When I first started out as a writer, I steeled myself for rejection. I knew it could take a while before anything I wrote was published. But as months rolled into years, and the rejections piled up, my confidence began to flag.
In 2001, word got around of a new children's book contest: the Tassy Walden Awards, New Voices in Children's Literature. It was juried by reputable agents and editors from large publishing houses, and winners were given a small cash prize. Why not, I thought.
My manuscript for a young adult novel came in as a finalist. I submitted a middle grade novel the following year, and that also came in as a finalist. Two years later I submitted a third novel, and that one didn't even place.
Now you'd think that would have soured me—three novels, three rejections. But it didn’t.
See, coming in as a finalist meant that the agents and editors who read my manuscripts thought they had promise. The criteria they were using was whether the submissions were of a professional quality. Winners were the best of the bunch—and some years they decided not to chose any winners because no one reached a high enough standard for the category. That I had placed two years in a row meant that I should keep going. That I didn’t place two years later meant I needed to put more work into what I was doing.
And more work is what I did. The result: one of the manuscripts that came in as a finalist became No Castles Here. The one that didn’t place at all became Come Fall. Both have received starred reviews, and I have a third novel ready for release in February, 2012.
The Tassy contest does something many contests don’t: it makes you step up to a publishable level. Winning doesn’t guarantee that what you write will be published, but submitting forces you to reach a professional standard. That is no small thing.
The 12th annual Tassy Walden Awards: New Voices in Children's Literature is now open for submissions. The competition is open to unpublished Connecticut writers and illustrators. This year has five submission categories: picture book (text only), illustrated picture book, children's book illustrator's portfolio, middle grade novel, and young adult/teen novel. The deadline for submissions is February 3, 2012.
For more information, an entry form, and the …