How to Win at The Woolley Awards - Top 4 Tips
By Chris Todd Miller
Steve Jobs publicly announced the release of the first iPhone.
Senator Barack Obama of Illinois declared his candidacy for the President of the United States.
I attended my first Quills conference, at which Orson Scott Card was the keynote speaker, and I took home my first ever writing award—an honorable mention.
The year was 2007.
A few weeks prior to attending my first Quills conference, I’d managed to score one of 15 coveted spots in Orson Scott Card’s week-long Writer’s Boot Camp. As a young writer, after having spent a week with OSC, I wanted nothing more than to impress him by taking home an award from the League’s annual writing contest. I managed an Honorable Mention. I’m pretty sure OSC was just as anxious as I was. Not really.
For me, and many other young writers, the League’s writing contest, now known as The Woolley Awards, was the first independent third-party validation of my talents. Someone other than my mom liked my writing. Regardless of how many awards we’ve received, contracts we’ve signed, and manuscripts we’ve penned, as authors, our fragile egos are always looking for validation. The Woolley Awards is a safe place to build that foundation. The League of Utah Writers is a community in which we all strive to make each other better.
Many of the pieces I’ve written over the years specifically for the League’s contest, went on to be included in various published anthologies, affording me those much-needed publishing credits.
From first time entrant, to former president of the League, to current contest chair, here are a few things I’ve learned when it comes to succeeding in the writing contest:
1) Enter. Many people say they are going to write something, fewer actually do it, and fewer still are brave enough to subject their work to review. It is my honest belief that simply by entering, you have succeeded.
2) Write a damn good story. I know this seems obvious enough, but I cannot overemphasize this. Put in the time. Write it. Re-write it. And write it again. Nobody ever wrote anything well. They only re-wrote it well.
3) Take a chance in a less popular category. General Fiction, Speculative Fiction, and Flash Fiction always get an overwhelming amount of entries. Each category has a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, plus a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Honorable Mention. Every year there are categories that only receive a handful of entries. By submitting to the less popular categories your chances of receiving an award improve. Might I suggest trying your hand at Screenplay, Romance, or Spiritual Essay?
4) Technicalities. Make sure to follow the rules and guidelines. Do not include your name anywhere in the entry, not in the header, not in the body of the work, not in the file name. Follow the formatting instructions. If you’re entering the Word Play category, make sure you include all of the required words. As part of your Submittable account, make sure you include a mailing address along with your email address. It would be unfortunate for a winning piece to lose on a technicality.
Good luck to everyone and thank you for being part of our writing community!
Chris Todd Miller
Chris Todd Miller is the League’s contest chair. He has also served as League President and been a member of the League for fourteen years. His work is featured in numerous anthologies and his book, By Blood Bequeathed, won the League’s Gold Quill Award (not a vampire novel, BTW). He is a freelance editor with Eschler Editing, and when not reading or writing, you’ll usually find him on the golf course or at the gym lifting heavy sh*t.