The Stilleto Contest is Coming!

Liza Keogh

~ By Liza Keogh

Hi, Contemporary Romance Writers. Liza Keogh here, Stiletto Contest Co-Chair (along with Mary E. Thompson) with information about this year’s contest.

I recently surveyed the writers in my Romance Writers group and asked them to explain to me why they enter writing contests. There are at least a dozen writers in the group and between them they have entered a LOT of RWA Chapter contests. Here’s a compilation of their replies: 

  • “I enter because of the potential for my work to be seen by agents and editors.”
  • “I enter contests for quality feedback and guidance.”
  • “Becoming a Finalist or Winner gives a helpful boost to a writer’s biography.”
  • “Entering is a way to test new manuscripts and new genres. Am I hitting the right notes, or am I falling flat? Are my words resonating?”
  • “They can be a way to improve my grammar and strengthen my opening pages for querying.”
  • “For newbie writers, entering is a great way to get a glimpse into the romance industry because we’re getting feedback from more established writers and authors.”
  • “The feedback comes from outside my usual circle of family and friends and writers.”

What is the Stiletto Contest?

The Stiletto Contest, an annual event organized and run by the Contemporary Romance Writers, an online chapter of the RWA, celebrates and recognizes excellence in the contemporary romance genre for published and unpublished novels. The Contemporary Romance Writers Chapter focuses on the contemporary romance genre and its inception of the Stiletto Contest upholds the chapter goal of bringing awareness to the best work by authors and writers in contemporary romance. 

For more information on the contest follow this link.

The page is updated regularly. The list of professionals (agents and editors) who will judge the final round of the Unpublished side of the contest will be announced on the website and on the CRW’s Facebook page in early February.

Is my work eligible for entry?

  • For Rules and Guidelines follow this link. 
  • Any further questions may be directed to Liza Keogh and Mary E. Thompson, the 2019 Stiletto Contest Co-Chairs, at crwstilettocontest (at) gmail (dot) com 

What do I get out of entering?

  • Entrants in the Unpublished Categories receive feedback from three peer judges. All first-round judges are required to be members in good standing of the RWA.
  • Finalists in the Unpublished Categories have their work seen by professionals (one agent and one editor per category) working actively within the traditional publishing industry. 
  • All entrants are required to judge at least one other entry. Your participation functions as a reminder to judge in as unbiased and aware a manner as you can.
  • Your entry fee helps support the CRW Chapter.

I don’t plan to enter any of my writing. How else can I participate?

  • Sign up to judge here! Each year, the number of entries to the contest grows by about 10%. For the 2019 contest, we estimate the need for a minimum of 175 judges.
  • Talk to us about becoming a Category Coordinator, whose job entails processing entries and sending them to judges assigned by the Co-Chairs. The Category Coordinators are required to review the scoresheets as they come in to look for inappropriate or lack of comments, incorrect scoring, etc.
  • Spread the word on social media.

I’m afraid to judge the work of other writers and authors.

One way to look at judging a Stiletto Contest entry, whether it is the first 7K words of an Unpublished story, or an entire published book, is to imagine you are giving a combination of a positivity pass and a feedback sandwich.

Read and score each entry on its own merits. When it comes to writing comments, one great way to judge a score sheet is to remove all the “I”s from your comments. Make your feedback about the story itself and not about you, the judge. And as we say on the scoresheets:

“Be kind. Cruelty is unnecessary and not permitted in the Stiletto contest. Use your good words to express your judging opinion. Any score sheets with comments deemed cruel or demeaning will be returned to the judge for rewording. Judges found to be verbally abusive in comments will be banned from judging and entering the Stiletto contest in the future.”

What do I do if I read something that contains triggers or that I feel I cannot judge fairly?

You may recuse yourself by emailing the Stiletto Contest Co-Chairs at crwstilettocontest (at) gmail (dot) com . We will then discuss trading the entry for another. 

What do I do if I feel my work has been poorly judged?

Contact the Stiletto Contest Co-Chairs at crwstilettocontest (at) gmail (dot) com 

Knowing we all have preferences around what we want and like to read, how can I judge someone else’s piece of writing as fairly as possible?

Read each and every entry you are assigned with fresh eyes and ears, and if you get held up by some aspect of the writing style, or the story, ask yourself, why? It’s okay to stop and take a step back, then return to the entry.

Mary and I look forward to receiving your entries! We are always available for answering questions. The best way to reach us is via the crwstilettocontest (at) gmail (dot) com email. We try to respond within 24 hours.

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