Friday, October 15, 2010

The Ghosts of Contests Past

 Romance is not
Click on the picture above to go to Mills & Boon

My guest is romance writer Jill Lynn Anderson. Jill and I originally met through a contest and have remained friends and are both of us are part of a large and very close writing group, The Writing Wombats.

 When Jill mentioned she had not only entered Mills and Boon New Voices Contest (she never said a word about entering) with her novel, WINDSONG, but was in the top ten finalists, I was over the moon! Why? Not only because she was a friend with great storytelling ability, but because she had at one time considered giving up writing.

I’ll let Jill tell you about that.

Thank you so much for inviting me to talk about being one of ten finalists in Mills & Boon New Voices contest, Sia.

I am one of the least competitive people you'll ever find, yet I've lost count of the number of writing contests I've entered over the years. My first "win" came from a silly entry into a contest an America Online writing group held for Mike Tyson recipes---this was soon after Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield's ear in their infamous match. As some of your blog followers are probably too young to even know about this, that gives an indication of how long ago this was. (Also shows my age LOL) My prize was a cookbook. A used one. Yet I was thrilled to win.

Once my writing took a more serious turn, I had two finished novels under my belt when I entered the first novel-writing contest at Gather. I was certain I would win. My novel is brilliant! Readers will recognize it as the masterpiece it is! Imagine my surprise when I was out on the first round.

I then entered my other novel into Gather's next novel contest--this one for romances--thinking I "might" win. Again, out on the first round.

Then came the first Amazon Break-Through Novel Award. I submitted the same novel I'd entered in the first Gather contest. Ah ha! I thought. New audience. They'll see this novel's brilliance! Entered. Out.

Second Amazon Break-Through Novel Award. I'd written another novel at this point, and worked hard to fine-tune my pitch, asked for feedback from all the Writing Wombats--whom I was fortunate to find during all those Gather writing contest--and polished, polished, polished. I just KNEW this was it. Entered. Out.

Although you'd think I'd be used to being out on the first round, I was devastated this time. To the point that I'd decided to give up. Not just give up on contests, but on writing completely. I'm not an, ‘I have to write' type writer anyway, and decided there were other, less time-consuming outlets for my creativity. For me, the satisfaction I get out of writing isn't complete without also having readers at the other end. Between the rejections I was receiving from literary agents and the contest losses, my disillusionment was complete. Four novels no one was ever going to read were enough.

But then...

I took two stories I'd written for the fun contests we Writing Wombats have a couple times of year and submitted them to publishers. One was a dark humor piece I'd written for our Phantasmorgia contest at Halloween time (mind you, I didn't win our contest), and it became my first publishing credit when it was published in an anthology "Night Bird Singing in the Dead of Night." My second publishing credit came when I submitted what I'd written for our Valentine's Day contest to Woman's World magazine. Peach- Flavored Kisses was published in their final issue of 2009.

So, I figured though I wasn't winning contests, good did come out of them. Still, when someone mentioned the New Voices contest, I was reluctant to enter. I'd just started writing again after the five-month hiatus that followed my devastation from the Amazon contest. Did I really want to put myself there again? Besides, my category romance was in first person, which Mills & Boon rarely publishes, AND I don't introduce my hero until chapter two. I'd already broken two romance book "rules", but entered a couple days before deadline with a what-the-heck attitude. I KNEW I'd never get past the first round.

Imagine my surprise...

  • I'm not surprised, it's a good story, Jill. How do we go about casting a vote for you? Will I have to do anything special to gain access to your first two chapters? Can I comment on the story if I want to?  
Thanks for asking, Sia. Voting is a bit tricky. Readers clicked one to five roses to rate our first chapters, and they still show up on our pages, but aren't clickable in this round of the competition.

To vote in this second-chapter round, readers register at, and receive an e-mail with a link to click (to verify they're not robots LOL). Once logged in, a "Cast your Vote" button is on the left side of the site's main page. Clicking on that brings up the top ten. Once there, readers can read first chapters, second chapters, leave comments, and vote.

In this round of the competition, the four entries with the highest scores go onto the final round and will post a pivotal scene for readers to judge. The grand-prize winner is announced on November 1st.

Oh, mine is WINDSONG! See? I told you I'm not very good at the competing part.

  • Jill, I'm wishing you the best on this contest. Anything you'd like to add or ask readers?

Thank you, again, Sia. Instead of ending with a question, I'll just ask that everyone instead wish YOU a happy birthday. You, birthday girl, are a winner in all of our books!

Aww, Jill. Thank you sweetie.

Here's Windsong's Summary:

Journalist Lexie Gray enters the Witness Security Program and plans to write a tell-all about the secretive program. But, when she falls in love with the U.S. Marshal protecting her, her hard-hitting exposé softens into a romantic memoir. Chapter One Excerpt
~ * ~ * ~

Jill Lynn Anderson has published several short stories. Jill writes mainstream and romance fiction in a little office in her petite home located in an itsy-bitsy Pennsylvania town. To compensate for all the smallness, she thinks and dreams BIG.

Go Jill Go!


~Sia McKye~ said...

Jill, Welcome to Over Coffee. It's a pleasure to have you. I even have treats for Trinket, my cats have approved the treats a yummy. I'll take their word for it.

I think this contest is so exciting and I'm so proud that you made the top ten finalists. I'm also VERY glad you didn't give up your writing. :-)

Kat Sheridan said...

Jill,jumping up and down with excitement for you being in the top 10! This is fantastic! And yes, I voted for you! Wishing you all sorts of luck, and what an inspiration that you didn't quit! I'm hoping to follow in your footsteps someday!

Jill Lynn said...

Thanks, Sia. I brought birthday cake to go with out coffee today (which I LOVE if I've never said. I drink about seven cups a day.)

Thanks, Kat. Cake?

tonya kappes said...

That's great Jill!!! What an accomplishment! I'm going to vote now.

Jill Lynn said...

Thanks, Tonya. I appreciate it so much!

BTW, Sia, Trinket loves that you thought to bring her treats. She does love her food. In fact, I predict my 6 pound under-nourished shelter adoptee will be a 10-pund butterball by Thanksgiving. LOL

Ken Coffman said...

This reminds me of writing advice I got from Glen Wilson...embedded in his response to an editor's rejection letter.

GW: What? Who are you? If you're not going to help me, then you're in my way. I got things to do. Buzz off.

Mason Canyon said...

Jill, congratulations on being in the top 10. Way to go. Wishing you the best of luck.

Thoughts in Progress

Judi Fennell said...

Oooh, love the new pic, Jill! I'm thinking it'll look good on the inside back cover of a paperback with the Mills & Boon logo on it. :)

And Happy Birthday, Sia!

Jill Lynn said...

Thanks, Judi! I snapped the new pic last weekend. Well, guess I should say I snapped several. I have to take like eighteen pictures of myself before I find one I sorta like. LOL

Kat Sheridan said...

I heard the word 'cake' and immediately came back. Oh Jill (and Sia!)you do know my weakness! And perhaps you shouldn't say 'cat' 'butterball' and 'Thanksgiving' in the same sentence. People could get the wrong idea! LOL!

VA said...

Jill, congratulations. Best of luck in the contest. I loved the excerpts. You got my vote.

Cake! Yay...Happy Birthday, Sia.

VA said...

When does this round end, Jill? Is there voting in the final four round?

~Sia McKye~ said...

I even have extra frosting Kat!

Thanks for the birthday wishes.

I agree with Judi, it would be wonderful to see your face in the back cover of Mills & Boon, Jill!

Jill Lynn said...

Thanks, VA! The four finalists are announced Monday October 18th so voting ends this weekend. (not sure on exact time). The F4 post their pivotal scene on October 26th, at which time readers vote again for the ultimate winner--announced November 1st.

Lisa K. said...

Best of luck in the contest, Jill. Persistence pays off. You have my vote!

(And Happy Birthday, Sia!)

Horror with Heart said...

Hi Jill. Wishing you lots of votes. Your chapters are great and deserve to win.

Houston A.W. Knight said...


Another awesome interview! And so timely! I might just save a friend and talented writer with this so she won't give up.

Hugs and Happy Birthday!

sherilynwinrose said...

Jill, we'd all be sad if you stopped writing. You know how much I love Peach Flavored Kisses.

I couldn't be more thrilled that you've made it to the top ten, which confirms what I've know all along. You can spin an excellent tale!

James Rafferty said...

Hi Jill. Best of luck in this contest. You've demonstrated your writing talent to the wombats and we hope the rest of the world will catch on soon.

And Sia, happy birthday!

ptbertram said...

Writing is a heartbreaking business. I'm so glad you stuck with it, Jill. I hope this is the beginning of a brilliant career.

I voted for you, of course. Best of luck!

Jill Lynn said...

Thanks, everyone!

Hey, you're not all here just because there's cake, are you? :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sheesh, Jill, I must have 4 cakes here. Promotion and goodies are a good mix, just sayin'. :-)

Olivia Cunning said...

Jill- I'm so glad you kept writing! Perhaps we should add my excessive competitiveness to your non-competitiveness and divide it between us. Then we might both come in somewhere at a normal competitiveness level.

Toot your horn, honey. You deserve it! This is a great accomplishment. And I'd have voted for you even without the cake! And your author pic is FAB!

Happy 28th Birthday, Sia.

Jill Lynn said...

Olivia, when I enter writing contests I think of it as challenging myself more than competing with others, I guess. But, okay, here goes...

Toot, toot, tootoot. Toooooot. :-)

readwriteandedit said...

Jill, your big dreams are gonna bust out of that teeny house and lots more folks are gonna know you, not only wacky wombats. I'm so glad you didn't give up.

Good luck. Guess I need to get to the site and vote.


dalecoz said...

Good luck, Jill! Glad to hear that you made it to the top ten.

~Sia McKye~ said...

It really isn't that hard to vote. You do have to register but no big. It was pretty simple even for a not so techie person like me.

Windsong is a good story so I hope y'all will give it a look and drop a vote for Jill, if you agree--I might be a tad prejudiced but you'll like it!

Jill Lynn said...

Thanks, Sia!

And thanks to everybody for stopping by. And for those who vote, smooches!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jill, I like your thought that entering writing contests as competing against yourself, as opposed to competing with others.

I had to laugh when I read your comment:

"when I entered the first novel-writing contest at Gather. I was certain I would win. My novel is brilliant! Readers will recognize it as the masterpiece it is! Imagine my surprise when I was out on the first round."

As a newbie with my first time entry I had similar thoughts. I wasn't as certain I would win, but figured I'd make it beyond round one or two. THEN I read the other entries. lol! But seriously, I learned so very much from that contest.

Jill Lynn said...

"THEN I read the other entries"

Exactly why I haven't read the other nine finalists's entries. I fear I'll run crying from the room LOL.

Seriously, though, contests do give you a healthy peek into a lit agent or editor's slush pile. And, win or lose this contest, knowing the judges selected WINDSONG as one of the ten is a huge lift to the spirit. And I've learned something valuable because of it: Trust. My. Voice. I will take that with me come what may.

Dana Fredsti said...

Yay, Jill!!! Sorry I'm late to the party - I was at Bouchercon... I voted for ya!!! And I'm glad you've stuck with the writing. Looking forward to attending a convention with you one of these days...

Jill Lynn said...

Dana! Glad we left the light on for you Thanks for the vote!

aries18 said...

Sia and Jill,

Awesome interview! I loved every word. I voted of course. Windsong is a great story. Can't wait for the next round of voting. Sorry for the lateness of this comment. Ive been running about 2 days behind everyone else this week.