Ever wonder what happens to the manuscripts that win first place in SCBWI-L.A.’s writing contests? We did. As the contest for Writers & Illustrators Day 2017 opens, we talked with our 2016 winners to find out how the award affected them and where their manuscripts are now.
All four of our winners talked about the huge boost in confidence that winning gave them. The award created courage to keep trying — writing, revising, querying, and learning.
Andrea Ellickson, winner in the YA category for Blanca and the Ruins, signed with an agent two months after receiving the award. “I was able to mention the award in my query letter as I began pitching agents,” Ellickson said. “It looked great in my bio, and hopefully made agents more interested in reading my work.” Blanca & the Ruins is now out on submission with editors.
The Last Crane, winning manuscript in the middle grade category, is Cheryl Manning’s first attempt at writing a novel. “It was gratifying to hear that others found merit in my opening pages,” she said. With the same manuscript, Manning subsequently won the 2016 mentor contest. (This has prompted a rule change going forward that a first-place winning manuscript in any SCBWI-L.A. contest is ineligible for submission to any other SCBWI-L.A. contest). Working for the past six months with a mentor has taught Manning that writing a novel is a marathon. “I now see the finish line in the distance and am confident I’ll eventually get there.”
Besides confidence, 2016 winners received an in-person critique with a Writer’s Day faculty member. The critiquing agent for Colleen Paeff’s non-fiction picture book, Art on Wheels: Pakistan’s Decorated Trucks, asked a colleague to share her opinion. “The two agents and I started batting ideas around on how to improve the story,” Paeff remembers. “That was definitely the highlight of my day.” Paeff is still working on the revision and has an editor waiting to read it.
For Wakako Rollinger, winner in the picture book category for Puggy and the Baby, the actual award was the highlight of the day. “After winning my prize, I was on top of the mountain,” she said. “But after 20 minutes of the review, I was back on the bottom.” She learned her topic is over-represented in the marketplace. Thinking fast, she used the opportunity to pitch another manuscript she’s revising now. The agent has asked to see it upon completion.
Need to boost your confidence? The 2017 Writers & Illustrators Day contest for writers is now accepting submissions. To be eligible, you must register for Writers & Illustrators Day taking place on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. See website for contest details. Please note that because of the new format for the event, winners in 2017 will receive a written rather than an in-person critique from one of our faculty members.
Illustrators: There’s a contest at Writers & Illustrators Day for you, too! Details to come.
By Marcelle Greene
SCBWI-L.A. Contest Coordinator