“It is a nervous work. The state that you need to write is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.”
That about sums up how I felt all day Saturday at LDStorymakers.
Why? Because I entered the First Chapters Contest—the first contest I’d ever submitted my work to. Yes, I’m part of a critique group and I’ve exposed my work before but not to anonymous judges; people who would evaluate my skill as a writer and give feedback that would tell me whether it was crap or not.
Before I get too far into that, for those of you who don’t know anything about this particular contest, allow me to explain. The First Chapters contest was for first chapters (duh, me!) that were evaluated on their merit of :
- Opening Hook (does the story pull the reader in)
- Conflict (what’s at stake in the story and how is the tension used?)
- Characters (Are these characters compelling people who the reader cares about?)
- Setting & Mood (Does this story make the reader feel like they are there?)
- Pace & Style (How well does the writer move the story along?)
- Resolution/Read-on Prompts (Do you want to keep reading?)
- Mechanics (Grammar, Spelling, etc.)
- Overall Enjoyment (Would you buy this story?)
It’s enough to give any writer mutant butterflies the size of Canada. (No offense, Kim. =] ) Cool as the prizes were, the reason I entered this contest is because of this one line from the contest announcement:
“All entrants will receive a completed judge’s critique form on their work.”
That’s all I really wanted to take away from this contest. Not only did each entrant get one of those, they got FIVE of those. There were five judges for each category who all worked their tails off to give us the best feedback possible. I am grateful to each and every one of those people who dealt with an enormous amount of submissions and did their very best to be fair. The feedback I’ve received has not only encouraged me in my endeavors, it’s also spurred me to write better.
So what happened with my piece? It placed third in the Sci-fi/Fantasy/Speculative category. I was stunned and honored. I never expected to place anywhere in the contest and I was floored. The full list is HERE and you can get a glimpse of my real name. (The L.T. in L.T. Elliot.)
Want to know how nervous I was? The winners were announced via PowerPoint, beginning with the title of the piece and then followed by the author’s name. When my title flashed up there, my mind went blank. My fabulous critique group burst into applause, smiling and waving me up to the front of the room. That walk was the longest one of my life. It was like walking naked down the hallway of your high school or something.
Want to know how professional I was? When the fabulous Jaime Theler shook my hand and the wonderful Julie Bellon handed me my certificates, they both said something to me and it was like I was deaf. I just said, “Thank you.” To which Julie said something that I totally didn’t hear so I said, “Thank you,” again. Yeah, I’m a moron. What she was trying to tell me was, “You dropped your ribbon!” And me with my deer-in-the-headlights expression just kept mumbling, “Thank you.”
Julie shook her head with a smile and then just pointed down at the floor. I finally saw what she was talking about and picked up the ribbon as fast as I could so that I could slink back to my chair to die of shame. Aren’t you so proud of me? Grace and Poise; my two main traits.
It was an honor to place and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I sure hope I didn’t come off as unhappy or snobbish—please just know that I was absolutely shell-shocked and suffered from temporary sensory deprivation.
I wish I could tell you the butterflies died there but they didn’t. About an hour after the luncheon/contest announcements, I had a pitch session with the amazing Lisa Mangum, from Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain. (By the way, her book The Hourglass Door, was just released. I’ve already bought and read my copy. I loved it! You will too! Go grab yourself a copy today!)
Lisa was wonderful. She discussed a lot of things with me about my manuscript and was very gracious (not to mention fun and relaxing! I had no reason to be anxious!) Since this post is already so long, I’ll just cut to the chase and say that she requested the first six chapters. I’m very grateful and VERY excited!
Right after my session with Lisa, I went back out into the hall where I was met with Rachel Ann Nunes, who I had met the day before and had no idea who she was. (To be fair, her name tag was giving her a spot of trouble and I couldn’t read it. Once we got it sorted out, I recognized her name right away!) Let me just tell you that Rachel is one fine lady and one of the friendliest women I’ve met.
Anyway, back to the story, Rachel was excited to hear how it went and when I told her, she flagged down Stacy Whitman, another editor at the conference. Long story short, Stacy was interested and granted me some of her time to talk shop. (She’s amazing, people. Really. I’ll go into depth about that some other time.) She ended up requesting the first three chapters. I’ll let you know how it goes.
So that’s my story, friends. Is it any wonder that I can’t sleep? (Name that tune and I’ll give you five bucks. CGLearner, you’re not allowed.) =]
Please don’t think I’m bragging. I’m not. You’ll never know how hard it was to write this post. If it wasn’t for the fact that some people have asked me why I haven’t written about it earlier, I probably wouldn’t have said anything just because I don’t want to sound cocky. I’m extremely grateful and I owe it all to so many people. Thank you to all of you.