Grand Champion of The Great Novel Contest 2015 – Zach Boddicker

The Great Novel Contest 2015We are pleased to announce the winners of The Great Novel Contest 2015!  After sorting through a multitude of submissions, our two-tier judging committee has selected the Grand Champion and Runner-Up.  All submissions were judged blind (no names or identifying information).

The Essential Carl Mahogany by Zach Boddicker is the Grand Champion of The Great Novel Contest 2015!  Congratulations Zach!

Mr. Boddicker will take home the $1,000 grand prize.  His manuscript will also receive priority consideration from four esteemed publishers – Columbus Press, Elephant Rock Books, PageSpring Publishing and Raw Dog Screaming Press.

Zach Boddicker is a Colorado-based writer and musician. His most-recent publication is a short story in A Decade of Country Hits: Art on the Rural Frontier (Jap Sam Books, 2014). A general sense of his current path can be found at zachboddicker.wordpress.com.

Our Runner-Up is The Galvanized Man by David L. Day!  Congratuations David!

Mr. Day will be awarded the $500 prize, and his manuscript will receive the same priority consideration from these four great publishers.

David L. Day is a dark fantasy novelist living in the Columbus, OH, area. When not reading, writing, or spending time with his wife and sons, David can usually be found watching a horror movie, playing video games, or training for his black belt in Taekwondo. Sometimes he can even be found attempting to skateboard or snowboard, although not as often as he’d like (but probably more often than he should at his age). David holds a BA in English and an MBA from Ohio University, as well as an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. His first novel, TEARSTONE, was published by Belfire Press in March 2013. His snazzy but woefully neglected website can be found at
www.davidlday.com.

The judging committee would also like to make note of The Tell-Tale Art by Richard Novotney, which was the undisputed next choice. While Mr. Novotney will not receive a prize, we are pleased to recognize the excellence of his work.

Find a complete list of The Great Novel Contest 2015 Finalists here.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a novel manuscript to this year’s contest.  As always, we were completely blown away by the talented pool of submissions that we received, and we are forever grateful that you trust us with your work.  Running a contest with integrity that presents legitimate opportunities is something that we take very seriously, and it wouldn’t be possible without the participation of so many fantastic writers.

Thank you to all of our volunteers, from the crew who helped publicize and promote the contest, to those who helped us organize and facilitate the submissions, to those who served as part of our judging committee, you folks are fantastic, thank you!  Our group is a product of its outstanding members, and you guys are the cream of the crop!

A special huge thanks goes to our Contest Coordinator, Mr. Todd Metcalf, as well as Deputy Director Emily Hitchcock and Director Brad Pauquette, for their tireless efforts, without which this contest would never be sustainable.

Congratulations to Mr. Zach Boddicker and Mr. David L. Day for their tremendous accomplishments.  Keep an eye out for these novels from a publisher soon.

Don’t forget that we will be opening submissions for our next anthology, Best of Ohio Short Stories: Volume II on June 1!  Find the details here.

The Great Novel Contest 2015 Finalists!

The Great Novel Contest 2015Our judges have officially selected The Great Novel Contest 2015 finalists!

We are pleased to carefully consider every manuscript submitted. Every submission received the attention of a live, qualified human being. All judging was conducted “blind” — only the merits of the manuscript were considered, with no knowledge of or consideration of the author’s name or qualifications.

These ten finalists will now be considered by a second group of judges, who will select the winner and the runner-up.

Without further ado, here are the ten finalists, listed in alphabetical order of author’s last name:

The Essential Carl Mahogany by Zach Boddicker

The Galvanized Man by David Day

Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon

Thirst by Jennifer Kelly

Streets of the Lost and Found by Kip Langello

The Tell-Tale Art by Richard Novotney

Blameless by Lee Reilly

Turning the Bones by Sam Scott

The Aroma of Coffee by Judith Weiss-Rivera

Horror Nights by Paul Yoder

Thank you to everyone who submitted a manuscript to The Great Novel Contest 2015. As always, choosing just ten novels to move on as finalists was no easy task. We’re privileged and honored to be trusted with such a tremendous pool of talent.

The winner and runner-up of The Great Novel Contest 2015 will both receive priority consideration from four publishers, as well as cash prizes of $1,000 and $500 respectively.

Thank you to our participating publishers: Columbus Press, Elephant Rock Books, PageSpring Publishing and Raw Dog Screaming Press. Please support great independent literature and check out some of the amazing titles that these publishing houses are producing.

Thank you again to all of those who have participated with The Great Novel Contest 2015, both as candidates and our staff of invaluable volunteers.

Congratulations to these ten finalists!

P.S. Information about our next anthology project, Best of Ohio Short Stories Volume II, is now available to members.  Log in and visit the writers’ forum for details.  Information will be released to the public in the coming weeks.

The Great Novel Contest 2015: Judges Be Judgin’

The judging period for The Great Novel Contest is underway! The Great Novel Contest 2015

A special team of handpicked judges is hard at work reading novels. The winning novel could be in front of a judge RIGHT NOW.

We know it’s tempting to email and ask for an update on your submission, but we ask that you respect the time of our volunteers and wait for our official announcement. We will announce the winner, runner-up and finalists on April 15, 2015. No updates will be given before that time.

From there, the two winning manuscripts will be delivered to the four participating publishers for their consideration. Any contract negotiation is between the publisher and the author, but if we’re privy to the publisher’s decision, we’ll let you know.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a manuscript to this contest. So far, we’ve been very pleased by the quality of the books our judges are reviewing.

The Great Novel Contest: Closed for Submissions

The entry period for The Great Novel Contest 2015 is officially over. This year was our The Great Novel Contest 2015greatest year yet! We owe a big thanks to all the folks who helped us spread the word, and to our team of volunteers who put in a lot of hard work.

In the coming weeks our team of judges will be hard at work reading manuscripts. We ask that you do not contact us about your submission in the meantime. We’ll post updates on our blog, but we will not give out individual updates. We get it–the anticipation is killing you! However, we ask that you please be patient and respect the time of our volunteers.

We will announce the contest winners by April 15, 2015. Mark your calendars!

From there, the two winning manuscripts will be delivered to the four participating publishers for their consideration. Any contract negotiation is between the publisher and the author, but if we’re privy to the publisher’s decision, we’ll let you know.

Best of luck to everyone who entered the contest! We have a great pool of manuscripts this year, and our judges are looking forward to diving in.

The Great Novel Contest: Now or Never

You have less than 72 hours to submit a novel to The Great Novel Contest 2015. The contestThe Great Novel Contest 2015 is better than ever this year, and with the entry fee reduced to $25, there’s no reason to let the January 31 deadline pass you by.

Find the contest rules and instructions for entering here. 

The winner of The Great Novel Contest 2015 will receive $1,000 and priority consideration from four publishers. The contest runner-up will receive $500 and consideration from the same four publishers. Ten finalists will receive recognition of their achievement, a letter of reccomendation for potential agents and publishers and a free copy of Columbus: Past, Present and Future. 

Learn more about the four participating publishers below:

Columbus Press is an independent publisher of exceptional fiction and narrative non-fiction.

“One of the advantages of small or mid-size press is that an author can find someone that’s really a good fit. Your book doesn’t just make sense on a spreadsheet, but it’s something the publisher can really get excited about and roll with month after month.”

-Brad Pauquette, Publisher, Columbus Press

Elephant Rock Books is publisher of handsome books, quality fiction and nonfiction that you won’t forget.

“It’s a cliché, but those first few pages should leap off the page. Editors read so many manuscripts, we’re a jaded bunch. That said, I open each submission hoping it is the best book ever written. It’s why I got into this business.”

-Jotham Burrello, Publisher, Elephant Rock Books

Raw Dog Screaming Press is dedicated to putting into print the highest quality literature from the fringe. 

“I start getting excited when I read a page or two, and this is going to sound a little weird, but when the sentences are smooth, not awkward, and the story and the style are working together.”

-Jennifer Barnes, Publisher, Raw Dog Screaming Press

PageSpring Publishing is an independent book publisher specializing in high-quality novels for adults and younger readers. 

“Before we were ever editors or publishers, we were readers. You know that feeling when you pick up a book and find you just have to keep turning pages? Or you identify so fully with a character that you’d swear she was real? As a reader, there’s nothing better than finding a book that speaks to you that way. It’s intensely gratifying when we’re able to give that experience to a fellow reader.”

– Rebecca Seum, Publisher, PageSpring Publishing

What’s the holdup? Submit your novel to The Great Novel Contest before it’s too late. Click here for contest rules and instructions for entering.

May the best manuscript win!

Guest Post — Hannah Douglas: The Great Novel Contest Deadline is Near!

Hannah Douglas– freelance writer/journalist, CCC volunteer for The Great Novel The Great Novel Contest 2015Contest— wrote this guest post on defeating deadlines, and the importance of the The Great Novel Contest 2015 deadline. Visit Hannah’s website for the original post: here

Let me just be straight. I don’t like deadlines. What kind of person likes them, really?

When I’m on deadline, I’d much rather make a sandwich. And then do the dishes after eating said sandwich. And then clean the entire house because if the dishes are done, then everything else must be clean, right? Then maybe I’ll call a friend to see if they need their dishes done or their house cleaned. OK. Enough.

Deadlines can put a lot of pressure on the creative process, placing a time stamp on a thought, an idea for a book, can seem so wrong! I’m writing. Don’t rush me.

Regardless of my strong disdain for deadlines, they exist to help move us forward. When it comes to The Great Novel Contest, maybe the deadline is in your favor! Deadlines could just be that inspiration you need to achieve your goals. You can finally polish off that manuscript and turn in a completed work that you love.

Learn more about The Great Novel Contest here.

Sometimes I’ll make my own self-imposed deadlines, and include a twisted rewards system to go along with it, just to make sure I finish a project. I’ll think of an angle for this story by 5p.m. No more coffee until I get this paragraph right. I can have these emails sent by tonight. Those 500 words will be done by Friday, and then I’ll have a big fancy dinner at a big fancy restaurant. And so on. You can judge me, but that’s my own process. You have your own.

I had to make a deadline for myself in order to finish writing this blog post. If not for that fake deadline, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.

It’s also really great when you turn your work in early! Beating the deadline can be a tremendous feeling. And The Great Novel Contest is no exception!

When I really wanted to get something done, I’ve also asked friends or editors to create deadlines for me, so that I can complete the work they’re wanting in time. I hated doing it, and I felt a little weird, but in the end, the story ran on time, and we all lived happily ever after!

But remember, deadlines are only effective if you actually meet them.

Whether you’re imposing your own fake deadlines or asking your friends to give you fake deadlines, let me assure you, the deadline of January 31, 2015 for The Great Novel Contest is very real. So real it’s almost here. So, what are you waiting for? It feels really good when you meet your deadlines! And receiving prizes for the contest feels really good too- just in case you need more of an incentive to make the deadline.

For more details on contest prizes and rules, visit www.greatnovelcontest.com. Or check out the Facebook page, here.

Publisher Spotlight: Raw Dog Screaming Press Author Matt Betts

The Great Novel Contest 2015We recently corresponded with Matt Betts, author of Odd Men Out to learn about his experience working with Raw Dog Screaming Press. As one of the four publishers collaborating on The Great Novel Contest, we were excited to hear more about this independent press from an author’s perspective.

Find the instructions for submitting your manuscript here.

Tell me about your experience working with Raw Dog Screaming Press. Why would you recommend RDSP to other authors?

The editors and owners of Raw Dog Screaming Press and Dog Star Books have a great eye for stories and how to improve them. They have a pretty wide array of genres that can fit well into their various lines, so they can really pick and choose what stories they want to take on. I think I would recommend them to other authors because they are big enough and experienced enough to really be able to get books out there in front of readers, but they’re still small enough to really be able to get to know and support each of their authors. They’re constantly out there at cons and events, selling books, meeting readers and getting their name out there. RDSP’s John Edward Lawson and Jennifer Barnes have been enormously kind to me and amazingly supportive of my work.

What’s your favorite part about working with RDSP?

RDSP can be a lot of fun to work with. They started a reader’s poll, where readers voted on their favorite titles from the publisher. After that, voting moved on to other rounds, and for 2013, Odd Men Out won the poll. It was really exciting. Part of the award was a nice trophy to put on my desk, but the other part was a belt. This was a real WWF-style humongous belt with a dog picture on the front and my name on the side. The belt gets shared each year with the new winner. I don’t always take it with me when I go to cons or events, but it’s really a conversation-starter when I do.

MattBettsRDSP really supports their authors and does whatever they can to get the word out on their releases. I feel like they have confidence in my work and I never feel lost in the shuffle of their catalog. I also think the authors themselves are very supportive and go out of their way to help promote each other. I’ve always felt like I could approach RDSP authors with questions, or ask them for advice. It’s a great group of talented and generous people.

Why did you choose to submit to RDSP?

It’s extremely important to do your research to find the right publisher when submitting your work, but it’s also important to make contacts and get your name out there. In fact, that’s how Odd Men Out found RDSP. I was slowly making my way through my list of agents and publishers I felt were right for the book. I wasn’t getting accepted, but I was getting notes from agents and publishers about what they liked and didn’t like. While I was working on some of their edits and suggestions, I heard from Heidi Ruby Miller.

I had met Heidi at a conference many years before. She and a number of other attendees at that conference really got me excited about writing, and also introduced me to writing speculative poetry. I stayed in touch with Heidi for years, but we hadn’t actually run into each other in person again. So, she knew I had a book and asked if she could take a look for RDSP’s new science fiction line, Dog Star Books. Since I knew and trusted Heidi, and I was already familiar with a number of RDSP authors, it was a no-brainer to send Odd Men Out to her. She read it, had great things to say about it, and they took it on as one of the titles that would launch Dog Star Books. It was a great honor to be one of their first titles.

How does it feel to be a Hoffer Award finalist? What words of encouragement do you have for other authors submitting to contests or awards like this?

It was a great surprise. I really was thrilled with the reviews Odd Men Out was getting, but I really didn’t think too much about the possibility of awards. It’s very exciting to be on that list of excellent books, and having that gold seal on the front of the book is wonderful. I certainly recommend that authors and their publishers look into awards. There are a number of them out there, and many are very specific and might fit a particular author’s situation. There are awards specifically for science fiction, for self-published books, for first-time authors, for residents of a particular state or area. The competition is pretty tough, but winners and finalists get a lot of extra attention and publicity. Check out their guidelines and see if they are free or require an entry fee, then weigh whether the return is worth it for your situation.

What advice do you have for writers?

You know, I’ve been giving the same advice to writers for a long time. Read. Read whatever you can get your hands on. Read outside your genre, or outside your comfort zone to see how/why a certain novel works. Maybe there’s a book out there that is wildly popular, but doesn’t sound that great to you. Read it. Find out why it’s on the bestseller list. That author must be doing something right, even if they aren’t your cup of tea. Better yet, figure out why a book doesn’t work. Is there a novel that’s getting killed in reviews? See if you can determine where they went wrong. What don’t you like about it? Read all you can in your genre to know the tropes and clichés so you can avoid and subvert them. Read. Read. Read.

I think my other advice for writers is to get involved in the writing community when you can. I was a member of a critique group for years and attended every week. That can be a big time commitment, and I had to scale it back eventually, but the things I learned from those critiques really helped my writing. Going to those meetings helped me learn to meet deadlines with my writing, among other things. Nearly everyone in that group was at the same sort of level with their writing, that is, we were all beginners. We learned the ins and outs of writing, as well as the business of publishing, together. It was a tremendous help.

Tell me about your novel, Odd Men Out. Where did the idea for a steampunk, zombie-filled, post-Civil War story stem from?

You know, there were a lot of things that contributed to Odd Men Out. It was really an homage to a number of my favorite things, and ultimately an effort to write a book mashing those things into one fun story. I’m a pop culture junkie, so that really contributed to the book. I was a big fan of watching old horror movies on television on the weekends when I was a kid. I watched Godzilla and other giant monsters that way. I loved the action and adventure of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. I enjoy zombie movies like Night of the Living Dead and TV shows like Firefly or Alias. My job, basically, was to put all of those together somehow. Simple enough, right? I just wanted to get the feel of the excitement of those shows. I wanted a good plot, good characters to root for and a fun setting. All of that eventually gelled into Odd Men Out.

This is your first published novel, do you plan to continue writing novels? What’s the next project you’re working on?

I have a few things coming up. This summer my next book, an Urban Fantasy called Indelible Ink, comes out. It’s also from Dog Star Books/RDSP. I’m excited about it, because it was so much fun to write. It’s a little scifi, action, UF, and horror mixed together. We’re looking at the edits and I know the cover is underway, so that one is pretty much done, at least as far as my involvement in the manuscript. I’ll get back to it closer to the release date to get the promotions going.

I’m writing a sequel to Odd Men Out, which should be published in 2016. It’s a continuation with the same characters pretty close to where Odd Men Out left off. It’s been fun to brainstorm where their story could and should go next, and the first several chapters have gone pretty well. There’s an outline for another Odd Men Out novel after that one that’s taking shape. I also have a few short stories I’m working on, with at least one of them featuring characters from Odd Men Out as well.

Interested in working with Raw Dog Screaming Press? Submit your manuscript to The Great Novel Contest before January 31, 2015. The grand prize winner and the runner-up will both receive priority consideration from RDSP, in addition to three other publishers. 

Find rules and instructions for entering The Great Novel Contest here.

Good luck! 

Great Novel Contest 2015: Don’t Quit, Submit

DeadlineSomeone once asked the cartoonist Richard Thompson what inspired his work. Instead of the expected response about beauty in the details of life and so on, he spoke honestly: deadlines. Maybe you wouldn’t call them inspiring, but deadlines certainly have a way of kicking you out of your seat and getting you to the task at hand — even if it’s only days before the due date.

Many believe that the word “deadline” originated during the Civil War in prison camps. Prisoners had to stay within a line surrounding the inner face of the stockade or else a prison guard would shoot them. Cheery, no? Another phrase that’s meant to motivate you: “Put your nose to the grindstone.” When sharpening blades, knife grinders would put their face up close to the grindstone to hold the blade against the stone.

Every writer procrastinates, but you can steer clear of all this blood and gore by submitting your manuscript to The Great Novel Contest 2015 right now. Here are some quick techniques to stop procrastinating.

  • Use a timer. The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to divide a chunk of work time into 25 minute intervals with short breaks in between. After a few 25 minute intervals, give yourself longer breaks to look forward to.
  • Schedule your task. Take “submit novel to Great Novel Contest” off of your To-Do List and put it on your calendar. There will always be groceries to buy, friends to visit, pencils to sharpen, facial hair to manage, and pet rocks to care for. Your novel deserves the same attention. Pencil it in.
  • Divide a big job into small tasks. 1. Edit the last page. 2. Format manuscript correctly. 3. Create a free account with CCC. 4. Submit final manuscript. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?
  • Change your environment. Maybe your memory foam bed is not the best spot to focus on finishing your manuscript. Where are you most productive? Write down a detailed description of that place and go there. Anyway, it will at least get you writing.
  • No distractions. Put ‘em away. Admit it, you work best in a quiet setting with no windows or Internet. Think of it as a simple mechanical motion, walking to the outlet and disconnecting the wifi. Ahhh, now watch the productivity flow freely.
  • Tell someone about your goal. “Just don’t ask about it, Mom, I didn’t submit my manuscript to The Great Novel Contest on time.” Don’t be that guy.

Don’t let better be the enemy of good enough. Submit your manuscript to our contest and then take care of those “urgent” tasks you had to get to while writing your novel. That way, when you hear someone quote writer Douglas Adams, who said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by,” you can laugh in pity instead of cry in sympathy.

Read the rules and guidelines for the contest. And find updates on Facebook.

Great Novel Contest 2015: Prizes for the Runner-Up

The Great Novel Contest 2015Last week we shared 10 Ways to Spend Your Prize Money for the winner of the Great Novel Contest 2015. But don’t forget that the prizes for the runner-up are also pretty awesome! Aside from the pride and glory that comes from being one of two authors picked from tons of submissions, the runner-up will go home with $500 cash, public recognition for their achievement, and priority consideration from four independent publishers. Let’s break that down.

Review the rules and guidelines for submitting here.

$500 = fine artwork for your professional writer’s home, a guitar, 2,500 McNuggets, a retired racehorse, a four-day weekend at Mesa Verde, a puppy. A never-ending list, really.

Public recognition. We will share your novel’s achievement with the world on our blog and social media. Check out past finalists and winners on this blog. Your novel will be known as the “Runner-up of The Great Novel Contest 2015,” another reason for publishers and readers to take your book seriously.

Priority consideration from four publishers. Ahh, the best for last. Your manuscript will go straight into the hands of the decision-makers at four independent presses. That means skipping over the pile of daily submissions and increasing your chances of getting published at Columbus Press, Elephant Rock Books, PageSpring Publishing, or Raw Dog Screaming Press. As author R.K. Blessing said, this contest allows writers to get ahead in the publishing world. “Writing is difficult. It takes time and dedication, and for those of us who get past those two humps, we then have to deal with the process of publication.” He wrote, “For those who are sitting at home, staring blindly at the Internet and wondering what to do next, this contest offers a great opportunity to get yourself out there.”

Take this opportunity to put your novel in the spotlight. Best of luck.

Submit your manuscript here, and keep updated on our Facebook page.

Publisher Spotlight: Columbus Press Author Samuel Snoek-Brown

As we hit the halfway point of The Great Novel Contest, we continue our spotlight The Great Novel Contest 2015series with a sit-down with Columbus Press author, Samuel Snoek-Brown. Sam is the author of Hagridden, which has been garnering a lot of great reviews lately.

Learn more about Hagridden here.

Columbus Press is one of four participating publishers in The Great Novel Contest 2015. The contest winner and runner-up will receive priority consideration from these four publishers, in addition to cash prizes.

Find rules and instructions for entering The Great Novel Contest here.

Sam shared some of his time to talk about working with Columbus Press, his experiences with the publishing industry, and what he’s been up to lately. He’s also got some helpful advice for anyone on the fence about entering The Great Novel Contest. Thanks, Sam!

What attracted you to Columbus Press initially?hagridden cover new

My agent is the one who found Columbus Press, but he ran presses by me before sending my novel anywhere. I was actually pretty excited by Columbus Press when he brought them to me, because I liked their balance of quirk and professionalism. Some small presses focus so much on the “independent” part that they go to some strange lengths to distinguish themselves, and they can sometimes privilege quirk over everything else. They’re weird for weird’s sake, which is fine, but it makes figuring out their business model difficult and you’re never quite sure what they’ll do for you professionally. Other presses are so concerned about being taken seriously as a business that they take all the fun out of their work, strip down everything to contracts and guidelines and marketing schemes. There’s so little artistry in that.

Columbus Press is absolutely a serious, professional business — they have ambitions, they have a plan, and they know how to articulate that. But they also have a banana as their freaking logo, and there’s an ease and conversationalism to their guidelines and their blog posts that make you feel like you’re dealing with human beings. That really appealed to me. It felt from the beginning like I’d found a place that would let me play and would play with me, but that also knew the rules of the business and could guide me through that, too.

What did you most appreciate about working with Columbus Press?

I’m going to put that in the present tense — what DO I appreciate — because that’s one of the things I actually do appreciate about Columbus Press: we’re still working together. Publishing Hagridden was not a one-time event for them; they didn’t just work with me until the book came out and then kick me into the world with a box of paperbacks and wish me luck. They continue to work with me, not only on promoting the work as it is but also on some of my nutty ideas for carrying the work further. (I’d say more, but irons are still in fires and I don’t want to give away too much just yet.)

In your experience, what’s unique about Columbus Press compared to other publishers you’re familiar with?

That “nutty ideas” thing is another thing I appreciate about Columbus Press, and something I think sets them apart from a lot of presses. They’re willing to do some exciting things you don’t normally see from presses big or small. For example, when it came time to do my launch party in Columbus, they organized a freaking city-wide game of tag! The event already exists — it’s called Journey to the End of the Night — and it’s nationwide, but Columbus Press had the brilliant idea to turn what is ordinarily just adults running around playing tag into a novel-themed chase based on the rougarou werewolf myth in my novel. And afterward, everyone enjoyed werewolf movies and bayou-themed drinks. It drew a huge crowd, drummed up a lot of interest in my book, and was a hell of a lot more fun than most release parties. I can’t wait to see what they come up with to promote their next book, whatever that might be!

Any advice you’d have for someone thinking of entering the contest? What have you learned or how have you benefited from contests during your career? 

Academics like me have to worry about our curriculum vitae, our academic résumé, and contest placements (if you can get them) look great on those. But even non-academic writers have to worry about the CV: it’s called their cover letter. If you can place in a contest — you don’t even have to win, just get shortlisted or make it to the finals — that lends you terrific credibility and makes it more likely that some future editor or publisher will give your work a stronger read. It’s no guarantee of anything — nothing is — but it absolutely does help.

And if you do win, that opens a lot of doors. When the early drafts of Hagridden received an Oregon Literary Fellowship from Oregon’s Literary Arts organization, it brought a lot of interest my way, from fellow writers and magazines and even a few agents. If something like that happens for you, know that it’s not something that sets you apart from other writers — it’s actually an invitation into a much larger literary community. It makes your writing world bigger.

But even if you don’t place in a contest, entering is a great experience. The stakes feel higher in a contest than in regular submissions (they’re not, usually, but they feel that way) so you tend to obsess a little more over the details. Is everything spelled correctly? Is your format right? Have you followed all the guidelines? A contest can train you to focus on the details the way you need to with ALL your submissions.

Which is really the only advice I have: treat the contest seriously, and submit like a professional. And if you don’t get anywhere with that contest, then — like a professional — revisit the work, give it another polish, and send it out again. And again. Because it’s all just a normal part of the writing and submitting process.

Also, what have you been working on lately, and what’s new with Hagridden?

I’ve been (slowly) working on a new novel. This one is also historical, this time set in Reconstruction-era Texas, with forays into Oklahoma, Arkansas, and northern Louisiana. It’s not a sequel to Hagridden, but Hagridden fans might like to know that there’s at least one character from that book who makes an appearance in the new one.

But that’s still very much in early draft stages.

In the meantime, the newest thing for Hagridden is that I’ve written a series of short stories featuring minor characters from the novel. Three of them have appeared in online publications this past fall — you can find links to them on my website.

If you’re interested in working with a small press like Columbus Press, entering The Great Novel Contest is a great way to get your manuscript into the hands of their editors. Learn more about how to submit a novel to The Great Novel Contest here