The Great Novel Contest 2020 — Halfway Mark

The first month of the new decade is now halfway through, and that means we’ve reached the halfway point for The Great Novel Contest 2020! Have you submitted your manuscript yet?

Time is running out! Submit your novel here.

Don’t miss out on your chance to win $1,000 and a publishing contract with Bellwether. We can’t think of a better way to start off the new decade than with cash in my pocket and a published book on the way.

You’ll also be featured in the OWA Contest Winner article to showcase your writing talents and promote your upcoming book.

The runner up will receive $500 and a publishing consultation with OWA President and publishing expert Brad Paquette. Ten finalists will receive a $50 voucher for OWA classes and be featured in a Finalist Spotlight post.

What have you got to lose? Push past your fear and submit here!

Read The Great Novel Contest 2020 guidelines and instructions.

If you have any additional questions, chat with an OWA volunteer at

Need some more polish on that story? Check out our calendar of events for workshops, classes, and future submission opportunities like The Great Novel Contest 2020!

The Great Novel Contest 2019 Finalist Spotlights – Steven Hiller

Steven Hiller, with his manuscript Breach of the Covenant, is another finalist for The Great Novelist Contest 2019. 

Still haven’t entered The Great Novel Contest 2020? You can do that here!

Steven graduated with his bachelor’s from Urbana University and earned his Master of Arts in Creative Writing and English degree from Southern New Hampshire University in 2014. Now he works as an English Professor at the University of Northwestern Ohio. When he’s not grading papers or jotting down the next chapter of his story, he’s often found playing a relaxing game of chess.  

The Breach of the Covenant takes an imaginative spin on the story of Adam and Eve, where the Forbidden Fruit didn’t just make them intelligent: it gave them access to all of God’s knowledge. In the wake of the chaos that followed, a small species was created by mistake. Now, this race must limit humanity’s knowledge and prevent humans from learning what they already know.

Some of Steven’s favorite books include The Chocolate War, Arrow in the Sun, and works by Dr. Suess, Steinbeck, and Shakespeare. If you’re interested in learning craft, he swears by The Elements of Style by Strunk and White and East of Eden by Steinbeck. 

A good support group is key to writing, and Steven has his wife and son to encourage him. After Steven was announced as a finalist “more people have started to believe in [his] writing.” 

Observation and persistence are two other qualities that Steven recommends to anyone who has a hard time finishing their novel. He also suggests that “you must pay attention to what is around you…writing is not something done on occasion; it is a laborious task like a marathon.”

Steven discovered Ohio Writers’ Association and The Great Novel Contest 2020 through Facebook. As someone who’s entered multiple writing contests in the past, he knows that it’s worth submitting. “The worst answer is no, and I hear that often enough,” he said. 

Steven hopes to be published by a traditional publishing house someday, and he continues to be a prolific writer. His psychological drama Screaming in Silence was shortlisted for the 2016 William Wise-William Faulkner Contest, and he’s already completed a sequel to Breach of the Covenant.

Do you have an unpublished manuscript that deserves recognition?

The Great Novel Contest 2020 is open now! Click here to submit your manuscript.

Not quite ready to submit a piece?

Check out some of our upcoming events, classes, and workshops!

The Great Novel Contest 2020 Ten-Day Update

The Great Novel Contest 2020 has been live for ten days! Have you submitted a manuscript yet? 

If not, you’re missing out on a chance to win $1,000 and a publishing contract from Bellwether. That dream of getting your book published might be a lot closer than you think.

Click here to submit your novel.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou

The runner up will receive $500, a letter of recommendation to publishers and agents, and a publishing consultation session with OWA President and publishing expert Brad Pauquette.

The top ten finalists will be featured in a Finalist Spotlight post and receive a $50 OWA gift card for writing courses.

Not sure if your manuscript is a good fit? Check out the rules and guidelines here.

This is a fantastic opportunity for writers everywhere, whether this manuscript is your first or fifth. Don’t pass up this chance to submit your novel, win cash, and get published!

If you have any additional questions about the contest, you can contact a helpful OWA member at

If you have a great idea but haven’t finished writing yet, check out some of our novel-writing courses and workshops.

Great Novel Contest 2019: Bill Hughes – Finalist Spotlight

Bill Hughes is one of the top ten finalists of The Great Novel Contest 2019 for his thought-provoking manuscript, The Thin Red Jellies Within.

The Great Novel Contest 2020 is here! Check out the details.

Bill earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in English from Ohio State, and he currently lives in the Columbus area with his wife and son. During his free time, he enjoys reading nineteenth-century novels, Samuel Beckett, pulp crime fiction, and watching cheap horror movies.

He’s published multiple stories in a variety of magazines such as The Edge, The Pedestal, Byzarium, and Page and Spine.  After being an editor for the small-press magazine Dread, he took a fifteen-year hiatus from the writing and publishing world, and he feels like he’s “starting from scratch.” The Thin Red Jellies Within is his first novel-length project and marks his return to writing.

The Thin Red Jellies Within walks the line between genres as a man tries his best to handle the bizarre new life he’s handed after his wife disappears. She’s eventually finally found, but something feels off about her. Is this really the person he fell in love with?

The Thin Red Jellies Within is a mystery, one that questions identity and the limits of reason viewed through the prism of historic Ohio.

One of Bill’s earliest writing inspirations was the Hardy Boys series, and he wrote a story about them in the fourth grade. Now he’s influenced by works such as Sister Carrie and American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, Huck Finn, Joe R. Lansdale’s A fine Dark Line, Gifune’s Deep Night, Little Girl Lost and Songs of Innocence by Richard Aleas, and Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World. He also recommends reading the works of Henry James, Jim Thompson, and any of Richard Wright’s works — especially American Hunger.

Persistence was key to finishing The Thin Red Jellies Within, and Bill believes that persistence is most important for anyone struggling to finish a novel. After his long hiatus, Bill is building up his writing support group. “I’m just starting to share work with people and build new relationships.”

Bill is a long-standing member of OWA, and he spotted the The Great Novel Contest 2019’s announcement on the website. At first, he felt unsure about submitting, but then he thought: “What the heck. OWA is a very supportive organization, and I’ve always gotten good feedback when I’ve participated in their workshops. I felt that something positive would come of it.”

To Bill, the ideal situation would be finding a good editor who enjoys his writing style and building a relationship with them. He will continue submitting The Thin Red Jellies Within to small-press editors in hopes that the manuscript will find a good home in the future.

Do you have an unpublished manuscript that deserves recognition?

The Great Novel Contest 2020 is open now! Click here to submit your manuscript.

Not quite ready to submit a piece?

Check out some of our upcoming events, classes, and workshops!

The Great Novel Contest 2019: Leigh Ann Ruggiero – Finalist

Leigh Ann Ruggiero won her spot as a finalist in The Great Novel Contest 2019 for her fantastic manuscript, Unfollowers.

The Great Novel Contest 2020 has arrived! Check out the details here.

Unfollowers follows Barb Matheson, who doesn’t fit in: not on the Standing Rock Reservation where her mother was born; not on the Ethiopian mission where she grew up; not at the Midwestern college where she studies literature; and not at the church in Bethel, Pennsylvania, where her husband preaches. While celebrating her fifth anniversary, she stumbles upon Declan, her first love, the one who whispered his dark secret into her ear so many years ago. And now he’s invited her and her husband to visit Ethiopia as missionaries.

Unfollowers is a tale of religious angst, unrequited love, and the upheaval of racial and economic privilege.

Picture of author Leigh Ann Ruggiero
Photo credit: Ali Winberry

Leigh Ann studied under Maud Casey at the University of Maryland where earned an MFA in fiction. She obtained her BA in English from Wheaton College, which is “best known as the school from which Billy Graham graduated and Wes Craven dropped out.”

Now she teaches college courses herself as a professor of literature and writing at a school “smack in the middle of Montana.” Most days, she can be found musing on story structure, music theory, and a variety of fandoms of which she is “alternately proud and embarrassed to be a member.” Whenever she’s not buckling down on grading “which is awful” or writing “which is wonderful,” she often watches theater with her partner.

To Leigh Ann, her partner “is by far the most important cheerleader, not to mention person, in my life.” Several important phrases and terms made it into Unfollowers “only at [my partner’s] suggestion.” Leigh Ann’s parents, friends, and colleagues also support her, sometimes in person and other times through online group chats.

As a writing professor, she has some substantial advice to give for anyone who is struggling to finish a writing project. “You have to give yourself time,” she says. “Time is the difference between half-baked writing and writing from which the toothpick comes out clean.”

Leigh Ann grew up reading adventure books, especially the works of Lloyd Alexander. Now she finds inspiration in Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Foer, Chelsey Johnson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Rainbow Rowell. She also loves the poetry of Tommy Pico and graphic novels by Craig Thompson.

For anyone interested in studying the craft of writing, she recommends several books. For short stories, read the Complete Stories collection of Flannery O’Connor and Amy Hempel’s Collected Stories. For novels, look at the works of Thomas Hardy, especially his underrated book Woodlanders. Regardless of format, Leigh Ann believes everyone should read Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, which is an “exquisitely human” book.

Leigh Ann discovered The Great Novel Contest 2019 through Submittable, a useful website for writers that collates publishing opportunities and organizes them by deadline. After growing up near the Ohio border in Pennsylvania, Leigh Ann had a sense of nostalgia as she looked into the contest.

Leigh Ann believes that ideal publishing involves an honest collaboration between the writer and publisher, and she is happy to see that The Great Novel Contest is “interested in promoting writers, rather than just pitting them against each other.” Leigh Ann won’t give up until she finds the right home for Unfollowers, whether it passes through the hands of an agent or goes straight to a publisher.

Be on the lookout for Unfollowers and more stories by Leigh Ann in the future.  

Trying to find a home for your book manuscript?

Check out The Great Novel Contest 2020

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