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Thursday, February 18, 2010


Contests anyone?

I began writing as a pre-teen. My first diary was a direct result of having read Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? I wanted to be able to express myself in the same way as Margaret, and in the same way as Judy Blume.

My own life’s experiences blended with my desire to be a writer, and I’ve ended up with my ‘voice’. A voice I’ve found that for some contests doesn’t fit.

As a point of reference: I am an African-American female with a masters, and over 15 years in marketing. I’ve worked in commercial real estate for seven years, and retail marketing specializing in consumer promotions for more than 10 years.

The plot of my first manuscript was based in the commercial real estate world. The hero, an environmental lawyer, was an African-American male. The heroine, a marketing professional, was an African-American female. They were both highly educated, and well paid.

My first completed manuscript, so, of course, I was super sensitive to everything. Rejection letters came fast and furious, so, a friend suggested entering it into a contest for feedback vs. form letter rejections. So, I did. Three judges changed my view of contests forever.

2 judges gave great feedback. Things I could build upon: dialogue, setting, pacing, etc. However, the other judge made a comment that stuck with me forever. “Your characters don’t sound black.” What? What did that mean? Should their dialogue be loaded down with slang, curse words, or what? I wanted to email, write a letter, and call her or something. I had no way of getting some more information from her about what that meant.

That’s when I began to realize that you can’t take everything that everyone you meet along your writing career to heart. You have to drill down through whatever is out there to find the kernels of information that ‘fit’ you and your stories.

I have to be honest, and say, I don’t enter very many contests anymore, but that’s only because I haven’t found one that I’m interested in entering. When I find the right one, I will.


To pay back her parents and prevent the loss of their family business, Sinclair Mosley leaves her family and friends behind. Pennsylvania doesn’t welcome her with open arms, but Chance O’Malley does. At the risk of losing everything that brought her to Pennsylvania, including her family’s restaurant, Sinclair must decide if she’s willing to take a chance on love.

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5 Moonbeams (comments):

Molly Daniels said...

Did judge Idiot think your characters were supposed to sound like Good Times vs The Cosby Show? Jeez...

I've read several African-American romances (Christian inspy) and only on occassion did any slang enter in, or stereotypical behavior.

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks. I enjoyed the article. Feedback's great, but not always helpful I guess. And competitions... it would be nice to win one one day, but entering would help.

Angela said...

Molly, I guess that's why we have to stretch ourselves, and pick up something off of a shelf that may be a little different. You and I know that AA characters can look, and sound like anything, but that judge only had one idea in mind, and my story didn't fit with her perception.

Maybe, one day, she'll pick up a copy of one of my books or someone else's, and her whole world will change ;-)

Angela said...

Sheila. you are absolutely right. The only way to win is to enter. However, every contest may not provide the right support. I think contests can be like critique groups. You have to keep looking for the right ones until you find the ones that fit with you.

That's what I'm doing. I'm looking for contests that offer more diversity.

Angela said...

It's been great to be here today. Please visit my website at for information some great contests and prizes!