Have you entered any writing contests? What was the result? Did you receive helpful feedback? It can feel intimidating to hand over pages of a manuscript to judges who have no clue who you are or how hard you’ve worked on those pages, and then wait for scores and feedback. But without taking risks, we sometimes miss opportunities for growth. Author Stephanie Landsem shares how the Genesis contest (conducted by the American Christian Fiction Writers) played a role in her journey to publication.
My Journey to Publication
by Stephanie Landsem
Say a prayer, close your eyes, and click.
The Genesis semi-finalists will be announced next week and hundreds of Christian fiction writers are already biting their nails, checking their phones, and wondering if they are going to get ‘the call’.
But are writing contests all they’re cracked up to be? Are they even worth the entry costs, the submission process, the inevitable heartbreak?
I think they are. Writing contests—and particularly the Genesis—helped me take that great leap from ‘writer’ to ‘author’.
When I finished what I thought to be the final version of The Well, I wasn’t sure what to do. The idea of sending queries to agents terrified me, so I entered a few contests. Second place in a regional contest raised my confidence. A less-than-complimentary critique in another dashed it to the ground. But I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and I entered the 2011 Genesis.
After I hit ‘send’ on my entry, I realized that it wasn’t so hard. And so, I started sending to agents. I got a lot of rejections. I sent more queries and got more rejections, then (Alleluia!) a few nibbles. I sent off partials and fulls with high hopes and settled in to wait.
When the Genesis semi-finals were announced and I got the phone call, I was stunned. Even more so when the finalists were announced and I got another call. I was a finalist!
While I waited for the October ACFW conference, I took the advice of a friend and emailed my finalist status to the agents who still had The Well. One replied within hours. She said, “I’m reading your manuscript and enjoying it.” My hopes rose. Late that same night, she sent this: “What a beautiful and edifying story! I’d love to speak to you about representing it.”
In a fairy tale, you’d expect to hear that I signed with the agent, won the Genesis contest, and received a book contract. Well, almost. I signed with the agent (who is fantastic), didn’t win the Genesis, and signed a 3 book contract with Howard Books. And yes, I felt a little like Cinderella.
I wish all the best to those of you waiting for the semi-finalist announcement, but even if your name is not among the winners, entering contests like the Genesis can further your goal of getting published in several ways:
Confidence: You CAN do this. There is always room for improvement, but the judges are great at giving positive feedback and telling you your strengths.
Formatting: Read the rules and get to know the format requirements. You’ll need it when your dream agent requests a full.
Deadlines: Contests are a great motivator. There’s a deadline that you must meet, and it’s good practice for that deadline you’ll eventually get from your editor.
Hitting send: It’s a final, agonizing moment. It’s good to have practice. Say a prayer, close your eyes, and click.
The Well (releases June 4th)
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For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—the place where they gather to draw their water and share their lives—but not for Mara. Shunned for the many sins of her mother, Nava, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile.
Mara and Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious young man from Caesarea, and Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, but his teachings come too late and she is stoned by the unforgiving villagers. Desperate to save her dying mother, Mara and Shem embark on a journey to seek Jesus’ help—a journey that brings unexpected love and unimaginable heartbreak.
Stephanie Landsem writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure—whether it be in person or on the page.
To learn more about Stephanie, please visit: