Not long after the East of Eden writing conference and contest were canceled, I read about another contest in the San Francisco Writers Conference newsletter. The Houston Writers Guild puts on a contest twice a year that's open to everyone. It turned out that the first chapter and synopsis I'd prepared for EoE exactly matched the length of the materials requested by the Houston contest, so with very little additional work, I was able to send off an entry.
Once my submission was in the mail, I tried to think about it as little as possible and not get my hopes up. If you've ever submitted anything to anybody, you know how well that works. Despite my extensive daydreams about winning, I was still pretty shocked when the winners were announced and I learned that my chapter took third place in the mainstream category.
Dude. I won a writing contest. I won the first (non-canceled) writing contest I entered! I'm still kind of stunned.
This is the only feedback I've received on THE EXTENT OF THE DAMAGE from anyone besides my trusted readers, who are insightful and fair but necessarily biased by knowing me. It's huge to have a stranger (or likely, multiple strangers) decide that the first chapter of my manuscript deserves a prize. Entering a contest isn't the same as seeking representation from an agent, but this bodes well for when it's time to query. Plus, this win will be a lovely item to brag about in a query letter.
Now I need to use this to get truly motivated about making the rest of the manuscript as awesome as the first chapter so the querying can begin.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ Christopher Gronlund of The Juggling Writer is podcasting his novel, HELL COMES WITH WOOD PANELED DOORS, "a humorous coming-of-age story about a family traveling cross country in a possessed station wagon." I'm enjoying the trip so far!
→ Nidya Sarria writes at The Millions about Reading Outside Your Culture: "Yes, Langston Hughes was a black poet from the Harlem Renaissance, far from me in distance and time. But Theme for English B touched a nerve. The speaker's relationship to society could have been my relationship to society."