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Contests: The Writer’s Fairy Godmother

With the exception of shoe size and the fact that I don’t do floors, Cinderella and I are basically twins separated at birth. My stepsisters, Query and Rejection, had been hounding me for months and I was starting to lose hope, when one magical day I received a phone call from an editor—suddenly my editor—telling me that I’d won the St. Martin’s Minotaur/ Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition and that my manuscript was going to be published. It was the greatest day of my life—with the possible, though not absolute, exception of the births of my kids (and please don’t tell them I said that). Guest column by Janice Hamrick, author of Death on Tour (2011, Minotaur), the winner of the 2010 St. Martin’s Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition.

With the exception of shoe size and the fact that I don’t do floors, Cinderella and I are basically twins separated at birth. My stepsisters, Query and Rejection, had been hounding me for months and I was starting to lose hope, when one magical day I received a phone call from an editor—suddenly my editor—telling me that I’d won the St. Martin’s Minotaur/ Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition and that my manuscript was going to be published. It was the greatest day of my life—with the possible, though not absolute, exception of the births of my kids (and please don’t tell them I said that).

Janice is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Elizabeth won.)

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Guest column by Janice Hamrick, author of
Death on Tour (2011, Minotaur), the winner of
the 2010 St. Martin’s Minotaur/Mystery Writers
of America First Crime Novel Competition. In
Death on Tour, murder interrupts Texas history
teacher Jocelyn Shore’s guided tour of Egypt,
threatening not only her vacation, but her life.
Janice lives in Austin. See her website here
or befriend her on Facebook.


Over the next few months, I traveled the road to the publication ball in reverse. My career started with the Edgar Awards Banquet, which is where I received my award (not an Edgar, let’s be clear), and where I met my editor in person. I signed a book contract and only then did I find an agent, the wonderfully enthusiastic David Hale Smith, whom I’d also met in New York and who miraculously agreed to represent me in future endeavors.

And finally, midnight arrived, the coach changed back into a pumpkin, and what I think is a fairly typical editing, copyediting, and publication cycle began. I learned so much that I could never have imagined about the business side of writing, but most of all I learned that nothing ever happens quickly. (I really need to acquire some of Cinderella’s patience … although I bet some serious wine drinking is required.) However, exactly one year from the day that I received the magic phone call, an advance copy of my first book arrived on my doorstep in a plain padded brown envelope.

Lest I give the impression that it’s been completely happily ever after, let me say that even after I was a signed and soon-to-be-published author, the rejections kept coming. As most writers know, it takes weeks and even months for agents to respond to queries, and I still had a few rejections from the past to endure. And although the sting was gone (mostly), it truly brought home the old writers’ adage that timing and fit are everything. A rejection does not mean that your manuscript is not worthy; rather it only indicates that the agent you chose to query simply does not feel the magic.

I would encourage all writers who have not yet stumbled upon their fairy godmother to look into entering a contest or two. The Mystery Writers of America sponsors several contests in conjunction with St. Martin’s Minotaur with a reward beyond the dreams of princesses. Your local writers’ league probably sponsors contests with prizes ranging from regional recognition to some extra time with an agent at a conference, neither one of which hurts you when you’re writing those queries letters (see the Writers’ League of Texas). Other contests from reputable publishers or authors’ groups abound, most with no or very nominal entry fees. (Do beware of anyone demanding a hefty entry fee—the point of those contests is to take your money, not to discover new and exciting talent.) Most of all, I would encourage you to keep writing, keep querying, and keep up your chin. The royal publication ball really does exist, and there are a lot of different roads and magical coaches to take you there.

Janice is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Elizabeth won.)

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