WRITING TO WIN: Contests Worth Considering

Despite living in a competition-soaked society, I’ve never been big on contests. Somehow the win-win model has always been more appealing.

But that changed a few months ago when I heard about the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Competition for the Best First Traditional Mystery Novel (http://us.macmillan.com/content.aspx?publisher=minotaurbooks&id=4933).
The competition is open to all first-time authors who have penned a mystery in the “cozy” tradition exemplified by Agatha Christie. So the ground rules are: no excessive violence or graphic sex, suspects and victims must be acquainted, the person who solves the crime must be an amateur, and the main characters must be, if not likable, then at least intriguing.

The sole winner will walk away with a book contract and a $10,000 advance. In addition, he or she will enjoy celebrity status at the annual Malice Domestic Convention in Arlington, Virginia, hobnobbing with the greats and near-greats of the mystery-writing world.

Other Competitions

St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books also sponsors three other prestigious writing contests: the First Crime Novel Competition, the Best Private Eye Novel Competition and the Hillerman Mystery Contest. (You’ll find rules for all three at the link above.)

For those wedded to mystery writing, In Reference To Murder offers a comprehensive list of competitions for novels, plays and short stories at http://www.inreferencetomurder.com/html/contests.html.

For other genres, a good place to start is the Writer’s Digest site at http://www.writersdigest.com/annual. The organization sponsors writing competitions in 10 separate categories ranging from spiritual/religious and memoirs to magazine feature articles, rhyming and non-rhyming poetry, and television scripts.

Writers Beware

Unfortunately, the world—and the web—are not always safe places. In the case of writing competitions, scams and snares abound, and savvy writers will want to research every contest carefully. For an excellent overview of the dangers, I’d suggest checking in with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/contests/.

A Personal Update

This falls into the category of an-incident-that-will-seem-funny-to-me-somday-but-definitely-not-now. Soon after sending in my application for Malice Domestic, I received a notice informing me that all manuscripts are first screened by regional judges. Those deemed worthy are then forwarded to St. Martin’s editors in New York.

It all seemed reasonable enough. Until—with a little help from Google—I discovered that my screening judge was a reporter for the Grand Rapids Press.

So, in other words, a person who works for one of Michigan’s most conservative news journals and lives in the heart of the state’s Republican stronghold will be evaluating a manuscript that is quintessentially Ann Arbor, deals with a politically charged subject, and is left-of-center in its views and values.

The image of a snowball in hell comes to mind.

Of course, to be fair, it’s entirely possible that my Grand Rapids evaluator is someone who brings unimpeachable professionalism and objectivity to the task at hand. I'm holding on to that thought.

Stay tuned.

For more information about Mantra for Murder
Phone: 734/761-8440 • Email: lindafitz@mantraformurder.com