The Frasier Contest: A Cut Above

MBT frasier logoAs a writer who lacks stashes of cash, I obsessively research which writing contests to enter. And I mean obsessively. One of the suggested ways to lift yourself out of literary obscurity is to enter contests…along with attending conferences, purchasing memberships to writing organizations and subscribing to services like Publishers Marketplace. The choices can be overwhelming and pretty pricey, so I pro and con my way to my best value options.

A contest that stands out? I’d have to say the Frasier—an annual contest for unpublished authors conducted by My Book Therapy (MBT), a writing craft and coaching community for novelists. It’s open to any fiction genre (and even non-fiction, if that’s your specialty). What matters most is how well you can tell a story.

Last year, I entered the Frasier and I rate it with 3 out of 3 stars. Why? Because it excels in the following value-added categories:

1.  Feedback: A contest that provides feedback is worth its weight in gold, silver or any precious stone of your choice—especially thoughtful feedback.

Nothing is worse than sending out your work and hearing…NOTHING. Unfortunately, that’s how it is with most contests. You enter—and if you don’t win…ah, well, better luck next time. That’s it. You’re left with all the same questions. …Did they not like my story? Do they not find the lives of intrepid humanitarian aid workers interesting? …People who risk so much to try and make the world a better place? Did they not like the writing? Do I use too much dialogue? Do they not like smarty-pants heroines? It can’t be true they’re only attracted to books set in NYC. What’s wrong with Guatemala? It’s exotic. Do the romantic elements come out soon enough? Did it hurt my chances that I don’t have a cat in my story? Or that I include military characters and some cool airplanes? 

You see? I could go on and on. I’m a writer; I can have entire conversations in my head. Lucky for us, the Frasier lets you know what the judges think of your work—and not just with a numerical figure. They actually comment!!

2.  Prizes: All entries reaching the final round will be judged by Susan May Warren, the founder of MBT who is an award-winning, multi-published author; literary agent, Steve Laube; and Shannon Marchese, senior fiction editor for WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. These are high-value eyeballs to have review your work. If they take an interest, you know where this could possibly lead! Additionally, the winner receives a scholarship to an MBT coaching retreat, valued at $500. As writers, I believe we should always strive to learn more about our craft. In my view, if you stop learning in life, you’re dead…literally. Wouldn’t it be nice to be part of a team from which you can learn, bounce ideas off of and pepper with questions…and even better—in person? Which leads to point #3…

3.  Community: Writing can be a lonely profession. Have you ever felt like, as a writer, you were out in the snow, freezing your bohunkus off, peeking in the window at shelves lined with published books, where everything seems warm and cozy? Well, the folks at MBT have a way of pulling you inside, seating you next to the fire, and shoving a mug of hot chocolate in your hands. When everyone takes a seat and the telling of tales begins, you realize you’re no longer alone in the difficult endeavor of writing a book.

As Susan May Warren, the founder of MBT says, “…we’re your friends, cheering you on.”

Entries for the 2013 MBT Frasier Contest will be accepted through Sunday, March 31, at 11:59 p.m. The contest is open to Voices members, which is FREE to join. For more information, FAQs and to enter, visit www.mybooktherapy.com or click on the Frasier picture above.

For any of you creative types, what do you look for most in a contest or arts community? What have been some of your experiences…good and bad?

5 Ways The Publishing Community Promotes Good Causes and Can Simultaneously Help the Aspiring Writer

In the process of profiling literary agents who represent the kind of book I have written, (literary fiction with a commercial bent), I noticed how many agents, editors and publishing organizations promote good causes. Considering I write a good bit about volunteerism and am an aspiring novelist, there could hardly be a better combo for me.

Online Auctions: Online auctions such as Brenda Novak’s Auction for the Cure for Diabetes (held in May) offer bidding opportunities that run the gamut…from travel packages to jewelry, but what is unusual about this particular auction is the section for writers. Brenda Novak is a New York Times Bestselling author and knows a lot of people in the publishing industry. More than 120 literary agents and editors offered, pro bono, to do a range of manuscript evaluations for the cause.

For an aspiring author, it is a brilliant win-win scenario: support diabetes research and…1) get your work in front of participating, first-class literary agents, editors and other industry professionals, 2) get to the top of the slush pile, and 3) receive that precious, but so-hard-to-get feedback. This year, the auction raised over $300,000. Pretty impressive.

Another aspect of this win-win opportunity is what it says about the caliber of agent or editor. These are people who have agreed to offer their services pro bono for a cause. I’d say that’s a nice indicator of the kind of agent I’d like to have promoting my career.

Brenda Novak’s auction is an annual event, but also, there are situation-specific ones such as for the Japanese disaster. In March, (Red Cross month), a group of writers conducted the Writers for the Red Cross auction that benefitted a local Red Cross chapter as well as the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. In their FAQ, they mention ‘Why writers?’ I love their reason for involvement besides raising funds… “Writers share a commitment to community by bringing people together through their stories.” I really hope my work can do that someday. For this kind of auction, you’ll need to keep an eye out. Unfortunately, with all the natural disasters occurring in the world, you will likely have ample opportunity.

Also, on Ebay, literary agent, Irene Goodman, auctions critiques of partial manuscripts at the start of every month. All proceeds go directly to the Deafness Research Foundation, Hope for Vision, and Foundation Fighting Blindness. Her son, 23, has Usher Syndrome, which is a genetic condition that causes progressive loss of both vision and hearing.

Proceeds donation: This is ‘Cause marketing’, which I described in detail in my post ‘Shopping Incentives’ last November. On June 7th, (sorry, I’m late on this), F+ W Media, Inc., the parent company of Writer’s Digest, decided that 50% of all profits made on that specific day from their Writer’s Digest shop (that sells books, offers webinars and a whole slew of writing classes), would be donated to the Red Cross for relief efforts regarding the recent tornados that cut a deadly swath across our country. In early spring they did the same to raise funds for the Japanese disaster.

Sponsorship: Organizations such as Publishers Weekly, Writers Digest and RT Book Review Magazine were co-sponsors for the Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for the Cure for Diabetes.

Awareness Promotion: It was from the blog of literary agent, Kristin Nelson, that I first learned of the online auction for the cure for diabetes. (I highly recommend her blog to anyone trying to get published. Lots of good stuff there). Research for diabetes is a cause close to her heart, so she promotes awareness of it. Agents generate a lot of traffic on their sites and can really help get the word out. Additionally, writers looking for an agent can gain insight into what particular subjects might be of special interest to them. Another example is a blog post by agent, Jenny Bent, to promote awareness of Down Syndrome. She supports Reece’s Rainbow, which facilitates international adoption of children with Down Syndrome.

Individual Calls to Action: Literary agent turned author, Nathan Bransford, promotes volunteerism, in general, and expanding your horizons. He went on a volunteer trip that changed his life. (I’m not the only one who had this happen.) Here…he says it best, himself,

“…remember when I went to Peru on a volunteer vacation and it changed my life? Well! You have this opportunity too! Please visit Volunteer Journals at Travelocity, and all you have to do is enter a video for a chance to win a volunteer vacation. People, voluntourism is the greatest thing ever. Enter! Enter! Enter!!”

Voluntourism (a.k.a. volunteer vacations) is a subject that deserves a whole series of posts. And I have a great place to start. My sister-in-law just returned from one in Africa on a game reserve. That’s up next!