Friday, September 5, 2014

The September Contest Update

Welcome to the September Contest Update. 

Seriously folks, only 117 days left to DIVA this year.

Time to get your inner Diva/Diva in gear. Share your contest goals, or if a reader just say hi for a chance to win a ten page critique for a writer. For a reader,  a chance to win a copy of any Seeker book currently available or available for pre-order on Amazon- for Kindle or in print. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

CONTESTS: This month we have combined categories as there are no current contests for published authors only. Red type indicates contests are open to published and unpublished authors. Personally, I think we are going to see many changes to contests as they struggle to compete for your $ in a publishing world where there are many more options.

 Gateway to the Best. Deadline September 5. Entry: submit up to the first 7000 words (approx 25-28 pages) of manuscript.

Contemporary Series AND Single Title/Mainstream Romance
Editor:  Latoya Smith - Grand Central
Agent:  Nicole Rescenti - The Seymour Agency

Editor:  Kathyrn Pelz - Berkley
Agent:   Jessica Watterson - Sandra Dijkstra

Editor:  Kerri Buckley - Carina
Agent:  Jim McCarthy - Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

Editor: Patience Bloom - Harlequin
Agent: Mary Sue Seymour - The Seymour Agency

Young Adult
Editor: TBA
Agent:  Michelle Grajkowski - 3 Seas Literary Agency

The Stiletto Contest for Unpublished Contemporary Romantic Fiction. Deadline September 5. Entry consists of the  first 25 pages. 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.

 Single Title Contemporary Romance (70,000 words and up)
Final Judge: Amanda Bergeron, Editor, Avon Romance

Single Title Contemporary Erotic Romance (70,000 words and up)
Final Judge: Christa Desir, Editor, Samhain Publishing

Short Contemporary Romance (40,000 – 70,000 words)
Final Judge: Alethea Spiridon Hopson, Editorial Director of Indulgence, Entangled

Contemporary Novel with Strong Romantic Elements (60,000 words and up)
Final Judge: Allison Carroll, Editor, Harlequin HQN

Young Adult Contemporary Romance (50,000 words and up)*
 Final Judge: Margo Lipschultz, Editor, Harlequin Teen

Young Adult Contemporary Novel with Romantic Elements (50,000 words and up)*
 Final Judge: Elizabeth Poteet, Assistant Editor, St. Martin’s Press

New Adult Contemporary Romance (70,000 words and up)
 Final Judge: Nicole Fischer, Editor, William Morrow Books

*The Stiletto Contest reserves the right to combine these categories if less than 10 entries per category are entered.

Melody of Love Contest.  Deadline  September 7.  Eligibility: published and non-published. Entry consists of the first chapter (up to 25 pages) of unpublished novel-length manuscript (40,000+) including prologue, if applicable. 

 Danielle Burby - Agent at HSG Literary Agency
 Angela James - Acquiring editor at Carina Press

 Victoria Lowes - Agent at The Bent Agency
 Brenda Chin - Acquiring editor at ImaJinn Books
 Cindy Brannam - Acquiring editor at Soul Mate Publishing

 Heidi Moore - Acquiring editor at Samhain Publishing
 Janet Clementz - Acquiring editor at Soul Mate Publishing

New Adult
 Eric Ruben - Agent at Eric Ruben Literary Agency
 Mary Altman - Acquiring editor at Sourcebooks

Young Adult
 Mandy Hubbard - Agent at D4EO Literary Agency
 Lauri Wellington - Acquiring editor at Black Opal Books

 Kathryn Hayes “We Need a Hero” Contest. Deadline September 8.
Eligibility: Authors unpublished in romance as of September 8, 2014 and self-published authors. Entry: A maximum of 20 pages that show your hero in the best light as well as a brief synopsis (two pages maximum, not judged) to set up submission. Electronic entries only.

Final Judge: Cat Clyne, editor, Sourcebooks.

Four Seasons.  Deadline September 30. Open to unpublished writers and to any author who has not been contracted or published in the past five years in any novel-length work of fiction (40,000 + words) in any format (e-book, mass market, etc) to include self-published works. Entry consists of first 25 pages.

2014 Final Judges:

Editor: Leah Hultenschmidt, Grand Central Publishing
 Agent: Jita Fumich, Folio Literary Agency

Single Title Contemporary
Editor: Michelle Meade, MIRA
 Agent: Sara Megibow, Nelson Literary Agency

Editor: Kristine Swartz, Berkley Publishing
 Agent: Michelle Grajkowski, Three Seas Literary Agency

Young Adult
Editor: Aubrey Poole, Sourcebooks
 Agent: Sarah Negovetich, Corvisiero Agency

Editor: Elizabeth Mazer, Harlequin Love Inspired
Agent: Amanda Luedeke, MacGregor Literary

Romantic Suspense
Editor: Dana Hamilton, Harlequin Intrigue
Victoria Lowes, The Bent Agency

UPDATE! The SYTYCW Contest info has been updated.  Harlequin So You Think You Can Write Web Page. Mini Conference and Contest Launch this month.  

"Join us the week of September 15 – 19 for our 24/7 online conference AKA Harlequin’s boot camp for writers. Exercise those writing muscles with an intensive workout packed with blogs, live chats, writing challenges, Twitter events and more. You’ll meet over 50 Harlequin Editors ready to coach you, answer questions and get your book in shape.  Watch for the conference calendar coming soon!
2014 SYTYCW Writing Contest Details

Beginning September 22 at 10am EST you can submit the First Chapter (5000 words max) of your romance story plus a 100-Word Pitch to the series you have targeted. The pitch should outline the concept, plot, characters, conflict and setting. You must target one of our 18 eligible series.

All First Chapter submissions will be posted for everyone to read and add comments in the space provided. Last day for submissions is October 1. Don’t delay…submit your chapter right away so more people—including the editors–will see it! "

Other Writing Contests

WD Short Short Story Competition. Early bird deadline is November 17. Deadline is December 15.  Think you can write a winning story in less than 1,500 words? Enter the 15th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition for your chance to win $3,000 in cash, get published in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a paid trip to our ever-popular Writer’s Digest Conference! The winning entries will be on display in the 15th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition Collection.

 The Seventh Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest. This contest begins at 12:01 A.M. Eastern Time (ET) on May 9, 2014, and ends at 11:50 P.M. ET on September 18, 2014.

 Have you ever had a eureka moment? Tell us about it.Think back on the instant when everything became clear. The split second when you realized that you had chosen the right career. Or the moment when you knew that your dearest friendship would last forever. Whether your epiphany changed your life or just made your day, write it down and share it with us.

Enter Real Simple’s seventh annual Life Lessons Essay Contest and you could have your essay published in Real Simple and receive a prize of $3,000.

Seekerville introduces this month's Contest Diva: Cindy Regnier

Top 10 Finalist in the 2012 Family Fiction Create Romance Short Story Contest

Top 50 Family Fiction “The Story 2014”

2014 Finalist in the Faith Hope and Love Chapter of Romance Writers of America Touched by Love contest – 2nd place Historical Category

 2014 Finalist, Lone Star Contest, Northwest Houston RWA, Inspirational Category

2014 Finalist, Pages From the Heart, From the Heart Romance Writers RWA Chapter 177, Inspirational Category

It’s All About Conflict

Contest results show up in my inbox. Do I open it? Maybe I should wait. No, I can’t stand it. I have to open them now. This is what I find:

No editor will pick it up.   
This seems to be a story that would fit well in the CBA.

Poorly constructed sentences. Good spelling, average punctuation.  

The author has a good command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

There is so much description, it takes away from the story instead of advancing it forward. 

The author includes many sensory details. These help me see the scene.

The dialogue is stilted at times and doesn't flow in a manner that's always believable.  

This writer does a great job with the dialogue, and that makes the writing pretty strong.

Some of it is good, but it all needs work. The characters are flat at this point. There is very little for their dialogue to reveal.  

The characters are unique and really add to the story. Their dialogue is great.

I am concerned that your synopsis does not hold enough conflict to carry a book of this size.
The synopsis lets us know there is a good setup for conflict.

Score 57 of 100 
Score 91 of 100

These are actual comments I received from judges in a recent contest. Same contest, same story, different judges. Frustrating! I enjoy entering contests. I take seriously the feedback and suggestions I receive. But what to do when you get conflicting opinions? 

I guess I understand. Sort of. Most books with a five-star review on amazon also have a one- star review. Someone loved it and someone else, not so much. It’s subjective, a matter of opinion. But that insight doesn’t make the dilemma any easier to resolve, so I’ve devised a plan for sifting through contest feedback. The ‘Cindy method’ may not work for everyone, but this is what I do: 

1.    Weigh each comment or suggestion individually rather than as part of a whole. The judge ‘loved my story’ or ‘hated my story’ is not a good place to start. 

2.    I then try to step out of my author shoes and into a reader’s footwear. If I were reading my story for the first time, would the judge’s suggestion make it better? 

3.    If I answer ‘yes’, I change it. If not, I don’t.

Some of the best editing advice I ever got was from my friend Jackie Layton. I’m paraphrasing, but basically she told me that until I sell this story, it is mine. I have the final say-so of what I change and what I don’t. If I want to make the change, then go for it to the best of my ability. If not, leave it as is and the judge will never know.

And I take it a step further. The Author of the Universe has instilled in me the desire to write. I write the words He gives me and surrender them to be used for His glory. I’m writing for the Lord, not a judge. I need only surrender the words to Him. Anyway, He’s a much better editor than some crotchety old judge.

So next time you bomb at what you know you are called to do, remember it’s only a contest and one person’s opinion. Use what you want and forget the rest. Then enter that next contest with the new and improved version and say a little prayer before you hit the submit button. That simple. What‘s your method for dealing with conflicting contest feedback?

That's it for this month! Now go forth and contest!


  1. I'm just a reader so I would love to win a book.

  2. Way to go, Cindy. Hang in there. Any chance you'll be at ACFW conference?

    Those conflicting comments from judges are the ones that frustrated me. So I empathize. :)

    This judge gives you 100% for your terrific review writing. Thanks again!

    There coffee a plenty a brewin'.

  3. Connie...not just a reader. Without readers like you and me, there would be no sales in books and the authors would just be writing for themselves! I'd like a book, please

  4. Connie, there are no just a readers. We live for readers.

    Tell us about yourself! Welcome to Seekerville.

    Drop us an email at our email and we'll send you a welcome packet.

  5. Cindy, taking me back to the days of conflicting contest comments.

    Now I'm probably the source of some conflicting comments. :)

  6. Cindy, congratulations on your Lone Star final from a fellow finalist! :)

    I know what you mean about conflicting comments. The largest score gap I've ever had was 60 points. All the of the highest and lowest scoring judges' comments were diametrically opposed. As if they had read two completely different entries! If it wasn't that they both referenced character names I would've seriously wondered if there had some kind of mix up and they had ;-)

  7. Congrats on being a Diva, Cindy. Those opposing judgerly comments are funny/frustrating when read one after the other like that. Love your attitude about making the feedback work for you. Great attitude and a wonderful example to follow.

  8. Diva Cindy, you have hit the nail on the head with contest judging...

    You weigh the good with the bad and say "Well, then" to both.

    Here's one more thing: As I was getting closer to publication, (or felt like I was!) I entered the same work into several contests. I also entered (because by then I had a backlog of work) other works into the same contests. At times I was my own best/worst competition, but it showed me the wide array of judging.

    I realized I never scored well in Texas.

    I did great in the Midwest and Northeast.

    I was either hot or cold in the South!!!!

    I wanted to write things that cross regional lines, and spreading out the entries like that was a huge help!!! It clearly showed me where I was touching hearts, so then I changed things up slightly to be more inclusive.

    In my head (and this is now supported by my sales) if I couldn't touch people all across the country in contests, how would I do it with readers?

    Congratulations on your growing success! You bring back so many memories of waiting for the mail... (that's different now, most times!) and the plunge of the knife-to-chest the first time you read those critiques... but then again, it prepares you for revisions, LOL!

    Go you!!!!

  9. There are no "just a readers" here, Connie.... We love youse guys!

  10. I love that Marianne and Tina told Connie the same thing. Hahahahahahahaha! Welcome to Seekerville, Connie!

  11. Those conflicting judges' opinions are so funny! I bet that was frustrating to not know which to go with. Good luck to all you writers who participate! Please include me in the reader drawing :)

  12. Congrats on your contest success Cindy! And your comments remind me of how happy I am to leave those contest days behind me for a different approach these days. Like Ruthy, I do think that the region the contest is in sometimes, might make a difference, but when contest judges are solicited from everywhere, it's hard to tell. Keep going forward, Cindy!

  13. Hi Cindy~
    I enjoyed your writer's POV, especially your quote about God being the best editor. Thanks for reminding me when I turn everything in my life over to Him allowing Him to be my compass, I can't go wrong and the opinions of others carry less weight.

    Congrats on your writing success, you go girl!

  14. Connie - "Just Readers" are wonderful. I'm one of them!
    Helen - Can't be at ACFW as the "real job" calls but maybe next year. Reviews can only be as good as the book they are reviewing. I loved the Ozark series and hope there are more in your future. And thanks for the coffee- needed that this morning.
    Marianne - I'd like a book too
    Tina - thank you for ALL your help. If it wasn't for Seekerville and contest updates, I would have a big fat ZERO beside my name for contest credits. And I just loved Standed With the Rancher. Everybody- get this book and read it. Seriously. Everybody.

  15. Melissa - Loved A Bride for Keeps and looking forward to A bride in Store. That lady on the cover could be your twin! And keep harping at us lowly contest enterers - a judge's comments are such important feedback!
    Kara - Congratulations on your Lone Star final and best wishes as you move forward in the contest! 60 points? Wow - thats why my favorite contests are the ones where they throw out the low score!
    Thank you Kav! Yes those comments are funny now. Not so much at the the time!

  16. Ruthy - never thought about the location thing but so true. Most of my stories are set in Flint Hills Kansas. Anyone not from the Midwest has no idea what the Flint HIlls are much less what Kansas is. lol. But even this midwesterner LOVES your books even though I've never been to New York. I wanted to tell you which was my favorite but I can't decide. Those Kirkwood Lake guys are fantastic but then I also loved those men of Allegany County. His Montana Sweetheart is on my TBR (I love the cover). Maybe Try Try Again is my favorite. Again - everybody - read that book! Thaanks for your kind words, Ruthy.

  17. Heidi - thanks. Funny now - definitely not funny when I first opened that low score. Whoa - major frustration and nursing of the stab wounds! But thats the best part of it - time heals the wounds and I can look back on it with some semblance of amusement.

    Aw Piper - Thank You! You are so kind with your words and so encouraging! Applauding your success and following your writing career with interest and prayers! You touch hearts in the sweetest way!

    Tracey - thanks for your comments. Yes, sometimes it's hard to remember Who is in charge of all this. If i forget I get a little kick in the backside to remind me. But seriously, what fun is writing if it's just for me?

  18. Congratulations, Cindy! Way to go.

    Tina, thanks for all the work you do to give us a list of contests to enter!

    Have a great day everybody!

  19. Thanks for the commercial, Cindy Regnier!! LOL. Get cracking. I want to read your book in print and do a commercial too.

  20. Piper, you get to enter published author contests now.

  21. Another great contest update, TINA!

    And CINDY!!! Congrats on being our Contest Diva of the Month!!! Oh, yeah, those conflicting scores and comments can really do a number on you, but Jackie gave you great advice. The story is yours, the vision is yours, and--while paying attention to the consistently helpful critiques--you have to follow where it leads.

  22. So, RUTHY, you never did well in Texas? Interesting that you're now writing about cowboys! Do they "drawl" with a Northeast accent? ;-D

  23. Cindy, Congrats on Seekerville's Diva of the Month and for working hard toward your goal!

    I feel your frustration over such conflicting contest feedback, but applaud you for seeing how to sift the nuggets from the chaff. Jackie gave you great advice!


  24. Lol...Cindy, your contest results sound like mine in one of the last contests I entered. I loved the experience, though. I was great to get feedback.

    I always appreciate you guys keeping us up-to-date with contest info! I will not have a chance to enter one anytime soon, but I love knowing I can come here to find out about them. :)

  25. Congrats on the Lone Star final, Kara!


  26. Jackie - Thanks for your 'cameo appearance' in my post about contests. There are so many places where I am that I would not be without you, your friendship and valuable advice. I am Still very proud of you for your Genesis semi-finalist win and I loved your short story in the Family Fiction contest!

    Myra - great advice. I'd have to say A Horseman's Hope is probably my favorite of your though I have a copy of One Imperfect Christmas on my Kindle I'm hoping to get to soon.

    Janet Dean - I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. A few years ago I won a synopsis critique from you during Speedbo. You will never know what a help that was to me. I'm no longer scared of a synopsis. Just do it the way Janet told me with all her encouraging words in mind,. Thank you, thank you!

  27. Thanks so much for putting together the monthly contest lists. Otherwise I'd probably never know! Happy Weekend Coming. :)

  28. Megan Besing. Welcome to Seekerville. Tell us about your writing.

    Shall we toss your name in the hat for the prizes?

  29. Jennifer Smith! I didn't realize you'd entered some contests? What are you writing? GOOD FOR YOU!!!!

  30. Another good list this month. Thanks for posting. :)

  31. Go Diva Cindy! Congratulations on all those finals. And thanks for sharing how you interpret contest scores.

    When my entries received widely divergent scores -- like 100, 97, 30 -- I reminded myself what a published author friend told me. She said when there are two scores that are close and then one that is far below, it most likely means the writer has a strong voice. Two judges liked that voice -- one judge wouldn't read the book if it won every award on the planet :-)

    That said, I preferred contests where there was a discrepancy judge if there was a large point spread between the two lowest scores, especially when there was a chance for the entry to final. I also preferred contests that had four judges instead of three.

    Thanks to everyone out there who has ever judged a writing contest!

    Nancy C

  32. Cindy, congrats on being a Diva and on your success! :)

    Don't you just love those total opposite comments from judges?! It really does make it difficult to know what to do. I used to love when the judges all said the same thing, whether good or bad. But it can be frustrating if you get the polar opposites.

    Sounds like you've found a great way to handle it!

  33. Happy Friday to Anna Weaver Hurtt and my Italiano pal, Nancy C.

  34. Jennifer - the experience is what it's all about. Great preparation for what may come as we deal with agents, editors etc.

    Nancy - I really like your comment about the strong voice. I had never thought of it that way. Wouldn't it be great if we could just write a book that pleases everyone? Actually, Tina comes pretty close, I think!

    Missy - thank you for your kind words. I have to tell you - I really love Georgia Sweethearts because I have my own Georgia Sweetheart. My son and DIL moved to Atlanta about 2 years ago. They love it there but a long way from Kansas. And my DIL is a definite sweetheart.

  35. Kara! Congratulations on your final!

    (Grammar Queen isn't watching me use all these exclamation points, right?)

    Nancy C

  36. I think many of us can feel your pain! You haven't quit - which is half the battle :) So many new authors become discouraged. Keep us posted on all your successes!!!!

  37. YAY YAY I would like a book, please!

  38. Tell us how you really feel, Jackie Smith. LOL.

  39. Cindy, I feel for you!!! I've received contest scores and comments almost identical to those in my time!

    You have the right idea...just let it all soak in, and eventually the suggestions that fit your story will stick with you and you'll find yourself making those changes.

    But when you first look at them...Ack! Makes you want to run for the hills!

  40. Aw, you are too kind, Cindy!

    (the check really IS in the mail, by the way!!! ) :)

  41. Hi! I'm currently just a reader, but my sister and I both aspire to someday write a book.
    I really love this blog, love all the writing advice as well as getting to know the authors that I love so well. So glad that ya'll do this!
    ~Holly I. in Morehead, KY

  42. Congratulations Cindy. What an impressive list. What do I do about conflicting comments? Ignore them. They're usually things I've already considered and decided on. It's the comments that agree that I take note of.

  43. I'm a reader, not a writer. I love to collect books. Enjoy the contests!

  44. Currently I'm getting 19 to 20 mss ready for entry into ACFW's First Impressions contest, which, BTW, I didn't see on the list of contests. Deadline is October 15, I'm 99.99% sure. Anybody here know how many finalists there are in that contest? Couldn't find any info about that on the website.

    Please enter me in the giveaway, I'm always glad to have another pair of eyes go over my work.

  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

  46. Aw, Ms. Tina --er, Cindy ... sorry! =) Something similar happened to my at my Honors thesis proposal conference. One judge liked my presentation and the other had a lot of critiques ... Unfortunately, it really derailed me and my confidence. Looking back on it now, God had a different path for me, but I wish I could have seen something like this post at the time. =)

  47. I'm a reader, as you guys know, and I'd love to win a book, if chosen! I love all of you authors! I don't know what I'd do without you - reading is my passion!!!!!

  48. Holly, welcome to Seekerville! Is this your first comment????

    Hallelujah chorus!!!! :)

    Holly if you and sis are new here, send an e-mail to and we'll send you out a welcome packet!

    And by "we" I mean "Tina", of course! :)


  49. Sherri Shackelford made a great point...

    Never give up.

    The spoils don't necessarily go to the MOST TALENTED, but to the ones who don't quit....

    And that's something to think about!

  50. Welcome to Seekerville, Holly!! You've posted before, right? You won a week or two ago.

  51. First, a spew alert. 19-20 manuscripts entered in the first impression is a three hundred buck pop. OUCHY.

    Why not send your top, your very best?

    Anyhow, it is October 15th which makes it the October Contest Update.

    It's only the first five pages which is nice.

    And yes. A judges list would be good before you spend your money. Highly advised.

  52. Hi, Michelle F. Good to see you back in Seekerville.

  53. Dear Cindy,

    Thanks for the post. I can totally empathize with the days when the judge's scores and feedback appear in one's inbox.

    It's always encouraging to hear from others about their contest experiences.

    And, Ruthy, thank you for your comment about the importance of persistence.

  54. Very interesting about the disparity in judges' comments. It would sure make me wonder what to take away from that. I don't have anything written yet in a novel to be able to win a critique for it.