As an aspiring author, it was hard to know where I truly stood. Was my book good? Excellent? Abysmal? People seemed to like it, but honestly, I had no idea.
The RMFW Colorado Gold Contest for unpublished writers changed how I felt about my writing. The contest put twenty pages of my novel in front of industry professionals, such as literary agents and editors, who gave me frank, expert feedback.
In 2013, I won the mystery category for The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, a slightly humorous, somewhat romantic, mystery novel set among the LAPD police matrons in 1900's Los Angeles.
Winning validated me in a way that polite critique groups and loving relatives could not.
For the first time I felt like maybe I could do this. I could be a novelist.
I asked other Colorado Gold recipients whether winning the contest changed how they felt about their writing. This is what they said.
"All writers have moments when they feel, 'All my work has been for nothing; this book will never be published and doesn’t deserve to be.' Whenever a thought like that crossed my mind, I’ve looked up to my wall where the award certificate hangs in its frame. It’s as if a guardian angel were standing by my side saying, “I beg to differ."
Charles Kowalski, author of the 2013 Action/Thriller Winner, Unbelievers
"It definitely gave me a motivation and self-esteem boost. I didn't have much confidence in my writing before, but I thought that if I could win the contest then there may be hope for me after all!"
Jessica Naab, author of the 2013 Romance Winner, Between Skin and Soul
"Winning the Gold was huge for me. It helped validate the years of hard work I put into the book. In order to win, a novel needs to earn high praise from two amateur judges as well as one professional serving as the final judge; so winning the contest means there are at least three strangers who think your idea, your writing, and your storytelling is pretty amazing. For an aspiring writer, that's an amazing moment. I'll never forget it."
M.H. Boroson, author of the 2012 Speculative Fiction Winner, City of Strangers, which will be published as The Girl with the Ghost Eyes
"It’s special to have one’s work recognized by peers and friends. The recognition gave me confidence that my efforts on the right track."
Kevin Wolf, author of the 2014 Action/Thriller Winner, The Homeplace
"It gave me the belief that maybe I was okay at this writing stuff. To not give up. It also gave me the confidence to let people know I was actually writing a novel. Up to that point, it was my secret."
Kristin Meachem, author of the 2013 Mainstream Winner, Ten Seconds
"Winning the contest gave me some much needed validation. Writing is a solitary occupation in many ways, and it’s nice to hear someone else appreciates your work."
Mary Birk, author of the 2014 Mystery Winner, The First Cut
"As a result of winning the contest I feel more confident in my writing. While writing still takes a lot of work, a lot of the nagging doubts about my ability to do this have subsided."
Kara Seal, author of the 2014 Young Adult/Middle Grade Winner, The Shuvani's Spell
"Since humor is a key element in every project I pursue, if it’s not working and readers aren’t laughing, then I’m in serious trouble. There’s nothing worse than an unfunny comedy, and this concern is always on my mind when I start a new project; it’s the little voice of self-doubt whispering in your ear. The contest has helped counter that voice, and it showed me that my writing is reading the way I intended. "
Michael Carson, author of 2104 Speculative Fiction Winner, Beauty is for Suckers
"The short answer is no... I still think on some days that I was born to string sentences together…just as I’m still certain on other days that I’m a complete failure who can’t write at all. Winning the contest didn’t change any of that. I guess I just feel lucky that I was picked, that’s all. Sometimes you get lucky, and that contest was my lucky time."
Monica Comas 2014 Mainstream Winner, The Cookbook
Would you like frank, expert feedback on your unpublished novel? The Colorado Gold Contest closes June 1, 2015. For more information on how to enter, go to http://rmfw.org/contest/rules-and-entry-instructions/
This blog is the first of a three-part series in which previous winners share their experiences with the Colorado Gold contest.
Jennifer Kincheloe is a research scientist turned writer of historical mysteries. Her first novel, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc, will be out November 3rd from Seventh Street Books. You can learn more about Jennifer and her novel at her website. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.