Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So You Want to Enter a Writing Contest…(and you want to win?)

First, I’d like to say how extremely appreciative and honored I am to have won first place for my novel submission at the SWA Southeastern Writers Workshop in June of this year. Honored and terribly surprised. Blown away might be more accurate. In my jubilance, I’m sure I was the loudest recipient in the history of the conference. 

I had to force myself to enter the contest. You know how that is, right? Dipping your toe in the water and actually accepting the challenge of sinking or swimming, whether for a short story or a longer manuscript, is just plain scary. Scary and risky. Scary because you have to put yourself out there, and risky because somewhere way in the back of your creative writer’s mind is that little voice that says, “why bother and don’t do it. Somebody might not like what I write.” 

People, we have to go for it anyway. You have to close your eyes, hold your nose, and jump in with both feet. When you do, try these suggestions to make swimming in that deep pond a little easier and possibly successful. You just might end up floating on top of that water. 

1. READ AND FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.  Down to the very last detail. These are the rules and regulations, word count, correct font and formatting, number of pages, everything the contest wants you to do including how to send your work and where and to whom to send it. Make sure you know your deadlines. Contests organizers do not waiver on deadlines.

2. READ THE GUIDELINES AGAIN. I write them down on a tablet in my own words, and make them handy during my process. I read somewhere that half of the submissions for contests are rejected right off the bat merely because people do not follow directions for the specific requirements and guidelines. That’s not a good reason for a rejection.

3. SUBMIT A FLAWLESS ENTRY. If there are no specifics or requirements for formatting your work, I would suggest checking out the Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino and the Editors of Writer’s Digest Books. The book’s standards make it easy to submit a flawless entry.

4. DON’T RUSH. Take your time with a new piece, or re-vamp an older work and make it better; make it the best. Allow yourself plenty of time for editing and re-writes. Then read it aloud and edit it again. The more the merrier. Me, I’m a compulsive re-doer. I have to make myself to stop and hit the SEND button. 

5. WRITE FROM YOUR HEART NOT WITH THE AIM OF WINNING. Think about the fact that someone is going to read your work. To me, that is the coolest thing. Then you have no choice but to write your best work. You will submit your very best work.

Good luck to all who take the risk!

Jody Herpin, a southern writer, mother, Grams, watercolor painter, and lover of life, lives in Kennesaw, Georgia, with her husband, Mike Boggioni, and their Mini-Aussie, Bella. In June 2015, Jody won First Place for Novel Submission for her first novel, Weather Permitting, at the SWA Southeastern Writers Workshop. Catch her blog at www.jodyherpin.wordpress.com and like her at www.facebook.com/authorjodyherpin.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

ReBlog - Guide to Literary Agents (July 10, 2015): 3 Common Author Platform Mistakes — Plus How to Fix Them

Chuck Sambuchino, a WD Books editor, author and 2-time SWA instructor, writes a tremendously informative blog on agents and publishing for WriterDigest.com: "Guide to Literary Agents." His July 10 blog features literary agent Maria Ribas of Stonesong discussing the importance of platforms and how to do them right.

"When you hear the word “platform,” do you feel dread or excitement? Do you see social media and blogs as forced self-promotion or as an opportunity for conversation with readers? It’s an important question these days.

"More and more, the theory of an author platform—the idea that an author should communicate directly with readers both before a book and between books—is seeping into all genres of publishing. Ten years ago, an author platform wasn’t even a thing. Five years ago, it was important for practical nonfiction authors. Five years from now? Well, my guess is that it will begin to matter more and more for fiction, too. Bestselling authors like John Green, Jennifer Weiner, and Maureen Johnson are showing what can be done when the wall between author and reader is torn down."

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Thursday, July 16, 2015


Among an author’s acknowledgments and thank you’s is often a reference to his critique group. A critique group may be the single best thing any writer can do to develop her craft and put a work-in-progress into publishable form. I was very fortunate to be a member of a quality critique group for about eighteen months and these are my thoughts.


Generally, the more narrow the scope of the group, the better. If you’re writing poetry, then your group should be limited to poetry. People who write in other genres will probably not be able to give you quality feedback. It is best if you can find a group that writes only in your specific genre but you’re probably going to have to choose between three general categories: fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.


If the group is too large then everyone will not have regular participation. If the group is too small, then an absence by one person will adversely impact the quality of the meeting. Also, different members will have different strengths and will notice different things. One of our members saw point-of-view issues while another member saw continuity problems. I recommend no fewer than six people and no more than twelve.


This is partly a matter of where you are as a writer and what you want from a critique group. If you are a developing writer and want regular feedback on a work-in-progress, then the group should meet every week. Once a month will not give you enough feedback to develop your craft. Also, meeting less than every week will easily turn into commitment problems.


Group members should attend every meeting and participate. If it is your turn to read, then bring material on which you have made a genuine effort. If it is your turn to critique, then give quality feedback to the writer. Of course there will be absences but members should know about these in advance. If a member cancels at the last minute because he has to pick up his wife at the airport, or if someone forgets about the group and schedules a work meeting at the same time, then their position in the group could better be filled by someone else. An occasional absence, with advance notice, is expected. Even longer absences can be accommodated. Our group was blessed with the arrival of two babies!   


This is the most difficult factor to control when forming a group. I was fortunate to have all quality writers, including published writers, in my group. A weak writer, who gives unhelpful feedback, is not productive and will not help you grow in your craft. You’re probably not going to have Pat Conroy or Amy Tan in your group, but members who are quality writers and make a genuine effort to improve their own craft, will help you improve yours.   

Tom Jordan is a lawyer in Atlanta. His short story, “The Treasure of Walker County”, won the Georgia Bar Journal’s 15th Annual Fiction Writing Competition and his short story, “The Boy Who Drew the Spidery X”, won the GT Youngblood Short Fiction Award at the 2015 SWA writer’s conference. He lives in Marietta with two cats, Donner and Blizten.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The 2015 workshop had many highlights. Purple t-shirts. Special tote bags. New members! 

Everyone came away with knowledge and new writing connections. 

While there are many noteworthy moments from the workshop, I'm going to focus on one. Awards. Congratulations to ALL the winners!

2015 SWA Workshop Contest Winners

The Hal Bernard Memorial Award for Novel 
1. Weather Permitting – Jody Herpin--$60
2. My Friend Albert –John Sheffield--$40

The GT Youngblood Short Fiction Award
1. The Boy Who Drew the Spidery X – Tom Jordan
2. The Rise and Fall of Superdad – Stuart Blandford
3. The Hardest Part – Sandra Giles
HM  Bullied to Death – Nicole Blandford

The Microcosm Award 
1. Color of Pain - $50 Kris Burnett
2. My name is Hana - $30 Nicole Blandford
3. The Diary - $20 Sheila Hudson

The Vega Award for Speculative Short Fiction
1. Lucifer – Amy Wethington $100
2. The World of Alphabet Soup (Was) Point of Departure – Diane Douglas $50
3. You Can’t Go Home Again – Stuart Blandford  $25

Lines of Worth Award 
1. Familial – Bonnie Tobias

The Julie L. Cannon Award
Two first place winners
       1. High Hopes – Susan Lindsley $50 each
       1. Yellow Bellied – Mellie Justad $50 each

The Bill Westhead Memorial Award
1. It Takes a Suburb – Sheila S. Hudson
2. Up in Flames – Elaine Cameron
3. Angel on a Bicycle – Kristin Burnett

The Angel Award for Holiday Seasonal Writing
1. Christmas at the Hub and Hubbub – 
Sheila S. Hudson  $60
2. Easter Always – Ardsley Ames - $40

The Award for Excellence in Inspirational Writing
1. Peachy – Judith Barban
2. Heaven’s Gate – Catherine Fendig
3. Looking Back – Elaine Cameron
HM – Find Your Star and Shine – 
   Cheryl Hildebrand

The Cappy Award for Humo
1. Don’t Flip Your Wu-ig – Millie Justad
2. No Sign of Relief – Cheryl Hildebrand
3. My Mama’s Teeth – Judith Barban
HM The Transparent Attack on American   
   Heroes – Stuart Blandford
HM On the Road Less Traveled – 
   Sheila S. Hudson

Edna Sampson Award
My Friend Albert –John Sheffield

For more photos of all the winners, please check out SWA's Facebook page