I love writing contests, and I have them to thank for landing my agent and my editor. The first writing contest I ever entered was the Pikes Peak Writers Conference Fiction Writing Contest. In 2009 I won first place in the YA category, and it gave me the confidence and faith that maybe I had what it took to stick with this writing thing. I've read and reread Paulo Coelho's THE ALCHEMIST over the years, usually when I need to be reminded that what seems impossible can be possible. When I won that contest, I thought of the quote from his book, "Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victors being severely tested." I did feel tested over the years, as I queried nearly 100 agents and completely rewrote the manuscript multiple times. But I held onto that win as proof I had some shred of talent and shouldn't give up.
Flash forward to October, 2015. After hiring a professional editor (the amazing and wonderful Victoria Hanley), I had just completed another big round of edits and was determined to get my book out there. Agents can take forever to respond, so I entered two contests: Writer's Digest's "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest and the First Coast Romance Writer's Beacon Contest. In December of 2015 I learned I had won both. The judges of each contest (an agent and an editor) who chose my submission as the winner both requested my full manuscript. I was honored and excited and thought, this is it!
By August 2016, almost a year later, I hadn't heard from either of them and was finishing up my second manuscript. I had stopped querying--or thinking about--my first book. So of course, that's when I got the email that led to the call. Candace Havens, of Entangled, who had selected my manuscript as the winner of the Beacon Contest emailed me asking if my first manuscript had found a home. Soon after, Candace and I were on the phone and she offered me my book deal. Here I am, eight years after my first contest win, welcoming A MESSY, BEAUTIFUL LIFE into the world on October 2, 2017. You never know what your path to publishing will be. This was mine. And I'm forever grateful.