Happy News!

I’m back from the ACFW conference in Nashville, TN. What a whirlwind! I’m not sure if my head has stopped spinning yet. I’ll write more about my experiences there later, but first, I need to let you in on a secret. I couldn’t say anything about it until now.

Back in March, I entered an ACFW contest called “Genesis.” It’s for unpublished writers. I had to send in a brief synopsis and the first 15 pages of my manuscript. There were 10 categories, and my category was Romantic Suspense.

Why enter contests? There are a couple of reasons. One, you get great feedback. Your entry is judged by published authors. The judging is “blind,” meaning, you don’t know who the judges are, and they don’t know who you are. The advantage is that you get honest, unbiased responses to your writing.

Another reason is that if you make it to the latter rounds, you can get judged by editors and agents. This is a great way to get industry feedback. Is your story “marketable”? Would someone be interested enough to publish it?

Plus, being listed as a finalist gets your name out there. You get noticed by those in the industry.

And finally, it’s good practice. It gives you a reason to look at your work objectively and to polish it as best you can. To put in the effort to “put your best foot forward.”

So, I entered, hoping for some good feedback. And then I forgot about it. Went on about my business. Focused on getting ready for the Blue Ridge conference in May.

The week before I went to Blue Ridge, I got a phone call. It was on a Wednesday night. I was settled on the couch, eating supper and watching TV. I didn’t recognize the number but the caller left a message. So I listened. It was a lady from ACFW who was calling to tell me that I had made it past the first round of judging and was now a “semi-finalist!” Wow! I was blown away.

Honestly, I had forgotten about the contest. As I said, I was hoping for some good feedback, and that was pretty much it. I never thought I would be a semi-finalist. In fact, I had to go back to the contest website to understand what being a semi-finalist actually meant.

I was in the top 7 of the entrants in my category! I was instructed not to say anything on social media since the judging was “blind,” as I explained earlier. But I did call and text a few close friends, and my mom, of course. J

Our entries now went on to the next round of judges. If we made it past that round, they would let us know before June 15th, when they would announce the 3 finalists on their website. That was about 6 weeks away.

I put it out of my mind, concentrated on the Blue Ridge conference, went, and had a great time. But as June 15th got closer, my mind drifted back to the contest. I was sure I wouldn’t go any farther. After all, I was up against 6 other authors who had risen above the hundreds who had entered the contest. It was probably some strange fluke that I had even made it that far.

On June 14th, I hadn’t heard anything yet. So, I didn’t make it. No worries. I mean, I never even thought I would make it to the semi-finals. Even that was totally cool and unexpected. I left work that evening and went home, taught piano like usual, and then settled down in front of the TV to eat supper.

And then the phone rang.

With a shaking hand, I answered. The sweet voice of my coordinator came on to tell me that I was a finalist! Top 3 in my category! She instructed me that I would receive an email that night with my feedback from the first 2 rounds of judging, and that I would have 48 hours to make any changes to my entry and send it back to them.

I couldn’t believe it. I actually wished I hadn’t answered the phone so she would’ve left a message so that I could play it back again and again to make sure it was real. And that I really had heard her right.

I got my feedback, went through it, and decided what changes I needed to make. I updated my entry and sent it back in.

After that, there was nothing left to do. This round would go to 3 judges who were editors and/or agents. I wouldn’t hear anything else until they announced the winners at the Awards Gala during the conference in August.

This blog post is already getting so long, so I’m going to continue the story later as I recap each day of the conference. Tune in soon to hear the rest of the story!

Still plugging away

So, it’s the end of August. How did that happen? Days turn into nights, which turn into weeks, which turn into months. Spring is gone. Summer is gone. It’s almost September.

I love Fall. It’s my favorite season, especially in Georgia, where we get to enjoy the beautiful leaves in brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds. It’s been a long, hot summer, and I’m ready for cooler temps, crisp air, and cute sweaters.

I’m still plugging away at getting the manuscript ready to submit to the publisher. Yes, it takes that long. Even longer sometimes.

My critique group is only 4 chapters away from the end of the book, so they should be completely through it in about a month or so. I’m editing, proofreading, re-writing, and editing some more, and starting to think about beta readers.

What is a beta reader, you ask? Well, according to the wonderful “Wikipedia,” a beta reader is: “a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting.”

This does not necessarily include your mother and your best friend – who, by the way, were my “alpha” readers.

Choosing the right beta readers is important, and I have a select few people that the Lord has laid on my heart that I’m going to reach out to in the next few weeks.

In addition to editing and re-writing, I’ve been contemplating a few writers conferences to attend in the coming year and even praying about sending the manuscript to a freelance editor before I submit to the publisher.

Through it all, I’m praying and asking the Lord for guidance and wisdom. This is His work, and I’m just blessed enough to get to come along for the ride and see what He will do with my tiny offering.

As always, I appreciate your prayers and support. Happy Fall, y’all!