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Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers

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Ozarks Chapter American Christian Writers


The Value of Writing Contests
President’s Column,
April-May 2010 newsletter
– Jeanetta Chrystie

A local Springfield-area writer I know enters many writing contests every year, and has built an impressive list of “wins” as she improved her writing skills by studying contest guidelines and entering many contests. These “wins” provide her with writing credentials to show potential editors when she wants to query them about an article idea she has to sell them, or to submit a poem for one of their magazines. Leslie studies the Writer’s Digest Market Guide, which you can see at a library, to find contests she wants to enter. Then she copied their contest guidelines from their web sites (given in Writer’s Digest), writes, and submits.

Another writer I know received her “big break” into becoming a published writer by writing book reviews. She studied Sally Stuart’s “Christian Writer’s Market Guide” to find publishers who want book reviewers. She contacts the publishers of types of book she likes to read, such as children’s fiction, and sends them a sample of her writing. To break into book reviews, simply follow their guidelines and be prompt about submitting your reviews.

Writing book reviews has several benefits.

  1. You practice your writing skills; such as grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
  2. You develop relationships with editors, who often edit more than one magazine. So if you deliver good manuscripts on time to them, they may offer you other writing assignments.
  3. You build your library. Perhaps you’d like to collect some theology books; then write an editor requesting to review any books of a specific topic that they would like you to review.

Usually, the editors choose what books they would like reviewed. We don’t just write a review of any book we enjoyed, then send off a review to them. Book reviews are not articles. You don’t generally query to review a specific book. Often editors will send you the books they’d like reviewed; other times they’ll send you to the nearest Christian bookstore or library.

For our OCACW Spring writing contest, we’ll be “marrying” these two approaches to breaking into print: to enter the contest, you’ll write a review of a book about writing. It can be:

  • inspirational for writers, such as “The Artist Within” or “Write His Answer” or
  • instruction for writers, such as “How to Sell Every Magazine Article You Write” or
  • a reference book for writers, such as “How to Write Tight” but not a market guide.

So, let’s see everyone enter our Spring 2010 writer’s contest. The critique group will learn from reading and pre-ranking the reviews for the board. Plus winning reviews, and honorable mentions, can be published on our OCACW web site or in future newsletter issues. Happy writing!

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