Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lacy Williams: One Road to a Contest Win

Good morning, Seekerville--Myra here. Please join me in welcoming today's guest blogger, Lacy Williams, winner of the 2009 ACFW Genesis in the Historical Romance category for her manuscript Marrying Miss Marshall.

My contest experiences have mostly been with ACFW’s Genesis contest, although I’ve entered a few others, too. After I joined ACFW in December 2006, some gals from my local chapter encouraged me to enter (the 2007 contest).

I did, and spent an anxious couple of months thinking that OF COURSE my entry would final. When the notification date arrived, I waited and waited for a phone call. None came. I thought maybe it
was a mistake. Maybe they were running late in notifying the finalists. Then I got the judges’ scores back.

I was shocked. The scores were LOW!

For the next few days, I went through phases of anger, hurt, questioning myself, and thinking the judges just didn’t get my story. Then I went back and reread the comments. They were insightful. Accurate. Some were painful. But it was obvious that all of the judges hadn’t just ripped apart my story for fun. They’d spent time on it and were genuinely offering help so I could get better.

So I kept working. I joined two critique groups, attended writing workshops, read books on writing and studied fiction books I loved.

In 2008, I planned to enter again, this time with a different story. Before I sent my story off, I went back to that first entry to see if I could glean any nuggets of wisdom from the judges’ comments or my story itself.

I was shocked. That first story was AWFUL!

Boy, I’d learned a lot in one short year – my writing had come so far, and I was much better now. I was sure 2008 was my year to final or even win! I tried to keep my mind off of the contest while I waited for the notification date to come. No phone call.
When my scoresheets came, I was disappointed, but knew that I would find helpful criticisms from the judges. And I did. My scores went up, but not enough to be a finalist.

I continued working. I found that my critique groups weren’t what I needed, so I quit them. I found my focus – historical romance. I kept attending writing workshops, and it was at one
of these events that I found my critique partner, Denice. She is perfect for me – knows good writing, treats her own writing like a business, doesn’t choke my voice, and loves romance.

So the 2009 Genesis contest rolled around. My local chapter again encouraged me to enter. I did, with the same hope as
always – that I would final. My day job was particularly busy around the time that finalists were supposed to be notified. I knew the date was coming, but when I got a voicemail that I was a finalist, well…

I was shocked!

And when my name was announced at the 2009 banquet as the winner in my category –

I was even more shocked!

I was so honored just to be a finalist. I knew several of the ladies who had finaled with me, and they were GOOD writers. I felt sure I wouldn’t win. But they announced MY name. I still can’t believe it, but now I just have to look at my plaque to remind myself.

Several things that I feel sure helped to achieve my win:

I never stopped learning, and I hope I never will. Sure, I thought about giving up after I read my first scoresheets. In this case, it’s probably a blessing that I’m so stubborn.

Having a critique partner who challenges me, knows me, encourages me. Based on her advice, my winning entry was actually a second version of the first chapter.

For the 2009 contest, I also utilized a small group of friends to read my contest entry and give me their honest feedback. These girls aren’t writers, but they enjoy reading a good book. And they gave me great insights about what was working and what was missing in my entry.

Lastly, one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my writing journey is to learn to give it to God. Whatever it is I’m doing, whether it is writing, submitting, or waiting, I can’t do it without Him. It’s when I forget that fact that I feel the worst. When I consciously give Him control, I find a peace that I can never achieve on my own. And He takes care of me each and every time.

Thanks for inviting me to Seekerville to tell my story. God bless!

Lacy Williams is a wife and mom-to-be from Oklahoma. She writes historical romance with the tag-line "Happy Endings Guaranteed." Visit her website at www.lacyjwilliams.com.

Congratulations, Lacy, and thanks so much for being our guest today!


Cathy Shouse said...


What a clear, concise description of the journey to your Genesis win. You seemed to approach things calmly and methodically and with prayer. Thanks for the inspiration!

I'm wondering if you've been able to turn the win into a request for submission?

Also, would you mind sharing a little about your writing process, as far as goals and scheduling?

Well, fellow Seekerville islanders, food doesn't sound that good to me at this point, being that it's early here. (I know, mark the date). Once I get moving and the rest of the household is up, I'll have oatmeal with lots of brown sugar. Would anyone care to join me?


Christy LaShea said...

Great post, Lacy! I loved reading about your writing journey. Congratulations on your win! It was great meeting you at ACFW!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Lacy, welcome to Seekerville!!!

And since I have a daughter-in-law that's a Lacey, we're going to celebrate your name by serving coffee, Danish and fruit on our...

Drum roll, please...

Best LACE tablecloth! :)

I love contest stories, wins and losses. Congrats on your great showing in Genesis!



Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, Cath, hot oatmeal sounds so good!!!

And brown sugar... Yum. May I have dark brown sugar, please? With some toasted almonds and a hint of cinnamon?

Not that I'm picky or anything! :)


Lisa Jordan said...


Congratulations on your win! Thank you for sharing your story. I love hearing contest win stories almost as much as I enjoy first sale stories. Your willingness to learn and grow as a writer will help you to go far with your writing.


Patty said...

Lacy, congratulations on winning the Genesis in historical romance. It was fun and inspirational to hear your writing journey--and it sounds as if you and I have been on very similar paths.

Like Cathy, I would love to hear more about your writing process and scheduling. Since the 2008 conference, I've tried to follow the advice of some many writers that I heard from that year--which is set a reachable word count and plop your backside into the nearest chair until it's done. That one piece of advice was so freeing for me.

No goodies for me this morning. My tummy is a bit upset so I'll just have to stick with dry toast.

Tina M. Russo said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Lacy. AND CONGRATULATIONS!!

Great strategies.

Hot coffee and cinnamon oatmeal.

Only 7 more months of winter here in Denver..aargh.

Julie Lessman said...

Lacy -- welcome to Seekerville! I always love hearing about other writers' roads to success, and I pretty much took your path exactly. Contest feedback was a major factor in helping me to become a better writer too -- prompting me to take classes, join crit groups and persevere to improve my craft.

Super congrats on your Genesis win ... and may it become a BOTY win in the years ahead.


Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Lacy! Huge congratulations on the Genesis win!!! It's fun to see how contest input grew your writing, just like it did mine and so many others here in Seekerville. Isn't the journey amazing?

Cathy, thanks for the oatmeal. It sounds good on this cool morning.

Ruthy, I'll try not to leave any Danish crumbs on your lovely lace tablecloth.


Glynna Kaye said...

Congratulations on the Genesis win, Lacy!! An inspiring story of perseverance and God's perfect timing.

Gina Logue said...

I, too, love contest stories. Thanks for sharing yours, Lacey.


Pam Hillman said...

Congrats all over again, Lacy!!! I loved reading your Genesis contest journey. Sounds like the EXACT same road I've been travelling

Do you remember that darling little restaurant at mile marker 44?

To die for chocolate brownie cake smothered in French vanilla ice cream, and the cute waiter?

Yep! That's the one.

No wonder we keep wandering in circles....


Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Myra and Lacy, Welcome Lacy to Seekerville. What an inspiring story and reminder that the road off unpubbed island can be bumpy, but if you persevere and keep on learning, you will make progress. Congrats on your win. It was great seeing you at the conference.

Cathy, I love oatmeal. I have blackberries and applesauce which is yummy on oatmeal. Whipped cream too if you choose to be decadent. smile

I"ll add some of my chocolate velvet coffee to Ruthy's. It is a cold stormy morning so the more coffee the better. I do have some interesting cocoa spice tea for you tea drinkers.

Audra Harders said...

Good morning, Lacy and welcome to Seekerville!!

Very encouraging contest win! In a few short years you surmounted incredible odds, namely:

knowing when to get out of a critique group that didn't fit;

knowing when you found a safe critique partner who had your best interests at heart;

knowing that NOT finalling is NOT the end;

You're obviously a smart, smart girl. Can't get enough of that!

It was a pleasure meeting you at the conference, Lacy. My prayers are with you!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Congrats on the win, Lacy! You looked so cute at the banquet! God bless you in your writing future!

LynnRush said...

Thanks for sharing your journey, Lacy. It's such an encouragement.

Blessings to your writing.

Erica Vetsch said...

Congratulations, Lacy! The crazy woman cheering from the far side of the ballroom was me, when they announced your name. I'm so happy for you.

Yay for the stubborness not to quit. My first Genesis scores were dreadful...but then again, so was my manuscript.

Pepper Basham said...

Congrat, Lacy and what wonderful insights.

Criticism is hard to hear in any form, but you have blessed me today by reminding me that I must give all things to God - including my writing. What a joy...and added peace to know God cares and He has a plan.

I'm expecting to receive some contest feedback really soon and I'm going to put on my big girl 'face' and 'take it like a man', as my dad constantly reminds me. (Yeah, I'm a girl, but he's never really cared about the difference) :-)

Blessings to your future writing.

Ann said...

Hi, Lacy, it's encouraging to read about the growth process. Congratulations on the win!

That first story, though -- did you think the story itself was salvageable even if you didn't like how you wrote it?

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks for breaking out the LACE tablecloth for our guest, Ruthy! Lacy is probably at work today, but she promised to drop in to chat whenever she had the opportunity.

Cathy! I already had my oatmeal with brown sugar this morning--plus raisins, Craisins, walnuts, and cinnamon. My favorite cool-weather breakfast.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Wow! I can't believe how early you guys get up. ;)

I am off to a prenatal doctor's appointment (8 more weeks - I can't believe it!), but I promise I'll be back to talk in a little bit.

Thanks for welcoming me!

Jenny said...

That was an inspiring chronicle Lacy. Wow. I'm so happy you got that call and look forward to reading your work. Congratulations!

Mary Connealy said...

LACY! It was so fun to meet you in Denver.

And DENICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You have got to be a great team.

Thanks for being on, Lacy. And WAY TO GO with your perseverence. That's what it take to get published. Keep trying, keep learning, keep using some of those hard hits to learn and above all else, keep WRITING.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Hi, Cathy!

I have had two requests for my manuscript because of the contest final/win. Since it was unfinished at the time I entered (I was approx. 3 chapters into it), I am still slugging through trying to get revisions done. I want to get it sent off before the baby comes!!!

You also asked about my writing process, goals, scheduling. I work full time (at least until the baby comes), so a good day of writing for me is 1,000 words. I can sometimes make more than that, but I have to be highly motivated. I am NOT a morning person, so sometimes by the time I get home from an 8 or 9 hour workday, I'm exhausted. Thankfully, I have a wonderful hubby who helps out with a lot of the housework and doesn't expect me to cook dinner every night. I usually try to write for 1-3 hours per night depending on how wiped I am.

Thanks for your questions!

Lacy J. Williams said...


I love the advice of "butt to chair" - and I've used it often. One thing that has been hard for me with working full-time and also with being pregnant is the "setting realistic goals" part of it.

Especially with being pregnant, it's been hard to know how exhausted I will be any given day of the week. My hubby asks sometimes, "what did you do today that made you so tired??" and I say, "I'm growing a baby here!"

My biggest challenge recently has been letting go of frustration (with myself) if I can't make the goals I want to make. I am learning to pray for peace and just accept it when I really can't keep my eyes open any longer. Some days are harder for me than others. :)

And, I am hoping this "learning experience" will carry over into motherhood, because I know it changes everything, including how much and how structured your writing time is.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Hi, Pepper!

One thing that I learned from getting contest feedback (and from knowing myself), is that it's okay to be disappointed - but then I need to move on. I give myself about three days (sometimes to mourn, sometimes just to ruminate on the judges' comments), before I put on my "big-girl face".

Honestly, I still used this advice when I got my finalling scores back. Two were great scores and one was... "okay". With only a few days to "tweak" my entry before it went to the final round judges, I didn't have much time to think on the comments, but I did take some time before I went back to my entry again to change anything.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Ann asked:

"That first story, though -- did you think the story itself was salvageable even if you didn't like how you wrote it?"

Thanks for the question, Ann! I believe some parts of that first story were re-usable, but as of right now, I've put it away in a drawer. :)

Some of those things I learned made me realize that this wasn't a story I wanted to continue on with, at least not right now. For instance: cliched hero and heroine, overused setting, not enough real conflict (GMC was one of the main things I remember learning in that first year of "real" writing).

I think the main purpose of that first story, for me, was learning what I DIDN'T know. :)

Lacy J. Williams said...

To Christy, Ruthy, Lisa, Tina, Julie, Janet, Glynna, Gina, Pam, Sandra, Audra, Melanie, Lynn, Erica, Myra, Jenny, and Mary:

Thanks again for being so welcoming! It was so fun to meet so many of you at conference (I wish we could do it once a month - if only I could afford it!).

I personally am a cold cereal girl - Cheerios have been my staple since the baby has been on the way, BUT I do have good memories with oatmeal: my dad and I used to eat breakfast today and watch the birds at the birdfeeder in our 1 acre back yard. He would have oatmeal and I would have toast.

I will stop in again later today. I'm having a blast in Seekerville!

Kathleen L. said...

Congrats for making such a huge leap in one year. That alone encourages me! That all your hard work paid off with your win is icing on the cake.

Janet Lee Barton said...

I'm so proud of you! For your win of course, but also for your wonderful insight into growing as an author and learning to give things over to the Lord! I know He has wonderful things in store for you and I can't wait to rejoice over all of them with you!

Pepper Basham said...

Ooh Lacy,

Congrats on the baby too! You're a busy lady.

Thanks for the contest tips too. I just finished reading scoresheets and told Julie that I felt like I swallowed a watermelon in one gulp.

Nothing to pull the mourning clothes out about, but...a lot to ponder :-)

Good luck on the revisions before you BIG day with baby. Blessings

carla stewart said...

Lacy! Hearing them announce your name at the banquet was like hearing the bells of heaven. I am so proud of you and love your attitude. Being willing to learn in a huge first step, and you've learned well.

I'm also on pins and needles wondering whether your next announcement will be about a contract or the arrival of your bambino.


Project Journal said...

What an incredible story! You are a very accomplished woman! I really wish I had been there to see your win, but I was cheering loudly from Vermont when I heard *grin*

Congratulations on your win and on your baby!! Is it a girl, boy, or do you not know yet? Man, you are definitely living an exciting time of your life right now : )

Project Journal said...

Oh Glynna, I forgot to tell you that I finished Dreaming of Home last night. GREAT ending!! The whole story was fantastic, but the end...perfect! I loved how Camy was the puppy! I was going to try to figure out if I had found all 15 Seekers...but I haven't done it yet.
Congrats on your book being such a success! I look forward to many more!

Project Journal said...

Oh Ruthy forgot something for you too! Lol...

At church on Sunday, the Pastor talked about RUTH'S story during the children's moment : ) Funny coincedence, eh!? I was like, oh my goodness...I have to remember to tell Ruthy! Especially after you just talked about it, too!

Denice C. Stewart said...

Hey Girl!

You could have given me a little heads up you were gonna be on Seekerville today! Especially since you threw my name out there, too.

Who authorized that terrible picture of me?!

But seriously, it's been great having you as a critique partner, and I only hope I can help you as much as you've helped and encouraged me in the last year.

Congrats again on the win! I don't think I could have screamed any louder if I'd tried.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Hannah -

Thank you for asking! We know it's a girl (as much as you can know before she comes, anyway!), and she's supposed to be here mid-December, so a Christmas baby. We have a name picked out but we're keeping it close to the vest for now. :)

This has definitely been a year for God's blessings in my life and hubby's too - and you know what's funny? We've needed them, because we've also dealt with some struggles that have been the hardest so far in our marriage and families. I am realizing more and more how God knows best what we need and when we need it.

:) Thanks for your comment!

Lacy J. Williams said...

Kathleen and Janet - thanks for stopping by! So glad to hear from you ladies today!

Lacy J. Williams said...

Carla and Denice,

My 2009 conference experience would not have been the same without you two ladies. Not only did you cheer for me at the banquet, but you checked on this preggo lady every day. It definitely made it easier to be away from home. :)

P.S. Denice, I didn't sign off on the pictures either - look at that baby belly!

P.P.S. Carla, I think the baby announcement is going to come first, but keep praying!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

You know the lovely verse that says "Weeping endureth for the night, but joy cometh in the morning..."????

Here's the updated version:

"Oatmeal endureth for the dawn, but chocolate cometh for the afternoon..."

Ruthy, 4:1-3

These are homemade chocolate chip/butterscotch chip cookies, melty-smooth, warm from the oven, filled with the goodness of the American farm... (we're studying farms with the liliputians)

Flour from wheat fields. Eggs from.. Okay, chickens. Farm fresh butter. Vanilla from vanilla beans. Sugar from sugar cane. Molasses, ditto.

Just pretend they're good for you, and if you can't do that, imagine the support we're offering the American farmer. Supporting country boys all the way! :)

Project Journal said...

Awwwww! Baby girls are great(of course I'm partial because of moi! Lol! Joking, joking!). Too bad we don't live closer or I'd offer to babysit for you! Wait...where do you live? Lol...

I know all about struggles and blessings. Don't you know it! But just look to the future Lacy. Things probably look brighter! Keep praying and God will provide : )

Please make sure to let us know what you name the little babygirl! I, personally, love the name Lorelai, but who knows when I'll get to use it(if ever!). I'm only 17 and a senior in high school, so the only kids on my radar are the precious little darlings I babysit every Saturday : ) If you haven't heard before on here, there are 7 kids, ages ranging from 1-7 with one for each year. My sister and I babysit all of them at once every Saturday for most of the day. We love them to pieces now! We've been with them for about 2 years, before baby Brian came along. So both baby boys(Brian - 1 and Jack - 2) have literally grown up with us. It's very exciting and we love it!
Sorry to drag on!

Lacy J. Williams said...

MMM, I love visiting here and getting the cookies! Of course, ice cream has been my best friend lately, but you can always put it on top of the warm cookies. ;)

Hannah, while I loved baby-sitting in high school, I never took on quite that many kids at one time, even with help. I salute you. :) Thanks again for your comments!

Myra Johnson said...

Y'all can blame me for the pix, Denice & Lacy--but I happen to think you both look gorgeous! So very proud of both of you!

Hannah, if I remember right, Glynna named a mischievous little girl after me in her book. Type casting, I'm sure!

Project Journal said...

Lol Myra!! I don't think that she was necessarily naughty...How cool is it that she got all 15 Seekers in though! I noticed Missy, Wyatt, and Russo first and was like, Hey! Aren't those all Seeker names? I asked her and I was right! So, the rest of the book turned into a bit of a fun mystery adventure to try and scout out the names of all of you guys. It was so much fun! Glynna is very clever!

No need to salute me at all, Lacy. We love all the kids dearly now and they're great almost all the time : ) By the way, has anyone ever told you that you resemble the actress Allison Mack? If you don't know her, she plays Chloe in Smallville, I don't know if that helps any! Lol...but you really look like her. You're very pretty : )

Just for you, Lacy(I love that name too!): fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies made fresh by moi! I have to say I do make a mean choco chip cookie *wink*

Anonymous said...

Lacy - congratulations again on the Genesis win! Your post is very insightful. And just for the record - I think it is a cute pic of you and Denice! - Terri

Vickie McDonough said...

It's great to learn more about your writing journey, Lacy. Now that you've won the Genesis, the next step is publication!! I can't wait for that announcement. :)

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Excellent post, Lacy! I'm so proud of you. You've worked SO hard and it's paying off.

Keep up the great work and pretty soon we'll be hearing that you sold!



Edna said...

great interview, have not read any of Lacy's work but would sure love too.


PatriciaW said...

Congratulations Lacy! Wonderful post. With your attitude and dedication, I'm sure you'll hang out a "SOLD" banner soon.