Friday, March 15, 2013

2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition

A couple days ago, 3/13/13, I learned that my novel, The Fourth Marker, made it to the quarterfinals in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, one of 500 titles out of 10,000 original entries. My response surprised me.
I was gratified, of course, having my writing validated in an international competition. However, a month earlier, on Wednesday, 2/13/13, when I learned that my novel graduated from 10,000 entries to one of 2000 survivors for the second round, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for hours. Wondering if I had read correctly, I checked the online list again, and yet again, and found that, indeed, my novel was still on the list.

Why did I react that way? Simple. When I first decided to enter the competition in early January, after many weeks of deliberation, my goal was simply to pass from the first round to the second round. I had no hopes or aspirations beyond that. Breaking into the second round was based solely on a 300-word pitch, much like the meat of a query letter to a literary agent. Like most writers who aspire to traditionally published authorship, I found query letters to be a baffling challenge, completely unlike writing a novel. I felt that, if my pitch was acceptable, I had a chance of walking through the front door of at least one literary agency or publisher…someday.
My pitch was the result of an evaluation by Marla Miller at http://marlamiller.com of my earlier attempt at a query letter. Although my pitch for the competition bears faint resemblance to that query letter, Marla's words demonstrated to me that a query letter, and by extension, my pitch, must be tantalizing, clear, and concise. Keeping her words in mind, I was able to compose a pitch that apparently stood on its own.

Don't get me wrong – when I recently learned that my novel also made it into the quarterfinals, a promotion based on its first 5000 words, I was very happy and pleasantly surprised, but the feeling didn't quite measure up to the euphoria I felt when it made the first cut. The first experience compared favorably to recently watching my little daughter take her first steps without assistance and her other small but equally earthshaking developments. Two of my short stories were published in a small, indie publisher's anthology and I am a published newspaper columnist and political cartoonist, but in this contest, my work stood up in a much larger world.
So, this is what it's like? Sending a manuscript out into the world to stand on its own legs and fend for itself is like sending your grown child into the world, hoping that everything you taught her through eighteen years is enough to protect her, develop her further, and make a life of her own.

I can only hope that both, my daughter and my novel, happily continue the journey.