This post is an oldie but goodie worth re-running. In case you’re wondering, I continue to apply for grants and fellowships — three in the last eighteen months, to be exact.
I’ve entered/applied for roughly a dozen writing contests/grants over the years. One I finished first. One I got an honorable mention. The others I didn’t place at all. Still, every contest was worth experiencing for a number of reasons:
1. Working with a deadline: Those of us who haven’t yet sold a manuscript write without any sort of formal deadline. This works well for some, not so well for others. 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 but also examining why your writing deserves to win (early pracitice on determining why your title would be successful in the marketplace). 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. It is so beneficial to see what others outside of your writing community have to say about your work. Authors, editors, and agents often judge these contests, putting your work front and center. Sometimes for me, just knowing someone I admire has read my work is enough. I entered Hunger Mountain’s Katherine Paterson Award so that she might read my writing. I got no feedback. I didn’t place, but the gracious, two-time Newbery winner read my words! I’m satisfied.
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, my work will be featured 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 my free-verse novel to publish in Louisiana Literature magazine, which he edits. These publications don’t have wide circulation, but my work is out there. People are reading it.
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. In the three I’ve entered, there have been only 200-400 other entrants. Think about it. There are thousands of member in this organization, but only a handful applying for grants. Your work will be read by industry professionals. You might even get some money out of the experience. What have you got to lose?
Have you entered contests or applied for grants? Any you could recommend? What has your expereince been?