This post originally ran October 2009
I’ve entered in and applied for roughly a dozen writing contests and grants over the years. In one contest I finished first. With another I got an honorable mention. I didn’t place in the others at all. Still, every contest was worth experiencing for a number of reasons:
1. Working with a deadline: By signing up for a contest, you have committed to finishing and submitting your writing by a certain time — great practice for future deadlines once your work is sold.
2. Reviewing your writing: Whether applying for a grant or entering a contest, you’ll need to carefully study your work, looking for ways to strengthen it and examining why your writing deserves to win. Filling out an application and following the contest’s guidelines will bolster your ability to write a strong, concise query.
3. Getting read: Some contests/grants offer feedback for those who place. Authors, editors, and agents often judge these contests, putting your work front and center.
4. Publishing opportunities: Winning contests/grants means a portion of your work is often published, allowing for other readers, agents, and editors to learn of your writing. In winning first place for a novel excerpt at the Jambalaya Writers’ Conference in 2009, my work was included in an anthology put out by Nicholls University. At the same conference, I happened to be critiqued by a poetry professor from Southeastern Louisiana University. He asked for a few poems from MAY B. to publish in Louisiana Literature magazine.
These publications don’t have wide circulation, but my work is out there and is being read.
5. Beefing up your query: Winning a contest is great query fodder. I think a large part of my agent requests these last few months have come from winning this small, local contest and the publication that has come about as a result.
Those of you who are members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators need to take advantage of their grant programs, if you haven’t already. There are a half-dozen or so to choose from. You may enter one per calendar year. Of the thousands of SCBWI members across the globe, only a handful seem to be applying for grants. In the three I’ve entered, there have been only 200-400 other entrants.
Have you entered contests or applied for grants? Any you could recommend? What has your expereince been?