The Great Novel Contest 2019: Jesse Bethea – Grand Champion Spotlight

Jesse Bethea won a publishing contract from Bellwether and infinite bragging rights for his unpublished manuscript, Fellow Travelers, as the grand champion of the Great Novel Contest 2019.

Learn more about the Great Novel Contest 2020.

Fellow Travelers follows the journey of Bindra Dhar, a young woman who, after being welcomed into the global community of professional time travelers, finds herself targeted by an enigmatic time criminal named Thurmond. As she discovers new allies and adversaries on her mission to stop Thurmond’s agenda — and to survive it — she learns that time travel is more dangerous and morally fraught than she ever could’ve expected. Fellow Travelers is a book about people who happen to be time travelers, their wants, their needs, their feelings, their fears, and their community.

Born and raised in Fairfax, VA, he fell in love with Ohio University’s Media Arts program and the scenic campus during a visit with family, so Jesse moved to Ohio to attend OU in 2010. Jesse loved his time there so much that Alden Library was an important location in his novel Fellow Travelers.

In 2014, Jesse moved to Columbus and immediately started writing for ColumbusUnderground.com. By 2015, he was working for The Ohio Channel (Ohio’s version of C-SPAN) as an assistant producer.

On the rare occasions when Jesse gives himself a break from writing, he enjoys hiking, true crime podcasts and reading, specifically non-fiction disaster/survival narratives. According to Jesse, “any situation where people have had to eat each other, I’m in.”

Jesse was encouraged in his literary abilities at an early age. He came from a family of readers and librarians who didn’t limit his reading or potential, a family who gave him “all the notebooks and pens and pencils” he could ask for.

He found inspiration to write as a child from Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and Hoot by Carl Hiaasen. These books are “both partially about exploring hidden worlds and characters on the fringes of everyday life.” He was also influenced by The Power of Un, a book that led to his “lifelong subconscious obsession with time travel and its implications.”

These early interests in time travel and adventure culminated in Fellow Travelers, a world where moments in time provide a map the mind can travel.

Jesse had a great team in his corner during the writing and editing of Fellow Travelers. “My biggest supporter was definitely my wife Melissa, a voracious fantasy reader who encouraged me to keep going by reading every chapter in about fifteen minutes and then demanding a new one. She even made a hardcover version of the book for my birthday. My dear friends Nikki Lanka and Emily Sirney read early drafts and give some essential feedback. My best friend Haylee Pearl helped immensely by quizzing me on the rules of the time travel world and community.”

When it comes to writing advice, Jesse knows the writing process is different for different people, but he does have a piece of advice for those who listen to music when they write. “If you’re going to listen to music while you’re writing, which I find helps me focus, make sure you don’t listen to music with lyrics. That will, generally speaking, break your focus and defeat the purpose. Listen to instrumental music only. Or music with singing in another language. My go-to playlist on Fellow Travelers was the album “Ball of Fire” by the Skatalites — totally instrumental, very assertive, insistent ska music. It felt like the horn section was scolding me whenever I wasn’t typing.”

Fellow Travelers found a home with Bellwether thanks to Jesse’s superb writing skills and the Ohio Writers’ Association’s novel contest. This wasn’t the first contest Jesse entered with Ohio Writers’ Association. He submitted to the Great Novella Contest in 2018. When he heard about The Great Novel Contest 2019, he took a shot. All his hard work paid off. Jesse’s manuscript is now on its way to being a published novel.

Stay tuned for updates and announcements on publication from Bellwether. Fellow Travelers will hit shelves worldwide in the summer of 2020.


Do you have an unpublished manuscript that deserves recognition?
Check out The Great Novel Contest 2020 and get ready to submit.

Winners of The Great Novel Contest 2019

We had so many amazing submissions to The Great Novel Contest 2019. Thank you to everyone who submitted your work.

Find our full list of Finalists here.

With so many great submissions, our judges took their time to pick this year’s winner. In the end, the decision was unanimous:

Fellow Travelers by Jesse Bethea is the Grand Prize Winner of The Great Novel Contest 2019!

From one of our judges: “Fellow Travelers is a fast-paced trip through time and into a world where everything has happened, is happening, and will happen. This science fiction tale combines world building and clever characters to craft a story that will keep readers engaged until the end. Amazing manuscript!”

Congratulations Jesse! You’ve won a publishing contract with Bellwether, the publishing imprint of the Ohio Writers’ Association, as well as $3,000 in author development services from Columbus Publishing Lab.

We can’t wait to see Fellow Travelers in print!

Thank you to Columbus Publishing Lab for sponsoring this contest and making it possible. Columbus Publishing Lab provides publication and marketing services for authors and small presses. They help self-publishers make smart decisions and see a return on their investment. Learn more at www.ColumbusPublishingLab.com.

Columbus Publishing Lab

Becoming Nora by Margaret Kirby is the official Runner-up of The Great Novel Contest 2019!

From one of our judges: “Becoming Nora explores the intricacies and complexities of relationships. Through tight prose and exceptional character development, Margaret Kirby reveals how closely our identities are entwined with those we care about the most.”

Congratulations, Margaret! You’ve won $1,000 of services from Columbus Publishing Lab, to be used as you see fit!

The remaining eight finalists will receive a letter of recommendation for agents and publishers, as well as a publishing consultation from Brad Pauquette.

All submissions were judged “blind”—no names, history, demographics, or identifying information was shared with the judges.

Learn more about The Great Novel Contest here, and mark your calendar for next year!


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Announcing Finalists: The Great Novel Contest 2019

This year’s The Great Novel Contest was inundated with exceptional submissions. After much hand-wringing, we’re pleased to announce The Great Novel Contest 2019 finalists!

This contest was open to manuscripts of 50,000-125,000 words, in all genres except for children’s books and erotica. Learn more about the 2020 Great Novel Contest here and mark your calendars for January 1.

Judges considered a variety of factors when choosing finalists, including organization, style, viability of concept, and prose quality.  All submissions were judged “blind”—no names, history, demographics, or identifying information was shared with the judges.

This contest is sponsored by Columbus Publishing Lab, an outstanding company which provides publication and marketing services to authors and small presses. Learn more at www.ColumbusPublishingLab.com.

Columbus Publishing Lab

These finalists are presented in a randomized order:

White Oaks by Jordan King

Fellow Travelers by Jesse Bethea

The Thin Red Jellies Within by Bill Hughes

Breach of the Covenant by Steven Hiller

Paralith by Mike Sieminski

Museum of an Extinct Race by Jonathan Rosen

Earth 2.0 by Shannon Ferretti

A Principle of Light by Janet Irvin

Unfollowers by Leigh Ann Ruggiero

Becoming Nora by Margaret Kirby

These ten finalists will receive further consideration. One of these manuscripts will win a publishing contract with Bellwether, as well as $3,000 in author development services from Columbus Publishing Lab.  The winner will be a published author with the platform to prove it.

One runner-up will win $1,000 in author development services from Columbus Publishing Lab.

The remaining finalists will receive a publishing consultation, as well as a letter of recommendation to publishers and agents.

While the following four titles were not selected as finalists, our judges felt that they deserve recognition for the quality of their work.

Inherent Lies by Alicia Anthony
The Magdalenes by Jeanne Skartsiaris
Girl on the Edge by Kirby Nielsen
Longshot by Jerina Pieri

Thank you to all of the authors who entered The Great Novel Contest 2019.  While only a limited number of manuscripts could be selected as finalists, we were overwhelmed with the quality of the submissions that we received this year.

Thank you again to Columbus Publishing Lab for sponsoring this contest. Please visit www.ColumbusPublishingLab.com to learn more about their services.

Learn more about The Great Novel Contest at NovelContest.OhioWriters.org. Don’t forget to mark your calendar for next year!


Don’t miss our fall retreats! Learn more here: Retreats.OhioWriters.org

The Great Novel Contest 2019: Judges Be Judgin’

The judging period for The Great Novel Contest is underway!

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 soon. No updates will be given before that time.

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: Now or Never

This is your shot.

Last-chance warning! You have less than 72 hours to submit a novel to The Great Novel Contest 2019. The hard and fast submission deadline is this Friday, May 31st at 11:59 p.m.  Someone is going to land a publishing contract, but it won’t be you if you miss this deadline!

Find the contest rules and instructions for entering here.

The grand prize winner will receive a publishing offer from Bellwether, OWA’s Publishing Imprint, and $3,000 in credit for author development services from Columbus Publishing Lab, as well as public recognition of the achievement.

The runner-up will receive $1,000 in credit for author development services, as well as recognition for the achievement!

“One of the advantages of publishing with a 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, President of the Ohio Writers’ Association

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!

The Great Novel Contest: Halfway to the finish line!

We are halfway through the submission period for The Great Novel Contest 2019.  There’s still time to submit! (We’re looking at you, procrastinators.)

Click here to read about the contest, submit your novel, or ask a question.

You: But it’s not ready.  

Us: It’s easy to get lost in your own mental minefield when you’re polishing your work for a contest. We get it. But at some point you have to let your baby (erm, your novel) stand on its own. You’ve put in the hard work. You know your novel is good.

Submit today, then relax and know that you finished your work early.  Take a long weekend on Ohio Writers’ Association. (Just kidding. We don’t have that kind of authority.)

Don’t get lost in mental debate.  Submit your manuscript, rest on your laurels. Opportunity is rare, so don’t miss it.  Submit here.

The winner will receive the publishing offer from Bellwether, OWA’s Publishing Imprint, and $3,000 in credit for author development services from Columbus Publishing Lab, as well as public recognition of the achievement.

The runner-up will receive $1,000 in credit for author development services, as well as recognition for the achievement!

All ten finalists will receive recognition of their achievement, a letter of recommendation for potential agents and publishers, and a publishing consultation with Ohio Writers’ Association President Brad Pauquette. Talk about a resume booster!

Don’t quit, don’t wait, submit to The Great Novel Contest today!

The Great Novel Contest 2019: How Will You Measure Up?

You don’t find many contests of this size, and that’s a tremendous advantage to participants in The Great Novel Contest.

In the past we’ve set a hard limit of 200 novel submissions.  We’ve lifted that hard ceiling, but we will be monitoring the submissions as they come in and we will stop the contest early if we feel that our judges won’t have time to responsibly and fairly evaluate all of the submissions.

Find the contest rules and instructions for entering here.

Contests that receive tens of thousands of submissions don’t really provide a good feel for where you measure up.  Landing in the top ten finalists is as much about luck as anything else. You may have submitted an exceptional manuscript, but it just didn’t land in the top .001% of submissions that were more or less arbitrarily chosen from all of the exceptional manuscripts submitted. Conversely, there’s a critical mass to this type of thing.  Winning a contest against eight other submissions isn’t going to carry much weight on your resume.

With our expected turnout, if you land in the finalists it’s because your manuscript is in the top 3-5% of submissions.  We have time to honestly and fairly consider every manuscript that comes in, and if yours belongs with the finalists, it will get there.

Roughly 1% of manuscripts actually land a deal with a traditional publisher.  That’s 1% that are good enough to make the grade. With these submission numbers, you can receive some hard data to help you understand whether your work is in that top bracket, or if you need to keep improving.

We’ve worked hard to put together a contest that is fair, honest, transparent, and that is a valuable resource for writers.  

We hope that you decide to submit your manuscript to this contest.  Win or lose, we think you’ll be glad that you participated. You just can’t get good data like this anywhere else.

Learn more about The Great Novel Contest 2019 here.

The Great Novel Contest closes May 31, 2019.

The Great Novel Contest 2019 Opens in Two Weeks

Dust off your work-in-progress, your hopes and dreams! The Great Novel Contest opens for submissions on May 1, 2019.

Now’s the time to finish writing and start editing if you want your manuscript to be contest-ready by May. Every year we have authors who try to finish last-minute what they should have completed months ago. (If your book ends suddenly with a natural disaster, our judges will know you ran out of time.) There are no extensions!

Find all of The Great Novel Contest details here.

This is our fourth novel contest, and we’re going big when it comes to prizes. Let’s face it. You’re writers. We know you need motivation.

The Grand Prize Winner of The 2019 Great Novel Contest will receive a publishing contract from Bellwether, an imprint of the Ohio Writers’ Association, as well as $3,000 in credit for author development services from Columbus Publishing Lab. Credit with Columbus Publishing Lab can be used for a variety of services of the author’s choice, including website design, platform building, social media marketing, e-mail marketing, and consultation. The Grand Prize Winner also receives an infinite number of bragging rights, and public recognition for the achievement.

One runner-up will receive $1,000 in credit for author development services, as well as recognition for the achievement. Ten finalists will receive recognition of their achievement, a letter of recommendation for potential agents and publishers, and a publishing consultation with OWA President Brad Pauquette.

Columbus Publishing Lab provides publishing services for authors and small presses. Their expertise includes marketing, editing, design, distribution, and more. Learn more about Columbus Publishing Lab here.

Contest submissions open on May 1, 2019. We are accepting original novels or nonfiction manuscripts, such as a memoir or creative non-fiction. No children’s books or erotica will be accepted, but YA novels will be accepted.  All manuscripts must be previously unpublished, meaning we will accept no books that have been up for sale anywhere, in any format, at any time. This includes self-published books.

So get off the internet and get your manuscript ready to be read! (But get back on the internet eventually to keep up with contest developments and announcements.)

Questions? Contact us here.