After I finished my allotted group, I wondered what happened to previous winners so I randomly choose 2005 and contacted winners Ruth Logan Herne for General Fiction, Cheryl Wyatt for Contemporary Romance, and Camy Tang for Mystery/Suspense/Thriller to ask what they were currently doing and what impact Genesis had.
Ruth: I'm having the time of my life working for Love Inspired Books. My most recent release was the 4 Star Yuletide Hearts, part of the Men of Allegany County series, and I'm looking forward to A Family to Cherish, my July release. I was blessed to final and/or win in the Noble Theme, later called Genesis, multiple times. I love this contest. It allows Christian authors a chance to shine in their genre, and that's rare. I contracted my first agent as a result and caught the interest of several editors, exactly what I wanted to accomplish.
The Genesis/Noble Theme was good to me and for me. I began to see the broad scope of Christian fiction, how its growth has opened up doors of opportunity for so many. It was worth every penny I spent and got me lots of great feedback even when I didn't win. I also made sure I entered several different entries, hoping to shine multiple times. And it worked!
Cheryl:Winning Genesis significantly affected my career. My now-editor, from my dream house, Love Inspired, was sitting in the front row. She was very excited and remembered me from another manuscript I had submitted. I sold my first book to them days after returning from the conference...it had won the Romance Category of Noble Theme the year prior. Now, I'm on my 10th book...in a medical mini-series titled Eagle Point Emergency. The Doctor's Devotion is on sale for pre-order now. Doctor to the Rescue will be available in December.
Even the years I'd entered and not finaled were beneficial because the judges' comments steered me to things I needed to work on craft-wise. It also helped me see my strengths. The positive reinforcement gave me courage to keep trying even though I didn't score high the first couple times I entered. That I started out with very low scores then progressed to win and to contract is a testament that this contest has far-reaching benefits.
I think in the beginning, most writers aren't as far along as they think they are. I see a lot of open hostility from people who don't final. When you complain openly, you're making yourself look unprofessional. That always bothers me because they don't realize that agents and editors are watching. As one editor wisely put it: the industry has a looooooong memory. Stay humble, teachable, Christ-like and determined to learn. Judges aren't right 100% of the time. But they are right MOST of the time.
Camy: The editor who would later buy Deadly Intent, my first Love Inspired Suspense, was the first person to congratulate me after I won in 2005. Getting the attention of editors and agents was the most surprising aspect. I had been unaware of the growing prestige of the contest and hadn't thought that the editors who hadn't judged the contest would pay that much attention to the winners. Now that Genesis has gained so much respect among the Christian publishing industry, I think current winners can be assured that their names are being noted by editors, especially when the finalists have appointments with them at the ACFW conference.
It's hard to put your "baby" out there and I applaud participants for it! Go into it with a humble heart because even the most critical comment could have a grain of truth in it that will help you improve your writing. I have gained the absolute best feedback from my judges, even the ones who gave me low scores. It kept me constantly striving to improve my craft and hit the audience I want to write for. My most current book is Protection for Hire published by Zondervan.
Congratulations to the winners. Continue to improve your craft. Editors and agents will be watching, so show them you're hard-working, humble, and kind. Also show that you're generous with your time in giving back to the Genesis—offer to judge next year!
Thanks, ladies. These authors had more to say. Complete transcripts are available when you request by comment below. For the list of winners from other years or for more about the contest, go to www.acfw.com.