Writer's Notes

Contests: Children’s Author Natasha Yim


Yim The Rock Maiden 2.23.18By Natasha Yim

Suffering from in-between project blues? The soggy middle doldrums? Plain old writer’s block? Enter a writing contest! Contests can be a great way to rev up your muse.  Think of them as the jumper cables to your stalled creative engine. And they’re fun!

Nowadays, finding a contest that matches your interest is easy. No more buying countless magazines to peruse the back for possible contests or shelling out more money than you make for a hefty tome of publication markets and contests. A quick Google search will yield a variety of contests in all different genres.

They can run the gamut from free to ones that require an entry fee, fun just-to-get-your-creative-juices-flowing ones to those that offer prizes and/or publication for winners. Here are a few sources to get you started:

The Redwood Writers’ Club,, a non-profit organization for writers of all genres, runs three themed contests a year. Upcoming contests are Memoir (launching on May 20 with submission deadline of June 24) and Young Adult and Middle Grade (launching Sept. 9, with submission deadline of Oct. 21). Quite a few reputable sources cull contests from around the nation and internationally:


Poets and Writers:


Writer’s Digest:


The Write Life:


The Writer:


For theatre and dramatic works, the Burry Man Writer’s Center is a great resource for places around the world to send your plays:


Short+Sweet Ten-Minute Play Festival, billed as the largest ten-minute play festival in the world, has 12 international festival venues from Australia, New Zealand, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, to the US. Submitting to one festival will enter you in consideration for all of them:


Many writing contests charge an entry fee. These fees generally pay a stipend for judges to read the submissions and go towards the prizes. But are they legit? As with anything having to do with the internet, make sure you do your research and check your sources.  There are plenty of legitimate contests which charge a fee (Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition has now gone up to the hefty sum of $35 per entry). But there are also scams that offer a writer the chance of publication—until you find out you have to pay $75 to buy the book (usually anthologies) before you’re guaranteed you’ll see your name in print. Whether you want to shell out money to enter a contest is purely personal, but here are some things to consider:


  1. Your odds of winning. Are you competing with 25 writers or 250?
  2. The ratio of entry fee to prizes—are you paying $20 for the chance of winning $50?
  3. Do you get feedback? Access to editors and agents?
  4. Are previous winners listed on the website? (You can write to them and get some feedback on their experience)
  5. Have the judges published in or worked with the contest genre?


If you do submit to a contest, remember to follow submission guidelines. If the limit is 10 pages, don’t send 11.  If the desired font is 12-point Times New Roman, don’t use 14-point Helvetica. As the General Contest Chair for Redwood Writers, I’m always amazed that with every contest, there are one or two submissions that have not complied with the guidelines. What happens to these submissions? They don’t get read. So, as with any submissions, be it to a contest or a publisher, give your story the best chance of getting past the first reader.


If you have any questions on contests, particular the Redwood Writer contests, please contact me at


Natasha Yim
Natasha Yim at a Writer’s Retreat in Port Orchard, Washington
I was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but attended elementary school in Singapore, and high school in Hong Kong, where we moved to be closer to my Mom’s family. In 1979, I came to the U.S. for college and graduated from Dominican University in San Rafael, California with a B.A. in English Literature with a Writing Emphasis, and a M.S. in Counseling Psychology. I worked with kids in residential treatment centers, group homes, and finally, with Mendocino County Child Protective Services. I left to become a stay-at-home mom for 12 years to my 3 kids, but am now back working part-time at the Mendocino County Office of Education in Northern California. I enjoy writing in different genres and, in addition to children’s books, have written magazine articles (both for kids and adults), short plays, play and book reviews, and am currently working on a young adult and a middle grade novel.











Writer's Notes

Writer’s Contests: Do You Feel Lucky? By J.L. Greger

By J.L Greger

Feb. 16, 2018

shedidn'tknowherplace2Author–sponsored book giveaways are contests, too. Theoretically, free book giveaways, such as those sponsored by Goodreads, generate publicity for a book in several ways.
• Individuals are more apt to read a blog or Facebook post that announces something free.
• Authors tend to post more on Facebook when they’ve set up a giveaway.
• Applicants for a book in a giveaway are likely to remember the book’s title.
• Goodreads encourages applicants for a giveaway to include it on their Want-to-Read list.
• Winners of a book from a Goodreads giveaway are supposed to post a review.

My Real Experience

I’m not expert on giveaways but I’ve done giveaways for four of my books during the last three years with Goodreads. Each time I publicized the giveaway on twenty different Facebook sites at least twice, sent over fifty tweets, and wrote blogs mentioning the giveaway on at least three different sites.

The books generated 347 to 657 requests each even though I offered only three to five copies of the book. I think most giveaways are for less than five books. I suspect Murder: A Way to Lose Weight garnered the most requests because of the cute cover and humorous, catchy title.

The first two giveaways were free for me because my editor supplied Kindle copies of my books to the winners, but I received no reviews. I offered signed print copies for the last two books and tucked a thank you (in advance) note for the reviews in each book. Thus, those giveaways cost me the books and postage, but I got the reviews for The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories. The giveaway for She Didn’t Know Her Place ended just before Christmas 2017 and it’s too early to assess results. I couldn’t discern an increase in Amazon sales of books (paperback or Kindle versions) in the month following any of the giveaways.

New Developments. I don’t think I’m the only author disappointed by my results. Goodreads announced a new giveaway program starting in January 2018. Three features are interesting. Everyone who enters a giveaway automatically adds the book to their Want-to-Read list. About eight weeks after the giveaway ends, winners receive an email from Goodreads to remind them to rate and review the book. The standard giveaway plan isn’t free anymore. It costs $119. The premium plan costs more.
Conclusions. I don’t think I’d pay over $100 to do another giveaway. However, I should admit I’m not into social media as much as many authors and do not have long friends lists. I’m also not lucky. I’ve played ten cards of Bingo on ten occasions in the last year and have not won once.
Do you feel lucky and want to see if you can increase your books sales with a giveaway? Maybe you’d rather read my new mystery.


JL Greger and BugBlurb: In She Didn’t Know Her Place, Dana Richardson faces that dilemma in her new job at a state university in New England. A research center, which reports to her, is falsifying data to help industrial clients meet federal pollution standards, and the last woman who tried to investigate the problem died under suspicious circumstances.

Available in paperback and Kindle:

Author: J. L. Greger is a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison turned novelist. She likes to include tidbits of science in her thrillers and mysteries.

Her newest mystery is She Didn’t Know Her Place. Her other books include: Riddled with Clues (Finalist for a 2017 NM/Arizona book awards) and Murder: A New Way to Lose (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers Association [PSWA] contest and finalist for a 2016 NM/Arizona book award).

She focuses on families in her short stories. She has published two collections of stories: The Good Old Days? and Other People’s Mothers (finalist for a 2017 NM/Arizona Book Awards).

Learn more at her website:



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