Great to be here, Amanda. I’m Sherri. It’s an honor to finally meet you in person. I’m going to set your tiara-topped pillow on the desk so I can sit. Oh, my. It’s not as easy to get comfortable on a pink and black stiletto- leopard skin chair as one would think.
I’d like to zip through this as quickly as possible. My meditation time is at one o’clock. And by meditation I mean nap. So, Sherri, how many of these contests would you say you have to enter to get such an impressive loss ratio?
I wouldn’t say they’ve been ‘impressive’ as much as ‘respectable.’ Based on my own and other’s experiences, even the best manuscript should be entered in at least three contests in order to final. There’s always personal preference and human emotion. Some judges naturally score higher, some lower. Some people don’t like cowboys, or widow’s or whatever--there’s an element of luck in the contest circuit.
Ahhh, so you got lucky. That explains it. I feel better now, as if order has been restored to the universe. Darling! I wouldn’t set your bag on the floor. My poodle, Fabio, finds naugahyde a diuretic. Hmm, I’d keep an eye on your shoes, too. Yes, yes. Fold those legs into a neat little pretzel and set that rather large knock-off bag on your lap.
I’m just going to rebalance myself here. It appears Fabio is also averse to polyester. As to your question, every manuscript that makes the finals deserves to be there. But there are always manuscripts that didn’t final, that are just as wonderful.
Aaaanyway, Judging from that hint of Maybelline wafting off your person, it appears you’ve seriously overextended yourself. What is the most expensive entry fee you've ever paid to get lucky and why?
I’m a stay-at-home mom on a limited budget, so I can’t enter too many contests or attend conferences just yet. This can be especially limiting in the Inspirational market since most publishers no longer accept un-agented manuscripts. Thankfully, querying an agent is free.
My critique partners had been urging me to join ACFW, but it just wasn’t in the budget. They gave me the entry fee and the contest fee for my birthday.
I’m going to jot some notes down here. Freeloader. Oh, did I say that out loud? I was thinking about the time my friend Marge received diamond earrings for Christmas. She said, “Amanda, they’re real!” and I said, “Of course they’re real, dear. No one would buy fake ones that small.”
That Marge is a dear. Have you mustered up the price of a stamp to query many agents?
I did finally send out one submission packet—a recommendation from another published author. I plan on sending out more this week. Yvonne Harris says she encourages writers to send out agent queries as soon as they final in a contest because a final is just as good as a win at that point.
Isn’t that lovely? And how nice that so many contest losses will prepare you for the crushing blow of repeated rejections.
Actually, yes it does help. I learned right away that you have to develop a thick hide if you plan on writing as a career. Every published author I know has received a bad review. Cheryl St.John gave me the best mantra for reading a bad critique: Sometimes, they just don’t get it.
What would you say is your favorite part of losing contests?
My favorite part of losing and winning is the people I have the opportunity to meet. My fellow nominees in the Historical Romance Category: Sarah Ladd and Naomi Rawlings. Ane Mulligan, Genesis category coordinator, is wonderful. And you can’t forget Camy Tang who must spend months coordinating the contest! Sandra Orchard once sent me a really sweet note after the FHL contest. Oh, and Mary Connealy arranged this interview with us.
Jotting down another note: Shameless Name Dropper. Look at that. It appears our time is running short. And not a moment too soon I’d like to add…Do you have any advice for other contest losers?
Don’t forget to write the whole book. That’s a mistake I made early on. You can become so wrapped up in perfecting thirty pages that you forget there are three hundred more to go. Creating a provocative opening chapter pales in comparison to sustaining conflict and multiple character arcs over twenty+ chapters.
And don’t get caught up in the competition. It’s easy to imagine that you’re pitted against the other finalist. In truth, the only person you’re competing against is yourself. If you imagine the success of others as a bridge to your own success, rather than a barrier, you’ll be much happier.
I’m sorry, I must have nodded off. Were you still talking? Best of luck. And always remember, there’s no ‘I’ in team, but there is ‘Winning!’
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Find Sherri Shackelford online at her Blog
Sherri--Finalist, 2011 Genesis Contest, Historical Romance
Winner, 2011 Duel on the Delta, Inspirational
Finalist, 2011 Dixie First Chapter, Inspirational
Amanda--doesn't give out her whereabouts to the little people.