Below is a piece that I wrote for Kathy Temean’s blog, http://kathytemean.wordpress.com, posted on September 10th, 2012.
I am a serial contestant. There I said it and I’ll see everyone at the SCA (Serial Contestant Anonymous) Meeting on Tuesday. But for those of us with skimpy to non-existent writing resumes (were those tumbleweeds that I saw rolling across my resume?), contests do provide an opportunity to get your work out there, and they also provide a good way of getting some recognition if you find yourself a finalist or the recipient of a letter of commendation. Not to mention that if you are lucky enough to win one of these contests (this, of course, has never ever happened to me), you might finally get paid for your hours of daydreaming, get an agent, get published, and find the answer to world peace. All right, maybe not the latter, but the possibilities could be endless.
My hero contestant is Jay Asher, whose luck changed when his novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, won the 2003 SCBWI Work-in-Progress (WIP) Grant for Unpublished Authors and the Smartwriters.com Write-It-Now Award. One of the judges of the WIP Grant also participated in the three-house auction of his book. Could it get any better than that?
One contest that I like is the NAESP Foundation National Children’s Book of the Year Contest. The National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, in cooperation with Charlesbridge Publishing in Boston, offers the contest for prospective authors of picture books and chapter books, written for children ages 3-16.
In a nutshell, the important info is as follows:
The fee for entering the first manuscript is $45 and subsequent entries are $25 each.
Anyone who has written a children’s manuscript they feel worthy of publication.
The application form is a pdf file. It can be accessed at:
Manuscript for the next contest is due by March 15, 2013.
And the winners are . . .
Two winners (one picture book author and one chapter book author) are announced by May 4, 2013 via the NAESP Foundation website. And each winner will receive a publishing contract from Charlesbridge Publishing in Boston and endorsed by the NAESP Foundation with the NAESP Foundation Children’s Book Award emblem on his/her book.
For frequently asked questions, go to:
And if you still have further questions, you may contact the NAESP Foundation at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 684-3345.
You may be asking yourself, why don’t I just submit to the publisher directly? Of course, you can do that. But there’s no guarantee that anyone will read it. By entering the contest, you know someone will read it and you’ll know where you stand by a certain date. And then, if things don’t work out, you can still submit to the publisher directly.
In the NAESP Foundation contest, they have in the past picked 25 finalists for each category (picture book and chapter book), and then narrowed it down to the top five in each category before selecting the final two winners. So, your odds of being a finalist are definitely better than one in a googolplex (I’ve always wanted to use that word!).
I’ve been very lucky on the contest front. I received two SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant Letters of Commendation and was a finalist two years in a row in the NAESP Foundation contest (this year in both the picture book and chapter book categories).
Being a finalist and receiving letters of commendation have definitely boosted my morale, amidst the stacks of rejections that I’ve received over the years. (And getting a wonderful agent at the June NJ SCBWI conference didn’t hurt either!) But you have to take everything with a grain of salt. You’re going to win some, and you’re going to lose some. But unless you give it a shot, you’ll never know how you’ll do.
May the best writer win!
 Pope, A., Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 348 (2009 Ed.).