bravery, that judge, & other thoughts on the Genesis Contest


Originally posted on The Writer’s Alley

Are you on the fence about entering the first 15 pages of your finished manuscript in the Genesis contest? Let me give you a little perspective that may help you make your decision.

I’m going to preface this post by admitting up front that my experience with the contest is beautiful and life-changing, but very unique. Yet I think that no matter what outcome you achieve, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

  • You get invaluable feedback on your finished manuscript. This is the chance for you to see what experienced writers have to say about your work. And the semifinal-round judges are published authors in your field who know what it takes to get the attention of an editor. Confession: before I entered for the first time in 2013, the only people who had seen it were my mom, husband, and a select group of friends. Having unbiased input from someone who isn’t your adoring critique partner can show you ways to add dimension to your work and accentuate your writing strengths.
  • Granted, there always seems to be That Judge who doesn’t really get what you’re going for and gives you a score that’s way different than the others. Still, that perspective is helpful to see — and it helps you practice taking criticism for your passion-poured work, which you’ll get even when you’re published. You have to develop thick skin and discern what’s truth about your work and what simply doesn’t resonate with one person’s experience. So take it gracefully, even if it seems out of left field, and get a second opinion if you need to. 🙂
  • It helps you bond with others in the same stage of the publication process. Your fellow Genesis entrants know the roller coaster toil to The End that you battled and won; they’ve been elbow-deep in the same trenches you’ve wrestled through. When the first list of semifinalists came out, I friended some of them on Facebook, and that led to some of my most treasured friendships and writing partnerships to this day.
  • If you final in the Genesis, you instantly get your work in front of agents and editors. The final round judges are all editors and agents. Even though I already had an agent last year, I had two inquire about my representation to the Contest Coordinator. Plus, if you attend conference, people see your semifinalist or finalist ribbons and take notice. The agents and editors with which you have appointments may sit up in their chairs a little because they know that you entered the Genesis contest and are serious about your work. It’s hands-down a fantastic and attention-grabbing attribute in a query, one-sheet, or writing resume.
  • Because even if you don’t place in the top 10, the bravery it takes to enter will launch infinite more acts of bravery in your writing. I maintain that pressing send on my Genesis contest entry was the bravest thing I’ve done to date in my writing journey. It’s the moment I can exactly pinpoint my mental shift from thinking of myself as a wannabe writer to believing in myself as a pre-published author. That alone is better than any plaque or scoresheet anyone can ever give you.

What doubts are holding you back? Still think your writing isn’t ready? Reluctant to invest the contest fee? (The Genesis is fair and comparable to other contest fees, even contests of a far lesser caliber.) 

Good luck to everyone, and know that I’m ridiculously proud of you!

an extended (but never really complete) thank you

How do you possibly say “thank you” after a Genesis award? An extended speech, that’s how!

On Sunday night, I gave the glory to God for making me and everyone in that room about writing. That storytelling is just who we are!

I thanked Jef and Allie and our families because I couldn’t have done it without them. They took care of Allie and often picked up the slack for me, extending grace when I needed it the most. And Jef…wow. I don’t think there are words enough to express how grateful I am to have you as a teammate!

My critique partners Jaime Wright, Anne Love, and Kara Isaac for all of their input (and, as they know, for talking me off the ledge sometimes).

Kathleen Y’Barbo for convincing me to enter Genesis and for correcting me when I called myself an aspiring writer. “You’re a pre-published author,” she told me.

I thanked everyone in the ACFW for welcoming me with open arms. And that was very literal. They friended me on Facebook, answered my (many) questions (looking at you, Amy Leigh Simpson), became my critique partners, and even let me stand with them and exchange business cards with me in the Dallas airport before we ever even arrived in Indy.

If I hadn’t been having an out-of-body experience, I would have thanked the Genesis judges, who sacrificed their time and energy to provide meaningful feedback for us and make our writing stronger. I’m so going to pay this forward if I ever get the opportunity!

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I should have thanked my brilliant and beautiful co-finalists Lindsay Harrell and Sally Bradley for becoming my friends and sisters in the complex category that is contemporary fiction. We are so going to be celebrating debut novels together sometime soon.

Even my Tulsa coffee shops deserve huge thanks for fueling my late-night writing marathons and allowing me to close them down at least once a week so I can get my work done!

My best friends JT, Sarah Beals, Lindsey Reddick, and Amanda Morad for being beta readers, idea nurturers, and the first ones I ever allowed to read my story. And Meseidy Rivera for taking my headshot days before the competition closed and figuratively holding my hand as I hit Send sitting at her dining room table.

There are so many people I could thank. Someone I’m sure I’ll remember right after I click Publish. I’m still in awe that they called my name. Thrilled and so, so honored by each and every bit of the love and encouragement that’s come my way.

If I can do anything to give back, it’s to emphasize over and over again that whether you win Genesis or not, there’s so much beauty and fulfillment in squashing the lies and going after your dreams. In doing what God made you to do. All it takes is surrender, a little bravery, and lots of hard work that, most of the time, doesn’t even feel like work. 


I’d planned on recapping the ACFW conference in this post, but it’s already getting long. So I’ll share more of what my first manuscript is about instead since we were under wraps before conference! Here’s the bit I used to pitch Take Heart:

Being jobless and single can seem like the end of the world. But sometimes it’s just the beginning.

Spencer Brooks has always dreamed of how her storybook ending will unfold. Rewarding career. Picket fence. Husband who makes Prince Charming seem like a waste of perfectly good paper and ink.

But when life after college doesn’t turn out as planned, Spencer returns to the small Oklahoma town she promised she’d never call home again to draft a better blueprint for her future. So far, her best attempts have landed her back under her parents’ roof with an inbox empty of job leads, and her only relationship is with the mop and broom of the local coffee shop.

As Spencer attempts to stay out of her flawless cousin’s shadow and dodge her newly engaged ex-boyfriend, she must learn to surrender control and discover God’s plan for her life. Even if it looks nothing like her own.

Can Spencer learn to trust that only God can lead her to the life—and love—she’s always dreamed about?


You guys are the best!