Opportunity knocking?

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas A. Edison

We discuss any number of things here with regards to advancing a career as a writer, and all of them involve hard work.

There’s writing everyday, learning the craft, critiquing with others, judging contests, reading non-fiction and working on implementing the advice of seasoned professionals.  But there is one more thing you can do to advance your career as a professional.


Please don’t get your shorts (or whatever you wear to write) in a wad.  I know how hard it is to go to the dreaded day job, take care of yourself and your family, any pets that may reside in the immediate vicinity and also make time for writing.

But there is an opportunity here you should not miss.  Several, in fact.  Volunteering is a biggie.  Today we’re going to look only at the upside of sharing your time with others.

Volunteering at the chapter level.  This is providing a service to the other members, and potential guests of the chapter.  It can be as simple as manning the door to welcome prospective members and making sure current members sign in for a meeting.  It can also include helping with conferences and chapter contests.

Chapter contests are usually the backbone of the chapter, providing income to cover the meeting costs and allowing an opportunity for members to mingle with guests of the annual chapter conference.

It’s an excellent opportunity for members to interact with Editors and Agents without the stress induced by submission / pitching  at National Events where thousands crank up the anxiety level of the newcomers. Editors and Agents are people too.  Sometimes they just want to socialize and meet new and interesting people who share similar interests.  You’re not always working, are you?

So, get out there and offer to lend a hand, do some of the work, take a little more responsibility for chapter tasks.  The work load is lighter when we all lend a hand.


HSC Contest Review – Southern Heat Contest

Southern Heat Contest


Presented by:

East Texas Chapter of Romance Writers of America

Opens for entries:  February 14th

Fees: $20 for members of RWA-ETC, $25 for members of RWA, $30 non-members

Entry: Opening 15 pages plus 5 page max synopsis

Closed for entries:  March 31st

Contest winners announced July 15, 2012




Judges are encouraged to give feedback if they give a score of 3 or below

Final round judges are industry professionals



Only two first round judges

Synopsis is judged

Entries may be limited to the first 30 entries in each category

Doesn’t say how many finalists

No training for the judges



The Good –

Judges are encouraged to comment on the manuscript as well as the score sheet.  They are also encouraged to provide feedback, especially in the areas scored 3 or less.  This is great so the entrants know why a score of 3 or lower was given.

The final round judges are industry professionals.  They are: Paranormal judged by Ethan Ellenberg from Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency and Ann Leslie Tuttle from Harlequin, Historical judged by Courtney Miller-Callihan from Sanford J. Greenburger Associates and Laura Bradford from Bradford Literary Agency, Contemporary Single Title judged by Rebecca Strause from McIntosh & Otis, Inc. and Rhonda Penders from the Wild Rose Press, Inspirational judged by Mary Sue Seymour from the Seymour Agency and Melissa Endlich from Harlequin Inspirational, Contemporary Series judged by Nicole Resciniti from the Seymour Agency and Alicia Condon from Kensington Books, Romantic Suspense judged by Aubrey Poole from Sourcebooks and Maria Carvainis from Maria Carvainis Agency, Inc., and Young Adult judged by Elaine Spencer from the Knight Agency and Leticia Gomez from Sawy Literary Services.

The Bad –

There are only two judges, unless there’s a point spread of more then 25 points when one of those scores is at least 85 percent of the total points possible.  Then, a discrepancy judge will be used.  Two judges leave too much room for discrepancies.  Why not just have three judges from the beginning?

Synopsis is judged.  This does not let the work stand on its own merits.

Entries may be limited to the first 30 entries in each category.  This restricts the competition when a limit is imposed.

No indication on the website how many finalists there would be per category.  Under past finalists there was always 3 listed per category.  Uncertainty in this area is cause for hesitation.

There is no training for the judges in the Southern Heat Contest.  It is extremely important that there is training for the judges.  A class or instructions is vital to a great contest.



As far as the Southern Heat Contest is concerned, don’t expect too much.  With a $20 to $30 entry fee, you get encouraged feedback from the judges on scores of 3 or less on the score sheet.  However, with no training for the judges and no mention of how many finalists per category, the entrant really has no idea what they’re in for. 


HSC Contest Reviews – Romance Through The Ages Contest

The Romance Through The Ages Contest


Presented by:

Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Fees: Hearts Through History chapter members $20, all others $25

Entry: First 30 pages (plus a 1-2 page synopsis that is not judged and not to be counted toward the 30 pages)

Closed for entries:  March 15th

All winners will be announced at Hearts Through History’s annual meeting at the RWA National conference in Anaheim, California



3 qualified judges for each first round entry

All scores with a rating of 3 or less will be explained on the score sheet

Added possibility to final in the Legend Award

Another possibility to win in the Best of the Best

Finalists in the First Round have the opportunity to incorporate the judges’ comments before the final round

Final round judges are industry professionals

Synopsis not judged


Only 3 entries in each category are finalists 

No classes for judges

Score Sheet is not very in depth


The Good –

There are 3 judges for each first round entry and the lowest of the scores is dropped.  The remaining two scores are averaged to determine the final score.  Spectacular! 

On the score sheet, any item rated a 3 or below by the judge is explained.  This is great.  It explains to the entrant why the low score was given.

The Legend: A Man For All Reasons Award is a separate category picked from all the entries.  It is based on the entrants score in a special Legend category on the score sheet.  Basically, it is a separate category for your hero.  The highest Legend scores in each category will advance to the final round.  Another way to get your manuscript before an editor/agent.  Wonderful!!

The Best of the Best is a separate category for each category’s first place winners.  Another way for an entrant to get his/her entry before an agent/editor!  Well done.

The finalists in the first round have an allotted amount of time to review the first round judge’s comments and make desired changes to his/her manuscript before the final round.  Anything to give an entrant the opportunity to make his/her entry the best it can be is great!

Final round judges are industry professionals.  They are:

Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance (AMR) judged by Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Georgia/Regency/Victorian (GVR) judged by Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein of McIntosh & Otis Literary Agency

Colonial/Western/Civil War (CWW) judged by Rhonda Helms of Carina Press

Post Victorian/World War II (PVW) judged by Mary Sue Seymour of the Seymour Agency

Time Travel/Historical Paranormal (TTP) judged by Nicole D’Arienzo of The Wild Rose Press

Historical Erotic judged by Jessica Alvarez of BookEnds, LLC

Legend: A Man for all Reasons judged by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency

The synopsis is not judged, so the work stands on its own merit.

The Bad –

There are only 3 finalists in each category.  This exact number seems limited and unfair, especially if one category could have, say, 10 entries and still have 3 finalists, while another has 30 entries and has 3 finalists.  

There is no official training or classes for the judges.  However, a guideline is included with each packet of entries a judge receives.  The lack of a class for the Hearts Through History chapter’s judges is disheartening.  While it’s important to follow a guideline to story issues and character development paths, it is also very important that judges know how to deliver constructive criticism without crushing the entrant.

While there are guiding questions for the judges to answer, the score sheet itself is very general. 

As far as the Romance Through the Ages Contest is concerned, it’s pretty average.  With a reasonable $25 entry fee ($20 for HHRW members), you get 3 first round judges and an explanation for any scores of 3 or below.  The unique items about this contest are the added chances to get your work before an agent/editor with the Best of the Best and the Legend Award.  However, the limited number of finalists and the lack of classes for the judges only hinder the potential of this contest. 

NOTE:  The HHRW website has been down since the beginning of the weekend (March 10th).  I couldn’t look at the score sheet to give you examples of the questions.  Please take a look yourself.  Also, it is up to the Board whether or not to extend the deadline of the contest.  As of this printing, there is no word on an extension.


HSC Contest Reviews – Fool For Love Contest

Fool For Love Contest


Presented by:

Virginia Romance Writers

Fees: $30 for Virginia Romance Writers members, $35 for non members

Entry: First chapters up to 50 pages, optional synopsis

Closed for entries:  March 14th

Contest winners announced on June 6th



Winners in each category receive cash prize

Final judges are industry professionals


Only 3 finalists in each category

Only 2 first round judges

Manuscript does not have to be finished

Nothing on the website about how or if the first round judges are trained


The Good –

Cash prizes!  In this economy, cash is always good.  1st place in each category receives $50

The final round judges are industry professionals.  They are – Elizabeth Mazer from Harlequin judging Short Contemporary, Meredith Giordan from Berkley Publishing Group judging Long Contemporary, Lucy Gilmour from Harlequin judging Historical, Amanda Barnett from The Wild Rose Press judging Paranormal/Futuristic/Fantasy/Time Travel, Raela Schoenherr from Bethany House judging Inspirational, Romantic Suspense is TBD, and Pat Van Wie from Bell Bridge Books is judging the Published Author category.

The Bad –

There are only 3 finalists in each category.  This precise number seems limited and unfair, especially if one category could have, say, 5 entries and still have 3 finalists, while another has 30 entries and has 3 finalists.

There are only 2 first round judges for each entry unless the preliminary scores differ by 35 points or more.  Then, a third judge will be added. Two judges leave too much room for inconsistency.  Why not just have three judges from the beginning?

The manuscript does not have to be finished.  But be prepared for a request from an editor!

There was nothing on the website to indicate who exactly was judging the first round.  It only says “qualified” judges.  Did the judges take any classes on judging?  Are they published authors?  PRO members? 


As far as the Fool For Love Contest is concerned, don’t expect too much.  With a reasonable entry fee of $30 ($35 for non members), you get the chance to win some cash.  However, the lack of explanation of how and if the first round judges are trained or who they are, should make a potential entrant hesitate to enter this contest.