The Great Novel Contest 2020 Finalists!

We received so many outstanding submissions to the Great Novel Contest 2020. Thank you to all who took a risk and submitted your work for consideration.

After much deliberation, we are pleased to announce this year’s finalists!

The contest was open to all narrative (fiction and non-fiction) manuscripts of 50,000-125,000 words in length. All genres were accepted except for erotica and books for children.

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 were shared with the judges.

The winner of this year’s contest will receive $1,000 cash and a publishing contract from Bellwether!

Bellwether Publishing

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

This contest is sponsored by Columbus Publishing Lab, an outstanding company that helps authors and small presses produce books that compete with the largest publishing houses. Learn more at www.ColumbusPublishingLab.com.

Columbus Publishing Lab

If you’d like to enter this contest next year, mark your calendar for January 1, 2021 and join the Ohio Writers’ Association today.

With no further ado, we are pleased to announce the following ten finalists, presented in random order.

Threshing of Straw by Kim Catron

Everything Counts by Marcus Herzberg

Stalked by Sara Condrey

Fightgirl by Tony Clark

Surfing the Linoleum by Michael Batdorf

Devil Strip Musketeers by Michael Clark

She Went Missing by John White

Words Will Never Hurt Me by Toni Wilbarger

Winter Skies by Doug Ramspeck

Rewrite the Stars by Christina Consolino

Congratulations to all ten finalists!

These finalists were selected from a competitive pool of submissions. Our team of judges will now evaluate these ten manuscripts to determine the winner and runner-up.

All finalists will receive a voucher to attend an Ohio Writers’ Association class or seminar this year. Learn more about our classes here.

Thank you to all of the authors who entered the Great Novel Contest 2020.  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!

Want to stay in the loop for future opportunities? Become a member today.

Two Day Warning — Great Novel Contest 2020

February is almost here, which means you only have two days left so submit your manuscript to The Great Novel Contest 2020! The submission period officially closes on January 31 at midnight.

Hurry and submit your novel before the contest ends!

Submit your manuscript for a chance to win $1,000 and a publishing contract with Bellwether

One runner up will receive $500 and a publishing consultation with OWA president and publishing expert Brad Pauquette, as well as a letter of recommendation for agents and publishers.

Ten finalists will be featured in a Finalist Spotlight article on the OWA site and receive a $50 voucher for OWA writing classes.

We can’t think of a better way to kick off the new decade than living the #publishedlife with a bit of extra pocket money.

Read The Great Novel Contest 2020 guidelines and instructions here.

If you have any additional questions, chat with an OWA volunteer at info@ohiowriters.org.


Novel not ready for submitting yet? Check out our calendar of events for workshops, classes, and future submission opportunities like The Great Novel Contest 2020!

The Great Novel Contest 2020 – Five Days Left

The end of the month is approaching, which means time is running out to submit to The Great Novel Contest 2020! The submission period officially closes on January 31 at midnight.

Submit your novel here before it’s too late!

You only have five days left to submit your manuscript to The Great Novel Contest for a chance to win $1,000 and a publishing contract with Bellwether.

The runner up will receive $500, a publishing consultation with OWA president Brad Paquette, and a letter of recommendation to publishers and agents.  

Ten finalists will be recognized for their quality novels via Finalist Spotlight articles and receive a $50 voucher for 2020 OWA writing courses.

Read more about The Great Novel Contest 2020 rules and guidelines here.

Don’t miss your chance to win some sweet, sweet cash and achieve your dream of becoming a published author.

If you have any additional questions, you can chat with an OWA volunteer at info@ohiowriters.org.


Not finished writing that next great novel? Check out our calendar of events for workshops, classes, and future submission opportunities like The Great Novel Contest 2020!

The Great Novel Contest 2020: Ten Days Out

It’s January 20, which means there are ten days left to submit a manuscript for The Great Novel Contest 2020! The submission period officially closes on January 31 at midnight.

Dust off that manuscript and submit it here.

Submit your manuscript for a chance to win $1,000 and a publishing contract with Bellwether

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

The top ten finalists will take home a $50 voucher for 2020 OWA writing classes and be publicly recognized for their awesome manuscripts. 

Submit your manuscript here and take a step closer to that dream of being published. And, you know, money. 

Read The Great Novel Contest 2020 guidelines and instructions here.

If you have any additional questions, chat with an OWA volunteer at info@ohiowriters.org.


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 – Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan Rosen is one of The Great Novel Contest 2019’s finalists for his manuscript, The Museum of an Extinct Race.

Don’t forget to submit your manuscript to The Great Novel Contest!

Jonathan Rosen is a family physician and heads a non-profit, The Connecticut Center for Primary Care. On top of that, he’s the Vice Chairman of ProHealth Physicians and still manages to make time to write. He earned his BA in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an MD from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Sometimes he wonders if he leans more towards the role of writer or doctor. So far, he’s written six novels with the most recent being The Museum of an Extinct Race.

The Museum of an Extinct Race takes place in a dystopian society where Hitler won WWII by developing the atom bomb before the US. Four decades later, “The Museum of an Extinct Race” was erected in Prague to celebrate the elimination of Judaism from the planet. In the midst of this world run by Nazis, a tour guide and museum curator begin to fall in love as they strive to resurrect an extinguished religion.

The start of Jonathan’s literary journey began with The Catcher in the Rye, which first introduced him to “the magic of the written word’s ability to link imagination to reality.” From there he moved on to Catch-22 and fell in love with reading and writing. For all writers, Jonathan recommends reading Haruki Murakami “for mind-blowing inventiveness and audacity,” as well as anything by Philip Roth and Michael Chabon.

His wife supports him in his writing endeavors, and he receives some critiques from his son who is an English professor. Creating a book is difficult, and Jonathan suggests that anyone who has trouble finishing a novel should “keep going back to why [they] wanted to write the novel in the first place.”

He initially discovered The Great Writing Contest 2019 through Poets & Writers, which collects a host of submission opportunities and contests into one convenient resource. Looking into the contest, Jonathan thought OWA “seemed amazingly well organized and receptive” so he submitted The Museum of an Extinct Race.

He plans to try and publish the manuscript once more after going through another round of edits, and he hopes to find a “small press with enough cache to get [his] foot in the door and enough freedom to promote the novel as [he] would hope to.”


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 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 info@ohiowriters.org.

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 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

Not prepared to submit yet?

Sign up for our newsletter and check out some of OWA’s workshops and classes!

The Great Novel Contest: Open for Submissions Now!

The Great Novel Contest is officially open for submissions! Submit your manuscript here.

This year’s winner will take home a publishing contract with Bellwether and $1,000 cash!

Our runner-up will receive $500 cash, a publishing consultation with OWA President and publishing expert Brad Pauquette, and a letter of recommendation for agents and publishers.

Ten finalists will receive public recognition for their achievement, as well as a $50 voucher to take an OWA class in 2020.

This contest is open to all previously unpublished manuscripts, with the exception of children’s books and erotica. Manuscripts must be between 50,000 and 125,000 words in length.

Read the contest rules and find instructions for entering here.

This is your chance to be discovered. (And the cash is nice too.) Submit your novel to The Great Novel Contest 2020 here.

May the best novel win!

Questions about the contest? Contact a helpful OWA volunteer at info@ohiowriters.org.

The Great Novel Contest 2020 is sponsored by Columbus Publishing Lab, which provides production, marketing, and consultation for small presses and self-publishers. Learn more at www.ColumbusPublishingLab.com.

Columbus Publishing Lab