Michele Bardsley, mother of two, locked herself in her bedroom and in one day wrote A Mother Scorned. The short story follows a mother who takes the law into her own hands to protect her daughter.
Writing outside of her usual genre proved beneficial for Bardsley, 33, who says she normally writes "fluffy stories." But Mother is part mystery, part horror. It was chosen as this year''s grand-prize winner in the 2003 Writer''s Digest Annual Writing Competition.
Bardsley knew she wanted to be a writer as early as age 12. She majored in liberal arts in college, and in 1997, she started working as an acquisitions editor at Huntington Press (a small press publisher).
In 1998, she sold her first novel, a romantic comedy titled Daddy in Training, to Hard Shell Word Factory, another small press publisher that specializes in e-books and trade paperbacks. Bardsley left her editorial position at Huntington in 1999 to stay home with her son and devote more time to writing.
Currently, Bardsley is a freelance editor and writer. Since her debut novel, she''s sold four more books to Hard Shell: Bride in Training (2001), Housewife for Rent (2002), Husband for Hire (2002) and Wild Women, coming out this month. She has also sold three other e-books to various publishing companies.
"A lot of the time I feel that I''m channeling rather than writing," Bardsley says. "I don''t plan, I don''t process; I can''t do a synopsis to save my life. I''d lose enthusiasm for what I was doing if I knew what was going to happen before I sat down to write the book."
About the Contest
Bardsley''s short story was chosen out of 18,224 manuscripts in 10 different categories. The top 10 winners, along with the number of entries in each category, are listed on the following pages. As the grand-prize winner, Bardsley wins $1,500 and a trip to New York City with a WD editor to meet four editors or agents of her choice. To read A Mother Scorned and the first-prize winning manuscripts in each category, send a check or money order for $6 to 2003 WD Contest Booklet, 4700 E. Galbraith Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45236. For more winners, visit www.writersdigest.com.
Although Bardsley locked her kids out while she wrote the story, her subconscious couldn''t stop thinking about them. She says the helplessness a parent feels when trying to protect her children played a role in forming her story.
But this isn''t her first winning entry. In fact, her literary short story The Peterson Affair took seventh place in the mainstream fiction category of the 2002 Writer''s Digest Annual Writing Competition.
"I''m a contest junkie," Bardsley says. "When I started entering contests, it was to get feedback and to gauge how I was doing in that genre among my peers. So I just wanted to throw Mother out there to see what would happen, to see if it merited any kind of recognition."
And now that her genre story has been recognized, Bardsley is looking toward the future. She''s currently at work turning The Peterson Affair into a mainstream novel and plans to call the new version Sex, Doug, and Rocky Road. The book follows one woman''s journey of self-discovery after she learns her husband has cheated on her.
Even without an agent, Bardsley says she feels comfortable navigating the small-press market by herself. But in winning this contest, she hopes to make the right contacts to move her from the small presses to the large New York publishers.
"Maybe this is my opportunity to progress upward rather than just stay in the small pond I''m in," Bardsley says. "I would like to be able to speak to the people who might be able to help me move up into the ocean."
This article appeared in the November 2003 issue of Writer''s Digest.