Contest season is heating up
with contests like ACFW’s Genesis for
unpublished authors, which will soon be accepting submissions. Often
writers wonder if it’s worth risking their babies to the world of
contests. So this month, I’m turning over the column to Vickie
McDonough, ACFW’s treasurer. Vickie brings a unique perspective with
interviews with many finalists and winners.
In 2003, as a very green writer,
I entered my first ACFW Noble Theme
contest (now called the Genesis Contest) and was stunned to take first
place in the historical category. The next year, I was a finalist
again, but placed second, beaten out by newcomer Mary Connealy. Little
did I know that 2003 would be my last year to be eligible. At the same
conference, I was stunned when the Barbour team announced I’d received
a contract for a Heartsong Novel.
Entering contests can be both
scary and exhilarating, but kudos to
those who take the risk and learn from the experience. Many who have
done that have gone on to publish. In fact, around seventy-five Genesis
finalists have gone on to publication—and a number of them are now
multipublished. So sit back, take heart, and enjoy the following
success stories from your fellow ACFW members.
ACFW is one of my favorite
organizations on earth. I credit ACFW
that I am published today, the critique group that helped me learn to
write, the conference that led to my meeting people who would buy my
books, the connections that resulted in wonderful friendships and
professional relationships, the classes I took through ACFW, the
contest I won that drew attention to my books from the right people,
the agents I signed with, and the editors I met whom I now work with.
I call it the Five Cs of
It’s really Five Cs, One A, and
One E, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue very smoothly, now does it?
Connealy, Romantic Comedy with Cowboys,
Genesis Finalist 2004
Multiyear BOTY/Carol Award finalist
Okay, I’m going to go ahead and
admit it: I owe ACFW my firstborn
child for all the benefits I’ve gleaned through this amazing
organization. Without it, I seriously doubt I’d be published today or
would have been published as quickly. It was an ACFW paid critique that
caught glaring mistakes in my very first manuscript and where I joined
a critique group that helped my manuscript be all it could be. Through
ACFW I learned tons about writing and have acquired a huge network of
people who’ve helped me at every turn, providing more anointed
mentoring than a prophet convention in heaven.
Finaling in the 2005 Genesis
contest was a proud moment because this
was not just any RWA contest. No, this was a contest judged by my
peers—godly writers whose ultimate mission is, like mine, to glorify
God. Besides, where else can you go from winning a prize for the most
rejections one year to Debut Author of the Year the next? I guarantee
you, nowhere will you find an organization with a huge heart for
authors and a truly inspirational soul than ACFW!
Lessman, The Daughters of Boston Series
Noble Theme Finalist 2005
Carol Awards in 2009 and 2010
In 2009, I entered a story in
the Genesis contest that received
scathing critiques from the contest judges. After several weeks of
licking my wounds, I took their comments into consideration. I
discovered I had written a main character who was difficult to love. I
did a total rewrite of the first chapter and put the story on the
shelf. In April of 2011, my agent called with a tremendous opportunity.
Tyndale House was acquiring a few completed manuscripts to launch their
new Digital First line in July.
I submitted the very manuscript
that had been dinged and reworked.
Tyndale received the proposal on Monday, requested the full manuscript
on Tuesday, and bought the story on Friday.
to hear that his or her story needs work, but writers must be willing
to listen and learn. Becoming a part of ACFW helped me improve my
craft, get signed by an agent, and ultimately sell a book.
Gentry, Reinventing Leona
Genesis Finalist 2006, 2007, and 2008
ACFW created a foundation for
my writing journey, firmly
establishing stepping-stones of learning and placing God-sent people
into my life who became mentors and encouragers. Each conference class
or workshop and every online course took me a step farther. God used
ACFW to show me what was possible. Loop topics kindled a flame within
me to reject the notion of giving up, and finally, at the 2009 ACFW
conference, I received my first publishing contract. My debut novel, Leave
released in January 2011, and I have signed five more contracts since
then. I thank God for a partner like ACFW to help me along with my
writing, and now my publishing, journey.
Noble Theme Finalist 2004
Genesis Finalist 2009
In 2002 I entered the ACFW
Noble Theme writing contest for the
first national conference. I was a finalist and attended the conference
that year not only because of the contest but also because my friends
encouraged me to do so. As a result, I met the agent with whom I would
sign and made many friends who gave me great advice and helped me on
the road to becoming a novelist. Being a finalist in that contest
helped to confirm in my mind that I wanted to write Christian novels.
That was the beginning of an enlightening journey to publication with
encouragement and support from so many friends made through ACFW.
Rogers, Summer Dream
Noble Theme 2002 Finalist
I am very grateful for all I’ve
learned as a member of ACFW. During
the last eleven years I’ve been blessed to meet my agent, my editors,
and many other writers who have become dear friends through our
interaction online, our local group, and at the annual conference. The
mentoring and encouragement have made all the difference in helping me
fulfill my dream of becoming a published author. Joining ACFW was one
of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my writing career.
Turansky, Surrendered Hearts
Genesis Finalist 2003
Multiyear BOTY/Carol Awards Finalist
When I became serious about
pursuing publication in the
inspirational market, one of my first steps was to join ACFW. I found a
(somewhat) local chapter and made the hour and a half drive once a
month to attend meetings—and found a band of comrades and encouragers.
Just what I needed.
The local chapter talked a lot
the Genesis contest and encouraged all unpublished members to enter, so
I did. Oh, my expectations were so high that first year! And they were
dashed, too, when I got some (deservedly) humbling scores. But I
learned a lot from the judges’ comments.
I entered the next year, too,
and received mediocre scores. Again,
they were well-deserved. But the third year I entered, I was amazed to
get a call telling me I’d finaled in the contest. To be completely
honest, I was shocked because I’d forgotten that day was the date
finalists would be notified. My (future) editor requested the full
manuscript because of that finaling entry and ended up buying that very
manuscript—which also won the Genesis contest in 2009. I would
definitely say that my local ACFW chapter and the Genesis contest were
an instrumental part of my success in selling that first book.
Williams, Marrying Miss Marshal
2009 Genesis winner