An unusually fabulous contest, even by Author! Author! standards


Update as of September 13, 2010: I am sorry to report that Phoebe Kitanidis decided not to follow through on the award portion of this contest. She did participate in the judging; however, her feedback on the winning entries was not up to Author! Author! standards, and her next book deadlines was, she said, too tight for her to participate in the video feedback we had planned instead. My profound apologies to those of you who entered Category II: YA, as her feedback was slated to be its primary prize, as well as to all of the winners in both categories, whose prize entries’ posts were substantially delayed by these negotiations.

Other than removing the parts below that were obviously rendered untrue by subsequent events, I have left this post as I ran it originally back in April, 2010.

I’m taking a break in the midst of our ongoing series on juggling multiple protagonists to announce some joyful news about a long-time Friend of Author! Author! blog: FAAB Phoebe Kitanidis’ first YA novel, WHISPER came out from HarperCollins this week! WHISPER is now available in bookstores, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, and Amazon UK, as well as directly from the publisher. For those of you who prefer to purchase from independent booksellers, here’s WHISPER’s Powell’s page.

Congratulations, Phoebe! To get a sense of why I’m so very excited about this urban fantasy YA novel, take a peek at the browsable version at HarperTeen.

phoebekitanidisgray(3)Phoebe’s precisely the kind of hard-working career writer I love to see break the fearsome first novel barrier, one who has taken the time not only to hone her craft, but also gives back to the writing community. In addition to being my cohort in the late lamented Pitch Practicing Palace — a free forum in which aspiring writers could try out their conference pitches on already-agented writers in a safe environment and receive constructive feedback — Phoebe’s recent posts on her blog, subplot, make some pretty fascinating reading for anyone who ever contemplates having a novel of her own coming out.

I wish more authors did this — how are aspiring writers supposed to learn how the publication process works unless authors are generous enough to give a peek behind the glamorous curtain? In a publishing environment where first-time authors are increasingly expected to be the primary promoters of their own books, that’s vital information. I really, really appreciate the rare authors like Phoebe who are willing to share their experiences.

WHISPER is also a testament to the value of a writer’s getting to know her target audience extremely well: Phoebe knows her ‘tweens, and it shows in her tangibly realistic prose. A contributor for six years to Discovery Girls Magazine, she is also the author of Fab Girls’ Guide to Friendship Hardship.

But enough about her past achievements — I’m here today to celebrate her latest. Let’s take a gander at the publisher’s blurb:

WHISPER_coverI’d love a cup of coffee. . . I wish she didn’t hide how pretty she is. . . I hope she didn’t find out what Ben said about her. . . I wish I knew how many calories were in a bite of muffin. . .

Joy is used to Hearing Whispers. She’s used to walking down the street and instantly knowing people’s deepest, darkest desires. She uses this talent for good—to make people happy and give them what they want. But for her older sister, Jessica, the family gift is a curse, and she uses it to make people’s lives—especially Joy’s—miserable. Still, when Joy Hears Jessica Whisper I want to kill my Hearing dead, and kill me too if that’s what it takes, she knows she has to save her sister, even if it means deserting her friends, stealing a car, and running away with a boy she barely knows—a boy who may have a dark secret of his own.

This is a fair summary of the premise, but frankly, I think it doesn’t really capture the fresh charm of WHISPER’s narrative voice. Remember my last post, when we were talking about how sometimes, describing the plot doesn’t necessarily convey the essence of the book? Especially in a well-drawn character-driven novel like this one, it’s the protagonist that really charms the reader.

“Whisper is a story about communication,” Phoebe says, “especially within families–and yes, there’s some adventure in the last 1/3, but mostly it’s a character story.”

I have to say I agree — and I think those authorial choices serve the story well. But you needn’t take my word for it; take a gander at this enviable sheaf of reviews:

“Whisper was an edge of the seat, nail-biter of a read.”
The Book Scout

“Whisper is an outstanding debut novel that I did not want to put down…This is an engaging and engrossing read that leaves the reader continuously guessing at what is going to happen next. The paranormal aspect blends flawlessly with the normal, everyday life making me wonder if it is possible for there to be families out there like Joy’s. The family interactions are part of what makes this novel so fabulous. It is realistic and heartwarming to read about these girls having to overcome so much just to be kinda like everyone else.
The Neverending Bookshelf

“Whisper was an addicting and fast paced debut novel chronicling one girl’s journey through a superhero type ability- hearing people’s wants and desires, otherwise known as whispers…a book that I’m sure will be flying of the shelves come its April release, and a read I highly suggest to fans of the paranormal genre, because, let me tell you, Ms. Kitanidis is a great new voice in the that genre!”
Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

In short, I’m pretty thrilled to be recommending this book to all and sundry — and sending copies of it to many creative-minded girls of my acquaintance. (Oh, you’re surprised to hear that I’m a one-woman literature-pushing machine?)

But I promised you a contest, didn’t I? And a fabulous one at that.

The Author! Author!/WHISPER Great First Page Made Even Better Contest
Ever long to have a pro peruse the first page of your manuscript and give you feedback for free? Now’s your chance — enter your first page and win a full professional critique on a future Author! Author! blog.

That’s right: you’ve been begging for this for a long time, readers, and now a lucky few of you are going to get it.

It’s an especially great opportunity for YA writers: Phoebe Kitanidis, author of WHISPER, will critique winners’ first pages — either identified by name or anonymously, as you prefer — on this very forum. (Being me, I shall probably chime in, too.)

That’s not to say that those of you who write fiction for adults or memoir should feel left out, however. In Category II, I shall be critiquing winners’ novel or memoir first pages in a future blog. Knowing me, those critiques are likely to be quite specific.

“But Anne,” I hear some of you potential entrants asking, “what happens if you receive an entry that does not need any critique at all? What if mine, for instance, is completely marvelous?”

That fortuitous entry will receive the most coveted prize of all: the Author! Author! Award for Expressive Excellence: Great First Page. There is no finer query letter candy, is there?

Jumping up and down from excitement yet? I hope so. Here are the rules:

1. Polish the first page of your manuscript to a high gloss and save it as a Word document.
Submissions should consist of the actual first page of a manuscript as you would submit it to an agent or editor, not simply a page’s worth of writing. The judges want to see the opening of your book in precisely the same format as Millicent the agency screener is likely to read it. That way, our feedback can be useful for future submissions.

Only a single page will be accepted. Even if your first page ends mid-sentence, please do not include additional text. However, if you have been vacillating between two different openings, please feel free to enter each as separate entries.

No more than two entries per entrant, please, and previously published material. Contest winners will benefit most by submitting recently-written work.

2. Make sure that page is properly formatted.
All entries must be in standard manuscript format. (If you don’t know what standard format is, or indeed that a professional standard exists, please see the HOW TO FORMAT A MANUSCRIPT category in the archive list at right.)

Please format your entry page precisely as you would the first page of a submission to an agency or publishing house, including slug line, skipped lines at the top of the page, and any necessary chapter designation. For an example of what a properly-formatted first page should look like, please see this post from my most recent series on standard format.

3. On a separate page of the Word document, write a BRIEF (
In other words, what is fresh about your book? (Hint: this question will be significantly easier to answer if you mention what your book category of choice is.)

4. On the same page, include your contact information.
Name, address, and e-mail address will suffice.

5. Make sure to mention which category you are entering.
The two possibilities Category I (YA) or Category II (Adult Fiction and Memoir).

Entrants may enter more than one category, but please, do not enter the same page as both YA and Adult Fiction. Please submit each entry in a separate e-mail.

6. Attach the Word document you’ve created to an e-mail and send it to anneminicontest@gmail(dot)com by May 24, 2010 May 31, 2010.
Yes, I did just give you an extension out of the goodness of my heart — happy spring!

Please include FIRST PAGE ENTRY in the subject line, and mention the category you’re entering in the body of the e-mail. Contest entries must be date-stamped by midnight in your time zone. No exceptions.

That’s not too complicated, is it? Phoebe and I are really looking forward to seeing your first pages, and may the best openers win!

And as always, keep up the good work!

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