistic or happy ending.
- Final Judge: Amanda Bergeron, Editor, Avon Romance
Single Title Contemporary Erotic Romance (70,000 words and up)
- A love story set in the contemporary/modern world in which sexual situations and the sexual relationship of the characters is fundamental to plot and characterization. May use explicit language and contain graphic descriptions. The erotic romance is the main focus of the novel and it has an optimistic or happy ending.
- Final Judge: Christa Desir, Editor, Samhain Publishing
Short Contemporary Romance (40,000 – 70,000 words)
- A shorter love story set in the contemporary/modern world in which the romance is the main focus of the novel and it has an optimistic or happy ending.
- Final Judge: Alethea Spiridon Hopson, Editorial Director of Indulgence, Entangled
- A story set in the contemporary/modern world that includes romantic elements (situations, relationships, etc.) but in which the romance does not have to be the main focus of the novel. Examples of possibly relevant story types include but are not limited to women’s fiction, chick lit, contemporary fiction, etc.
- Final Judge: Allison Carroll, Editor, Harlequin HQN
Young Adult Contemporary Romance (50,000 words and up)*
- A love story set in the contemporary/modern world in which a romance between adolescents is the main focus of the novel and it has an optimistic or happy ending.
- Final Judge: Margo Lipschultz, Editor, Harlequin Teen
Young Adult Contemporary Novel with Romantic Elements (50,000 words and up)*
- A story set in the contemporary/modern world centered around adolescent characters that includes romantic elements (situations, relationships, etc.) but in which the romance does not have to be the main focus of the novel.
- Final Judge: Elizabeth Poteet, Assistant Editor, St. Martin’s Press
New Adult Contemporary Romance (70,000 words and up)
- A love story set in the contemporary/modern world in which a romance usually involving at least one college-aged character (i.e., 18-24) is the main focus of the novel and it has an optimistic or happy ending.
- Final Judge: Nicole Fischer, Editor, William Morrow Books
All authors, regardless of publishing status, are welcome to enter this contest. All authors must be at least 18 years of age.
Submitted manuscripts must be new, original works of fiction that have not been published, self-published, or contracted to be published. Manuscripts must meet the word count minimums, as described in the corresponding Category section.
Authors may enter as many manuscripts as they choose, but each manuscript may be entered in only one category.
Each category must have a minimum of 10 entries to remain a part of this contest. RWA-CRW reserves the right to close a category if we receive less than 10 entries or more than 50 entries in that category.
“The Stiletto contest was an amazing experience. We train our judges and take great care to ensure that it is a fair contest. This year we have some amazing agents and editors and for the first time, all final entries will be read by an epublisher.”Q. As a contest finalist, what advice would you offer those of us who would like to be in your shoes? A. Find a good mentor. A fellow ballroom dancer and writer introduced me to brilliant freelance editor, Deborah Halverson, who deleted two thirds of my first draft and taught me how to revise. She has been so much more than an editor to me. She introduced me to my agent, Jill Marsal. Q. In 2008, your manuscript DANCING UNDER THE STARS garnered a full request from Agent Michelle Grajkowski of 3 Seas Literary Agency. How did that work out? A. I submitted my manuscript to Michelle at the same time I submitted to Jill Marsal. Jill made me an offer three days after I submitted to her so I wrote Michelle and withdrew my submission. Jill was impressed with my Stiletto final and submitted my book as "award winning" to editors so that was nice. Q. Your Stiletto final manuscript also earned a revision request from Editor Latoya Smith of Grand Central Publishing. What's the current status of the manuscript? A. After a year of my agent submitting, we received some very kind rejections. An agent from the UK also submitted it and we had a few close calls but ultimately did not get a sale. The rejections were mostly along the lines of "wonderful voice, dynamic writing, not quite romance, not quite women's fiction."Uhm - isn't that the definition of chick lit? I was devastated and do plan to rewrite it as a contemporary romance when I'm done with my current projects. But two days ago I heard that the team who had produced Burn the Floor, a Broadway musical, was interested in turning my novel into a Broadway musical! So that would be even better than a book deal. Q. What was the biggest boost you got from your Stiletto final? A. The biggest boost I got from the contest was confidence! It was the first contest I ever entered and to be the runnerup was thrilling (especially since the winner was a published best selling author of a romance anthology!). It also encouraged me to become active in the Chick Lit chapter. The following year I coordinated the Classic category, then I became VP and ultimately I became the chapter President. I'd never even heard of RWA until I found the Stiletto contest - so I'm so thankful for finding both the Chick Lit chapter and the wonderful support of the members of RWA. Q. You describe yourself as a recovering Chick Lit writer. What made you decide to transition to another genre, and what does it take to switch genres? A. I told my agent that I wished that my rejections had said "her writing is horrible, we don't like the plot, her characters are bland." The senior editor at Mira said I was a "terrific writer", and the senior editor at Grand Central said that "Albertson is a spirited writer and her characters are so vivid. That said, I didn’t see this for 5 Spot—we’ve been tending a bit more serious on that list, and this novel, while fun, struck me as a little frothy for it. I shared it with a couple of colleagues who are great readers of all women’s fiction to see what they thought—and they agreed that it sort of fell in between romance (our Forever imprint) and 5 Spot." I realized that I didn't want to waste my time writing books that weren't being published. I have no desire to self publish. I'm working on a YA now, with chick lit flair, and I love it. Just like I did when I started writing Chick Lit, I read every best selling YA book out there and got an idea of what was selling to get a handle on the genre. Q. What's next on your agenda? A. I'm finishing The Picture of Dulce Garcia, a modern paranormal chick litish YA retelling of my favorite novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I'm also working on an inspirational non-fiction book about a female Marine who lost both her Marine brother and her Marine fiancé (and father of her 10-month-old son) within 48 hours. Then I will rewrite Dancing as a contemporary romance. Q. You're a small business owner, a wife, a mom--and a fiction writer! What's the key to balancing a full life? A. My husband is amazing and helps out with the baby. So having a great partner is key. I also try to delegate work and RWA obligations so my workload is managable. Alana Albertson is the President of Romance Writers of Americas’s Young Adult and Chick Lit chapters and the founder of Academe Advantage, a college admissions & test preparation company. Alana Albertson holds a Masters of Education from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University. A recovering Chick Lit author, Alana currently writes young adult fiction. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, nine-month old baby boy, and a menagerie of rescue pets. When she’s not spending her time needlepointing, quilting or scrapbooking, she can be found watching episodes of House Hunters, Entourage, or Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team. Wish you were in Alana Albertson’s fabulous shoes? Enter the 2011 Get Your Stiletto in the Door contest for unpublished manuscripts. Deadline for electronic entries is Sept. 6.