Thursday, March 27, 2008

Vickie McDonough Day

Mary here: Vickie won the historical category of the Noble Theme (now Genesis) Contest sponsored by ACFW the year before I did. My first year of attending the ACFW Conference, 2004, kicked off by watching Vickie being given her first contract by Heartsong Presents. We were both nominated in the Historical Category of the Noble Theme that year. I went up to Vickie AFTER she got the contract but BEFORE the Noble Theme was announced, grabbed her by the arm and said, "I'm not even going to pretend to root for you, Vickie. I need this way more than you."
After the mace wore off and I'd made bail, Vickie and I became good friends. And now she's honoring us with a visit at Seekerville.

I'll give Vickie a chance to speak.
Writing contests can be both beneficial to a young writer and hurtful, depending on the judge that you happen to get. Early on in my writing career, I started doing contests so that I could get feedback on my writing. Was it great? Did it stink? Yes, and yes. It all depending on the judge’s opinion. You’ve heard judging is selective, and that is so true. One of my stories got a 99 from one judge and a 77 from another in the same contest. So what does that mean? I’m an 88? I’ll admit the results can be confusing at times.

When you receive a contest entry back, you have to remember that it is just one person’s opinion, especially if you receive a low score. But, do look at the judge’s comments with an open mind and see if there is truth in them. Learn from them, but don’t let a low score cause you to quit writing. Keep entering, and learning, and improving.

Before I was published, I knew I wanted to target Heartsong and Steeple Hill because I liked writing shorter books. So, I’d enter the contests where the final judges were editors from those two houses. I was more than willing to pay $25 to have one of those editors look at my story, but the trick was, I had to final.

I surprisingly won the first two contests I enters, the TARA First Impressions and ACRW’s(now ACFW) Noble Theme. The year after winning the Noble Theme, the editor/judge offered me a contract for Sooner or Later, my first novel length book, at the ACRW conference in front of a huge group of my peers. That was nerve wracking and exciting!

I truly feel that entering contests led to my being published. You need to carefully consider how a contest can help you and target the ones that could potentially move your writing career forward.
Find out more about Vickie at


  1. Vickie told me her web site is giving her trouble. If it doesn't open, try again later.
    Thanks for being here, Vickie. Welcome to Seekerville and, no matter WHAT Ruthy says, the imaginary food is for everybody.

  2. Great thoughts on contests, Vickie!

  3. I think I deserve a free book just because of the hours it took for me to figure out how to post a message here. I just joined on Sunday and have been trying all week.

  4. Vickie congrats on winning even if im a few years late. I do enjoy heartsong presents and steeple hill books. in fact our library and the Uniting church library have alot of them thanks to me.
    I did stop reading them a bit cos people (dont ask which ones) but some indicated they were just like weight and not real novels. and i kinda bought way to many other books too. but i have gotten back into them again. (I found novella's for a bit and love them.)
    Thanks for your thoughts. and
    this Aussie is sending cyber food as we speak.

  5. Vickie...great post! I'll share my cheese danish with you any day!


  6. Welcome to Seekerville, Vickie -- it's great to have you here. And very sound advice on contests! The only thing I'm having a problem with is that you won the first two contests you entered??? Holy cow, I didn't see a contest win for many a moon, so I am duly impressed ... along with being duly jealous. :)


  7. Dear Luv2read,

    It can be a bear can't it. I like to follow the published Seekers around the blogosphere when they are doing blog tours and let me tell you I spend a lot of time wondering why blogs make it so hard to post. ARRGHHH. I agree. You should get a free book for persistence. And I am sending you one. Send me your address off the loop. DO NOT POST IT HERE!!!

  8. Vicki, hey there and welcome.
    Love those book covers.

    A thrill to see you in our side of town!!!

  9. Thanks for the warm welcome! I'm happy to be here, but frustrated that my website picked this week to go on vacation. Check back next week, and sign my guest book for a chance to win a copy of Virginia Brides.

    Another word about contests. I believe God can use these. I know I was soooo insecure when I first began writing, that I'm not sure I'd still be writing today if I hadn't seen those early successes in contests. God used them to keep me going.


  10. Hey, there Vickie, hey, about that restraining order... is there someway to clear all that up?
    This monitor is really chafing my ankle.

  11. Hi, Vicki! Thanks for putting those contests into perspective!

    I can beat that, though. I once got a 95 and 58 on the same contest. One judge liked it, one didn't, obviously! I know, I know, I should stop harping on that 58. Like Mary and her one, I should just get over it. Hopefully, some day, with God's help, I will. ;-)

  12. Hi, Vickie, and welcome to Seekerville! Wow, winning your first two contests??? That's the kind of writing encouragement we could all use!

    Everybody, Vickie and I are in the same ACFW chapter, Writers of Inspirational Novels. She is absolutely the sweetest gal, and so encouraging and helpful. If you want to visit with her a little longer, pop over to my blog,, and read her thoughts on romance.

  13. Vickie, God used contests to keep me going, too. It seemed that anytime I was ready to throw in the towel, I would get a contest call. I guess that's the beauty of entering as many as I did! There was also some contest about to announce its finalists. :)

    So glad you joined us here today!!

    luv2read, I have the same trouble posting on the e-harlequin boards! I think they just don't like me. :) Hey, just so you'l know, you can go back and comment on the previous days and still be entered in the drawings (as long as it's the current week).


  14. Great post, Vickie. I didn't know you got your first contract in front of the whole crowd. Knowing you and how shy you are, I can only imagine . . . Trust me, you are an inspiration to all of us.
    PS: I'm in the same local group with Vickie and Myra and Gina. That's pretty darn good company. Now I'm off to get Vickie's romance tips on Myra's blog.

  15. Here, Myra. Let me assist you with the link.

    Myra's Star Dater of the Day: Vickie McDonough

  16. Ahem.

    I haven't been here in two days, and you're making me out to be a total greedy, chocolate-sucking, pastry-eating monster.

    Vickie, I'll have you know I WAS ROOTING for you all the way in that contest, baby....

    Seeing Mary get beat gives me an odd sense of self-worth and satisfaction.

    Why is that, I wonder????

    Anyway, I just brought in some freshly made pastries with a new ganache coating I'm trying before the wedding. Try some. See what you think.

    Also, there's a fresh carafe of hazelnut coffee, decaf, and a pot of freshly warmed water if you'd prefer tea. I just got a shipment of English Earl Grey in. I found it a bit strong but everyone else liked it with a sugar cube and a dollop of fresh cream.

    Now, to writing.

    You Rock Girl!

    What beautiful books, and I mean that. And I totally commiserate with your take on judges, but you found your niche quickly and well. Good job, all around.

    And thanks for being here on GH week while we lick our wounds like puppies in a thistle patch.


    Okay, that would be me, mostly.

    But it's so nice to have visitors, Vick.

    and luv2read:

    We Are So Worth It, Girlfriend. Seriously.

    Because we're fun, honest (not as honest as we are off camera, but hey, this IS a public forum...) snarky when necessary and we love God and good writing.


  17. Oh, and Vickie? About Cheryl??? Aka: Squirl???

    She never brings food. Oh, yeah, she promises, but she never brings it so her promise of sharing (yeah, right, Wyatt....) is about as good as that Monopoly money your kids use to play house.


  18. Nuts aren't something, Russo.

    We want delicacies, breakfast breads, bowknots, mouth-watering goodness...

    You know.

    Not Planters. Sheesh, I can get those bad boys at the local convenience store.

    Mary, put that slice of kuchen back, you've had yours and mine too, and it's just 2:30 EST.

    Vickie, I love that you like to write short books. How do you get a full story into a short book?

    Help out the long-winded among us, girlfriend.


  19. And Gina Conroy needs an Avatar, something that makes her look old and haggardly.

    What's up with this young and beautiful nonsense?

    Mary, help her out with that, will you? I need to get some facial warts removed.


  20. *sigh*

    Would anyone like a child or four? Well, maybe just three. The baby may be cranky but she sleeps half the day away.

    Vickie, nice thought on contests. And very appealing book covers.

    I appreciated your point about targeting contests because of the final round judges. Excellent advice for us unpubbies to take.

  21. Okay, I have a question.

    How influential/impressive is contest finals to an editor?

    At what point could you say an unpublished story has finalled (or won) too many contests?

  22. Vickie,

    This is a lovely post full of wisdom on entering contests. May your writing grow in depth and span and thereby continue to weave godly truths into the fabric of peoples lives, turning hearts to heaven.

    Leaning on His Everlasting Arms,

    JoAnn R. Wray

  23. Wow, Vickie, I didn't realize Sooner or Later was your first contracted book. Wonderful book.

  24. Gina, that sounds like a blog post. Investigative reporter, Gina Welborn wants to know.

    There is a fine and scary line between professional writer and professional contest enterer. (is that a word?)

    And I can tell you that you must be very careful, because as nice as that REHAB place was, Amy Winehouse is right. I don't want to go back..NO. NO. NO.

  25. Wow, Mary, just show off, why don't you? I still haven't figured out how to make a link in a comment into a . . . well, a link. You'll have to give me lessons.

    And Ruthy, honey, what is all this with the FOOD? I mean, we aren't really here, for crying out loud! It's all FAKE!

  26. Vickie, you won your FIRST two contests? Amazing. I'm so happy for you. Thank you for sharing your experience and perspectives. I'm sure getting Mary as a friend was an added prize.

  27. Tina, sweetheart, what part of answering my question didn't you get? Grrr.

    When I asked my agent, she said, "Whatever you decide, I'll support you."


    I don't want support. I want someone to tell me the exact right thing to do. Preferably the low cost exact right thing to do answer.

    If I was a pubbed author, I know I'd enter probably as many contests as I could afford. Anything to increase the fan base.

    If I didn't have an agent, I know I'd enter probably as many contests as I could afford. Anything to snare an agent or to get my work before an editor.

    But what does Unpublished Author You/Me do when you/me have/has an agent? Do you still enter contests? Obviously contests with agent final round judges are necessary.

    The Genesis and the Golden Heart I can see as contests the unpublished inspy author should enter agented or not.

    But beyond that...

    Does it benefit the unpubbed author to have her manuscript final in one or more contests?

    Don't anyone say "there's no right answer," because even if there is no right answer there has to be a most logical/reasonable answer.

    I'm staring at a contest entry form and wondering if it's worth it.

  28. Gina, I'll give you my opinion. Of course, that doesn't mean it's your answer. :)

    I think if you have good agent who's sending your stuff out, you probably don't need to be entering. Your agent will get your stuff read without you having to pay any money to enter a contest.

    Of course, like you said, I think the GH is a bit different because it can help give you more attention when your stuff gets read by the editors.

    Also, I can see you entering if your agent is new and maybe doesn't have an inroad at a particular publisher you're targeting. If that editor is a judge, then it might be worth it to enter.

    And there're always the contests with jewelry for prizes! :) A little bling never hurt anyone.


  29. Hi!
    I'm just passing thru because I have yet to discover how to log on here. But I've enjoyed all the contest chatter.

    Can I interest anyone in a cappuchino or espresso? I'll make you one, too, while I'm making myself a zebra mocha.

    Have a good weekend!

  30. Ann!

    Whoever you are, I WANT a zebra mocha just because it's, well, mocha and I need a zing-bam-boom, and because the name zebra mocha instills pictures of white chocolate swirl in my head, and YOU OFFERED me food without even asking for money.

    Ann is one of my new best friends.

    Welcome, kid.


  31. Ruthy i am making bacon ok cooking some would you like to share?

  32. GINA, HONEY I WOULD NEVER, EVER EVER ANSWER YOUR QUESTION IN A PUBLIC FORUM. I can give you any variety of politically correct answers. Pick one. But everyone's career strengths and weaknesses and their relationships with their agents, the world in general is so different that it IS NOT BLACK AND WHITE.


  33. Thanks, everybody, for your sweet comments. And you're making me hungry with all this food talk!!!

    Someone mentioned SOL was my first contract, but it wasn't actually. I'd been published in three Barbour anthologies before,but SOL was my first book length sale.

    As far as how many contests are too many. That's hard to say. I guess it partly depends on your budget and tenacity. I usually only enter several per year. I always do the ACFW and IRCC ones now. I don't think you should just randomly enter contests. It can be very discouraging. I still like the idea of entering a contest with an editor you hope to target, and I do know that sometimes people get request from those editors.

    I'm going to eat dinner now that you've made me famished.

  34. I have read your books and I am not a judge and I love them to pieces. I still have the ones I bought. Lately I have found passing them on to others helps Authors like you get out there and be known. My landlady's wife is on the library board so I have helped her get some books for library of Authors she had not heard of.
    God Bless.