by Brenda Scott Royce
Why do we enter writing contests? Prizes are awfully nice, and hearing your name announced as the winner is a definite thrill. But perhaps even more motivating is the validation that comes with recognition of your work. There’s nothing like learning that the speck of an idea you plucked from thin air and coaxed into shape over weeks, months, or maybe even years, actually has wings and can fly.
The annual SCBWI-L.A. Writers Day Contest will provide such validation to four winners (and additional runners-up). Winning or placing in this contest can get you one step closer to publication. It can even lead to a bona-fide book deal, as happened for one of last year’s winners (keep reading below)! Just entering could provide the boost you need to polish your manuscript and send it out into the world!
I asked last year’s winners to comment on what the award meant to them.
“Picture this: you’re sitting at home, alone in a room, zooming in to the Writers Day awards ceremony,” says Erica Rich, winner in the picture book category. “Suddenly you hear someone read a delightful description of your story. A description that you didn’t write! (Because someone read your story! And liked it! They got it. HAPPY DANCE!) All this time, we write and wonder, does this crazy idea have legs? Could it be a book? I hope that someday Captain Crank will be an actual book that kids will sink their hooks into, but until then, this win is a validation. And a glorious reminder to keep writing. So, keep writing! Go to Writers Day. Enter the contest. Who knows, the delightful description of your story might be next. (And if you’re lucky, you’ll be in the room where it happens. But virtual happy dancing works in a pandemic pinch.)”
“Winning the 2021 Writers Day Contest for YA gave me the confidence to keep advocating for my work,” says Nicholas Ponticello, author of Sinner X. “Sometimes I feel like I’m writing in a vacuum, and I have no idea how my stories will land with readers. I wrote a dystopian novel about a boy named Xen who survives an internment camp for LGBTQ+ children. The feedback from the judges was motivating and affirming. It showed me there is a place for tough conversations in children’s literature.”
The Middle Grade award went to Toni Gallagher for Battle of the Cane Toads. Toni says, “Winning gave me the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm to continue seriously on a story that might have stalled without it. What more does a writer need than a professional from the publishing world saying that their story has a strong voice, engaging humor, clear stakes, and great promise? It was thrilling!”
Toni also reports, “The agent who critiqued my pages was interested in reading the full manuscript, but luckily my own agent loved the finished product. I did a couple of revisions (of course), and now it’s out on submission. Here’s hoping I can report soon that my winning contest entry is soon to be a published book.”
Christine Van Zandt’s Butterfly Dreams: A Monarch’s Life Cycle took the top prize in the Other/Nonfiction category. Christine is happy to announce, “Because of SCBWI’s Writers Day, my soon-to-be-announced book deal happened! Entering the contest motivated me to push my manuscript further. Not long afterward, that story landed me an agent and was sold to a publisher.”
Whether you are seeking validation, motivation, publication, or a shiny certificate to hang on your wall, just do it—enter the Writers Day contest! The contest is open to all who register for the event, and there’s no additional fee to enter. Submissions will be accepted in four categories: Picture Book, Middle Grade novel, Young Adult novel, and Other (which includes non-fiction and poetry). Winners receive a free written critique from one of the Writers Day faculty members PLUS free tuition to Writers Day 2023 (or equivalent). Winners and runners-up will be acknowledged in Kite Tales.
We’re looking forward to seeing all of you (in-person!) at the 2022 Writers Day on October 22. Remember, you must be registered for Writers Day in order to enter the contest! The contest opens as soon as registration goes live. Please see the SCBWI-L.A. Writers Day Contest page for further information about the contest and instructions on how to enter. Good luck!