My friend, Kimberley Troutte, is up for several awards and I wanted to chat with her about the awards process and how it fits in with the rest of her writing. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to chat with me. Grab a cuppa and join me as I get to talk with Kimberley Troutte!
ACN: Kimberley, you said you received word that your manuscript, Epicenter (also called Her Guardian, His Angel), is a finalist in the RWA contests Launch A Star AND the Melody of Love. You also have a second manuscript, God Whisperer, in the finals of the Hot Prospect contest. First, congratulations! That’s awesome news!
Can you tell me a little more about Epicenter?
KT: I would love to. Epicenter, is the dramatic story of an American philanthropist and a Haitian doctor who are fighting to save lives when the greatest earthquake Haiti has ever known rips their world apart.
ACN: How did they get considered for Launch a Star and Melody of Love? Is that something you had to submit, or were you nominated? How does that work?
KT: These are writing contests in two different RWA Chapters (Romance Writers of the World). I entered online, paid my fee and kept my fingers crossed. Preliminary judges read all the entries, score them based on predetermined scoresheets, and determine which entries are good enough to move to the final rounds. I was honored and thrilled to hear that I was moving to the finals where agents and editors determine the final standings of the winners.
And the nail biting begins…
ACN: Is there a contest fee?
KT: Yep. Usually around $15-35 USD.
ACN: How about God Whisperer? What is that about?
KT: It’s the story of a mother and her eight-year-old son who are hiding for their lives in a Danish community in the hills of California when the boy becomes famous due to an ear surgery that allows him to hear God.
God Whisperer is near and dear to my heart. I wrote it because my little boy was born without an ear canal or eardrum in his right ear. The outside of the ear looked normal (albeit a little smaller than the left) but he had no hole! Very rare. The amazing surgeons at UCLA recreated his ear, drilling the hole, making an eardrum from his own tissue, and lifting the bones so that they could pick up sounds. It was a miracle when my boy could hear out of both ears for the first time in his life and I wanted to pour that love and miracle into a book.
ACN: How did it get selected for Hot Prospect? Is that something you did on your own, or were you nominated? How does that work?
KT: I entered it in the online RWA writing contest. I was so pleased that it was a finalist in the single-title category that I cried.
ACN: What made you want to be considered for these?
KT: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope to win :-), but mostly I entered these contests looking for answers. I had made huge revisions to the beginnings of both manuscripts and wanted to know if the changes worked.
First chapters are hard for me. I tend to revise them several times before the book is ready. I always worry that I might be starting in the wrong place, or in the wrong point of view, or including too much backstory, or…
The questions I hoped that the judges would help me answer were:
- Would readers be hooked enough to want to invest their precious time to read on?
- Am I clear—not too much backstory but enough information so that the reader is not confused?
- Are the character likeable?
- Is the plot interesting?
I was thrilled to pieces to see that the preliminary judges liked my first chapters, OMG they really did.
ACN: How do you find contests fit into your writing process? Is it something you do out of enjoyment, or is it part of your overall marketing strategy?
KT: Contests give me a chance to see where I am succeeding and falling short so that I can improve my story before other readers and publishing professionals see it. I always keep in mind that judging is subjective but if two judges touch on the same weak point, it probably needs to be changed.
ACN: What advice would you give to a writer wanting to start out competing? Where would a person start and what strategies could you recommend?
KT: I would recommend going to the RWA [Romance Writers of America] website. There are all sorts of contests for the unpublished and published alike and you don’t have to be a member of RWA to enter. Make sure you read the rules carefully and email the contest coordinator if you have any questions. I would choose a contest that offers judges feedback so that you can learn and grow from their advice. And remember that it is a subjective process. All judges, just like readers, are not the same. I have had one judge love the chapter while the other disliked it rather intensely. That’s the way it goes sometimes. If you are willing to put yourself out there and enter with an open mind, determined to use the contest as a tool, you should be able to learn something from it.
ACN: I wish you every success and, regardless of whether you win, you should be proud for having entered. That takes guts and I’m sure proud of you.
KT: Thank you so much. I am in a place of happy shock. I’m so grateful that judges gave up their time to help me become a better writer. It’s such a gift.