1. Today I'm interviewing Joe Fraser. Joe is the coordinator of the annual Fab 5 contest for the Wisconsin Romance Writer's of America. Tell us a little more about the contest.
The FabFive contest provides detailed critiques to emerging writers and an opportunity for the best of them to have their work reviewed by industry professionals. Our contest is open to unpublished Romance writers. We evaluate the opening 2,500 words of each contestant’s novel in process. A contestant can enter more than one project and choose among seven categories: Historical, Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, Series Contemporary (long and short), Single Title, Women’s Fiction, and Young Adult.
Each entry is scored in the opening round by three trained judges. The top five entries then go to an industry professional (either a literary agent or an acquisition editor of a major publishing house) to determine the winner and final rankings. These professionals often request either partial or full manuscripts from the highest-ranked contestants.
Our contest accepts entries from January 1 through March 1 each year. Finalists are announced in April, and the winners are announced in the Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Conference in May or June. Additional contest details are provided in our website: http://www.wisrwa.org/
2. Why should writers enter contests? Most already have critique partners, so what is gained by putting your work on display or other writers, some of whom are unpublished.
A writer can never get enough critiques. I work with multiple critique partners, and I’ve never received anything back that didn’t have at least one thing the other partners missed. In addition, contest judges critique anonymously and may be more honest than partners who know you. Finally, while many of our contest judges are unpublished, they’re all well-trained, and we strive to assign at least one published writer to each entry.
In addition to the value of preliminary round critiques, The FabFive presents an opportunity for a writer to obtain an evaluation (and perhaps a request!) from an industry professional. Our finalists learn from an expert the improvements their projects need to become publishable.
3. If a contestant finals or wins their category, then what? Is that something an agent or editor would be interested in the manuscript is being queried?
If a contestant finishes in the top five of a category, the final round agent or editor might ask for more material. Many writers enter RWA chapter contests, including FabFive, to avoid query slush piles and fast track their work to an industry professional’s desk.
In addition to this opportunity, we’ll publish the names of all finalists and the titles of their projects in a late-summer or fall issue of RWR.
4. What have you learned about writers by coordinating this contest?
I’ve learned that many talented writers have easily-correctible flaws in specific areas such as style, characterization, hooks, and plotting. Our FabFive judges take pride in the ability to identify these weaknesses. We’ve had contestants perform poorly in a contest one year and come back the next year writing like rock stars. Some have become published as a result of the improvements they’ve made.
On a personal level, I’ve learned that writers are wonderful people. I’ve made many friends whom I met online in my role as a contest coordinator.
5. We hear there are a record number of submissions in each category this year. What does that mean for emerging writers besides more competition?
The fact we’re enjoying record numbers while some other chapter contests have struggled should tell emerging writers we’re the contest to enter for the best critiques and most attractive final round judges. We’ve also kept our fees low, and we’re one of the most affordable contests in the RWA.
6. The 2011 contest is closed to entries now. What’s in store for next year?
We’re considering the possibility of adding an eighth category – Erotic Romance. Also, we may make our category entry count ceilings more flexible (currently set at thirty) so late entrants to a popular category won’t be turned away.
7. Will you have enough judges for that?
While we have an adequate pool of judges even for expansion of our contest, we’re always looking for more. If anyone has an interest in serving as a judge for one of the best RWA chapter contests, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.