Guest Post by Tamara Bordon:
Tamara graduated with a BA in Latin American Studies from Brigham Young University. She discovered a love for writing in 2007 when a children’s book magically morphed into a young adult fantasy novel. She has been published in Parables for Today, a book of anthologies edited by Kenny Kemp, David Farland, and Marilyn Brown as well as UAAnthology’s Obvious Things. She grew up in sunny California and has lived in Bolivia, the four corners of the U.S., and in between. She squeezes in an hour or two of writing a day between running a household, wiping dirty bottoms, kissing crocodile tears, and wrestling with her four strapping young lads in the greater St. Louis area. Uncle Sam will soon send them who-knows-where to start yet another adventure worthy of inspiring future stories.
I started writing in 2007 when my firstborn was a wee babe. He was a great napper and I wanted to fill the hours with something. I’ve never been a TV-watcher and we only had so many books to read and reread. I never enjoyed writing in school—oddly writing to appease a teacher turned me off—though I always aced English classes. But I’ve always loved to read. I sat down to write a picture book that immediately turned into a young adult novel. It took two days to finish the rough draft, drawing me in and transporting me into the world of Violet, a shy fifteen year old fairy raised by an aloof mother and a spicy Aunt Vista, who must learn to stand on her own two feet to save a beloved elf family and protect herself from an obsessed classmate. Afterward, I wondered what had happened, but man that was fun! After years of college with an undecided major,—everything sounded fun!—then settling on a Latin American Studies degree, I’d finally found my passion.
I revisited the novel off and on throughout the years, mostly off than on due to sickly pregnancies, exhausting newborns and the putt-putt-putt of getting back into writing mode. It is a great novel, but I almost felt like I needed to take a step back to improve my writing skills.
I’d never heard of writing contests until bestselling author David Farland mentioned that it is how he got started in his writing career. He joined a few contests, first researching the judges’ writing style preferences to cater his stories to them, and won first place. Then joined six more and won first place…in all of them. He helped support himself through college with his winnings. Yep, most will pay a small bundle of cash for winning 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. One award was from Writers of The Future, a huge writing contest which he now judges. He received three novel contracts at his awards ceremony. He offers FABULOUS advice on how to win these contests.
That lit a fire under my belt and in 2011, I joined two. One was called Parables for Today, put together by author Kenny Kemp. The contest noted that the winners and so many runners up would have the opportunity to be published in an anthology, so I gladly entered. I wrote up a short story, edited it as best I could, and sent it off. I didn’t place but I was a runner’s up and my story was included in my first publication called Parables for Today. It’s not my own shiny novel, but believe me I was still doing the happy dance.
In 2015 (birthing and rearing four little boys keeps me quite busy) I joined three more contests. I was lucky enough to receive honorable mention in one through United Authors Association that offered publication for the winners and a few of a few honorable mentions (see a theme here?). I love seeing my name on the cover of Obvious Things!
There are writing contests of all types—for self-published novels, for novel-length manuscripts, fiction, non-fiction, poems, etc. Writing these short stories has helped tighten my wording and improve story layouts. Many have even given detailed feedback on my work, free editing advice I can apply to my novels. Some charge to join, others do not. I look for contests with little or no fee to submit and that offer (free) publication for the winners and runners up. If you google “writing contests” you’ll find a wealth of information. Look them through and judge wisely which ones to join (and make sure to watch out for scams, they’re out there!).
I’m not quite first place material yet, but until I reach that point, I’d love to see my name on more book covers while I practice! Whether you’re a seasoned writer or a newbie, you can benefit from submitting to contests. These publications look great in the query letter, and placing in them looks even better. The day I place in a contest I’ll know I’ve honed my skills enough to deserve publication of my own shiny novels.