WRiTE CLUB 2020


The world has been turned upside down by tiny virus, no doubt about it, but in a time where social distancing and self-isolation has become the norm, now more than ever we need both reminders that we will return to normal very soon, and something to keep our mind occupied and our thoughts focused on something more positive. In this vein I give you the return of WRiTE CLUB.

WRiTE CLUB is back for its ninth straight year and whether you’re serious about writing…or just like to dabble…it’s time to tighten up those laces. The “little contest that could” – known for identifying talent that most times goes on to realize their own publishing dream – continues to be associated with the DFW Writers Conference which has recently been recognized as one of the best writing conferences in America by The Writer magazine!



 This year’s contest will again run for eight weeks with the winner announced during the fabulous conference in Hurst, Texas taking place on June 13-14.  If for some reason the conference is cancelled, we will still announce the winner that same weekend. As always, even though the contest is sponsored by DFWCON, the contest is open to everyone…everywhere!


How about a little WRiTE CLUB history? The virtual contest started off as a modest competition loosely derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB, and from there it has grown into a writing community sensation.  There are other versions (usually LIVE face-to-face events), but they are nothing like how we do it here.  What sets it apart is the reader participation and the anonymous submissions.  The contest embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top. 

Here’s the ABC’s of how it works. Beginning today (Mar 27), you simply send in a 500-word writing sample using a pen name (details on how to do that below). Once the submission period closes (Apr 19), all the entries are read by a panel of twenty volunteers (I call them my slushpile readers). The slushpile readers are a diverse group of avid readers and they each will select their top samples. Their selections narrow down the contestant pool to the thirty writers picked by the most judges. Over the course of the next eight weeks, we’ll hold daily bouts (M-F) right here on this blog – randomly pitting those anonymous 500-word writing samples against each other. The winners of these bouts advance into elimination rounds, and then playoffs, quarter-finals, and then ultimately a face-off between two finalists to determine a single champion. The writing sample can be any genre, any style (even poetry), from a larger piece of work or flash fiction -- the word count being the only restriction.  It’s a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, receive a ton of feedback, all without having to suffer the agony and embarrassment of exposure.  And it’s all virtual with no chance of contamination! How cool is that?

And how are the winners of each bout determined? By you and other WRiTE CLUB readers! Anyone who visits my blog during the contest can vote for the writing sample that resonates with them the most in a bout.  All I ask is that you leave a brief critique of each piece to help the contestants improve their craft.

Wait a minute, how can samples of different genre's and age groups compete against one another?  First off, although we don’t like to admit it, writers compete against each other every day…in the query piles, bookstores, the library, and other online marketplaces. Which book am I going to take home with me (or download) today? Secondly, I believe visitors to WRiTE CLUB...regardless of the genre they read... can recognize excellent writing!  And it doesn't matter if that writing is YA, MG, Sci-Fi, Horror, Mystery, Fantasy, etc...etc.  I'm confident that the WRiTER's choosing to submit their work (which I have the utmost admiration for) do so knowing those 500-word snippets would stand on their own, without the benefit of plot or theme, and though there may be an element that suggests a specific genre (vampires are a dead giveaway), it is the way the writer weaves the scene that will be judged.

But to step into the WRiTE CLUB ring, you must first make it past our twenty slush pile judges. It’s their job to read each submission and help me decide the top 30 entries. The slush pile readers are comprised of people who come from different backgrounds…published authors…fellow bloggers...and individuals who simply have a passion for reading.  Our slushpile judges will also hold a pair of Twitter parties in April. They’ll be tweeting about submissions that caught their attention (all anonymously of course) and doing what they can to stoke the competitive fires. Watch the fun by using the Twitter hashtag #WRiTECLUBDFW.

So, what’s at stake…other than exposure? Here’s the booty available to be won.



Prize #1 - the WRiTE CLUB Champion — announced during the DFW Conference will receive FREE ADMISSION TO THE 2021 DFW CONFERENCE IN DALLAS.  That is a $429 value and an experience that cannot be missed! In addition, the winner will also receive a $100 Barnes & Noble gift card.

Prize #2 - the first runner-up (also announced at the conference) will receive a $75 Amazon gift card!

Prize #3 –Every visitor to a WRiTE CLUB bout during this year’s contest who leaves a vote/critique will have his/her name thrown in a hat. One slip for every bout voted on. There will be a total of 26 bouts, so it’s possible to have your name in the hat 26 times. Then at the end of the contest, we will draw one name out of that hat and that person will receive a $60 Barnes & Noble gift card! Yes…we value our readers/voters as well.

Prize #4 – Since this contest is powered and thrives based on word-of-mouth, we wanted to award a prize to a follower who creates the most unique and expressive ad campaign for WRiTE CLUB.  Here’s another chance to use your imagination. How will we decide the winner? Our nineteen slushpile readers will evaluate all of the entries and vote on their favorite. Simply email the details of what you are doing to WRiTECLUB2020@gmail.com and you’ll be entered. The prize is a $40 Barnes & Noble gift card!

Prize #5 –We will hold prize drawings for anyone who enters the contest, along with our slushpile readers, that are present at this years DFW Conference. A few lucky winners will receive a free DFW Conference T-shirt. Make sure you stop by the WRiTE CLUB display table at the conference and let us know you’re there.

And although not technically a prize, the combatants in the final round will be exposed to a panel of publishing industry professionals (list below)!  Agents, Editors, Publishers, Marketers, and well-known Authors!  I don’t want to brag (but I will anyway), every WRiTE CLUB winner (except one) has gone on to become published.

Still not convinced? Then how about some testimonials from previous WRiTE CLUB winners? Remember as you read these that the contest has evolved over the years.

Wendy Cross – 2019 winner. Her post.
Aden Polydoros – 2018 winner. His post.
Solange Hommel – 2016 winner.  Part 1.  Part 2.
Lisa Dunn – 2015 winner. Her post.
Dan Koboldt – 2014 winner. His post.
Arianne “Tex” Thompson – 2013 winner. Her post.
Dan Koboldt & Tex ThompsonSlushpile Impressions Post.

Are you bouncing up and down with excitement, wondering how to submit your sample? Here are some Q & A that will answer all your questions.

1.     How do I enter this fabulous contest? – The simplest way (for me) is for you to format the header of your entry like the example below (in a Word attachment, or a format compatible with Word), then click on the link just below the example to fill out the entry form and upload the document. Make sure to include the header information on your document even though the link will ask you to repeat some of it. Note – the pen name you choose cannot be tied to your real name in any way. That means you can’t use your Twitter handle or anything else somebody could recognize as you.

 


The information above MUST BE CONTAINED IN THE DOCUMENT you upload!

Make sure after you upload the document you hit SUBMIT. You must have a Google account to submit this way, but don’t worry if you don’t (but who doesn’t these days?). You can still do it the old-fashioned way by emailing your submission to WRiTECLUB2020@gmail.com. My wife is the only person monitoring that email address during the contest and she will log and assign every entry a number – then remove the writer’s name. You will receive a confirmation email from her once your entry has been logged.  A word of caution – although I do my best to make sure the original formatting remains intact when a submission gets uploaded for a bout, sometimes HTML doesn’t cooperate. So go easy on any specialized formatting. It’s the words that matter, not the presentation.

2.     How long do I have to submit? - Submissions are open March 27th until April 19th.  After that date, a panel of twenty judges will read all the entries and select 30 of the best writing samples to climb into the ring.

3.     How flexible is the 500-word limit? It’s not flexible. Anything over 500-words will be rejected, and the 500 words includes any titles or headings.

4.     What happens after I submit – how will I know if I’ve been selected to fight? In 2019 we had 225 entries, so just getting selected to take part in the contest is a reason to celebrate. To find out if you’re one of the thirty contestants, you must follow the contest and watch for your pen name to appear on the day of the bout.

5.     Is there a limit to the number of times I can enter? You may enter two different writing samples – each in separate entries using the same pen name – but only one will be eligible to become part of the 30 contestants. The sample that does not get selected can be used for future rounds if you’re lucky enough to advance. 

6.     What happens if I make into the playoff rounds? If you progress past the first round, you’ll need to provide additional writing pieces for subsequent rounds (as many as four total – with the final one being 1000 words). The additional pieces don’t have to be related to the original, but they can be if you choose to do that. So be prepared.

7.     I don’t intend to enter a submission, but can I still vote on the bouts? Absolutely! All we ask is that you leave a brief critique for both contestants. Although our contestants are anonymous – voting is not. And every time you vote your name is placed in a hat from which a prize winner will be pulled at the conclusion of the contest to win a $60 Barnes & Noble gift card. 

8.     When you say anonymous…just how anonymous? No one (other than my wife)…not even the judges being used to pre-select the 30 contestants, will see the true identity of any sample.  Not even me.

9.     If I entered last year can I use the same pen name again this year? No. We start fresh every year, which means no repeating pen names. 

1.  What changes can we expect this year?  If you aren’t chosen to be in a bout, there is still a way you can receive feedback. Several of our slushpile readers will provide feedback if you do two things. 1) You must cast a vote in two-thirds (10) of the first-round bouts. 2) You must request that feedback after the contest is finished.

1.  How can I help spread the word? Write a blog post, mention it on Facebook, Tweet about it (#WRiTECLUBDFW), post a pic on Instagram, talk about it on any writer forums you visit, heck…send up smoke signals if you have to. Please take note – you cannot drive traffic to promote a specific piece of writing. That will get a writer disqualified. Just ask people to read and vote their hearts.

Contest Calendar


Here are the rules of WRiTE CLUB
(loosely based on the rules from the movie Fight Club).

1st RULE: You DON’T talk about WRiTE CLUB – What we mean is no one can solicit votes for a specific contestant.  All the writing entries are anonymous, and we want it to stay that way. This is not a popularity contest! Ask others to vote – YES. Ask others to vote for a specific contestant – NO. Violators will be immediately disqualified.

2nd RULE: You MUST talk about WRiTE CLUB – This may seem contradictory, but we want everyone to spread the word far and wide so we can involve as many writers/readers as possible.  Display the WRiTE CLUB banner prominently on your own blog.  Write a post about it (I’m more than willing to guest post on your blog).  Tweet it.  Make videos and post them on Facebook. And once the contest starts, keep banging that drum so we can attract as many voters as possible and give our contestants as much exposure as possible.

3rd RULE: Anyone can WRiTE, but it must be original material. Your submission can not have been published anywhere else before! (That includes your blog) 

4th RULE: Bouts will continue for only eight weeks - No matter how many submissions we receive.

6th RULE: No shirts, no shoes - Come on, tell me you didn't giggle at that one.

7th RULE: If someone taps out, WRiTING is over - Tapping out means a WRiTER can decide at any time during the competition to withdraw their name from the pool. If that happens the next writer from the slush pile with the most votes will move into that spot.

Here are this year’s celebrity judges (and their bios) who will be choosing the final winner for 2020:

Delilah Dawson is the New York Times bestselling author of a long list of works including:

    Star Wars: PHASMA
    The Secrets of Long Snoot
    The Perfect Weapon
    Servants of the Storm

She’s the author of a variety of short stories featured in anthologies including Death & Honey, Robots vs. Fairies, and Hellboy: an Assortment of Horrors, and she is the co-writer with Kevin Hearne of Kill the Farm Boy and No Country for Old Gnomes, the first two titles in the Tales of Pell series.

Her comics credits include Star Pig, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire, Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Ladycastle #1-4, The X-Files Case Files: Florida Man #1-2, and Rick and Morty Presents: Pickle Rick.

She is the winner of the 2015 Fantasy Book of the Year from RT Book Reviews for Wake of Vultures and the 2013 Steampunk Book of the Year and May Seal of Excellence for Wicked As She Wants.

Delilah will also be the keynote speaker at this year’s DFW Conference and appearing in several panel discussions.


Jennifer Hiller  writes about dark, twisted people who do dark, twisted things. Her newest psychological thriller, Little Secrets, just will be out in April. She’s also the author of Jar of Hearts (Winner! Best Hardcover Novel 2019 International Thriller Writers Award and Finalist for Best Novel for the 2019 Anthony Award ), Creep, Freak, The Butcher, and Wonderland, which were published by Gallery Books and are available now.

She was born in Toronto, but spent eight years in the Seattle area, which is where all her novels are set. She’s a Seahawks fan but married a Packers guy. They have a young son who looks most like her when he's crying. Her favorite author is Stephen King (but whose isn't?). She’s afraid of the dark and can't sleep unless she’s checked the locks on the doors several times. She loves writing when it's raining, sleeping when it's sunny, and reading after everyone else has gone to bed. She cherishes her family (those who read, and those who don't), and her friends (those who write, and those who don't).
She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Crime Writers of Canada. She’s also a regular columnist at The Thrill Begins, where she talks a lot about her writing journey and dispenses advice you may or may not find helpful.

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but hopefully not every day.


Barbara Nickless  was made in Japan, born in Guam, and made her way through various ports of call to Colorado. There, her mother—an English literature teacher—gave Barbara her love of reading by starting her on comic books. Which might explain why she grew up to adore  H. Rider Haggard, E.E. “Doc” Smith, and Shakespeare in equal measure. When she was three, she told her mother that all she wanted was to be a writer. But that wasn’t strictly true. She also wanted to be a sword fighter, an astronaut, to conduct an orchestra, go in search of lost cities and work on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. If only she’d known early on that she could do all of those things—at least in her imagination—by being a writer. She got there. It just took her awhile. But that is the best way to live life—great journeys are as much about the detours as the destination. In addition to her career as a technical writer and instructional designer, she tried her hand as a raptor rehabilitator, a piano performer, and a sword fighter. She served as the Director of Education for the country’s largest public astronomical observatory and taught Beethoven to kids. It was all great fun. But then a wildfire burned down her family’s home. It was that moment. The one that makes you look around and think, weren’t there other things I planned to do? Hadn’t I dreamed of writing novels—lots of novels—and traveling the world? Losing everything also meant she had everything to gain.

Her revitalized resolve to be a writer resulted in the Special Agent Sydney Parnell crime series, starting with the award-winning Blood on the Tracks and Dead Stop and the Wall Street Journal bestseller Ambush. June 2020 brings the fourth book in the series, Gone to Darkness. And traveling is now in the stars! After recent trips to Morocco and South Africa, her plan is to springboard off the miles she’s logged hiking the Colorado Rockies and scale Mt. Kilimanjaro before the snow melts. After that, maybe the Eastern and Oriental Express, or the mean streets of Cali. You can find her at www.barbaranickless.com.


Gloria Chao is the critically acclaimed author of American Panda, Our Wayward Fate,
and Rent a Boyfriend (September 1st, 2020).

Her wayward journey to fiction included studying business at MIT, then becoming a dentist. Gloria was once a black belt in kung-fu and an avid dancer, but nowadays you can find her teaming up with her husband on the curling ice.

AMERICAN PANDA received four starred trade reviews, is a Junior Library Guild Selection and Indie’s Next Pick, and is a Seventeen Magazine, Bustle, PopSugar, Chicago Public Library, and Paste Magazine Best YA Book of 2018.

Marci Bolden  As a teen, Marci skipped over young adult books and jumped right into reading romance novels. She never left.
Marci lives in the Midwest with her husband, two teenaged kiddos, and numerous rescue pets. If she had an ounce of will power, Marci would embrace healthy living but until cupcakes and wine are no longer available at the local grocery store, she’ll put that ambition on hold and appease her guilt by reading self-help books and promising to join a gym “soon.”



Caitie Flum  joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a B.A. in English with a concentration in publishing studies. She interned at Hachette Book Group and Writers House. She was an editorial assistant then coordinator for Bookspan, where she worked on several clubs including the Book-of-the-Month Club, The Good Cook, and the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club.





Shelly Stinchcomb is passionate fan of the written word, which is appropriate because
she makes her living as an editor. As a Developmental Editor with over 9 years of experience, she takes the approach of a writing coach. Her expertise, strength, and value is in working closely with writers on areas such as language, story flow, narrative tension, plot and character development, consistency, and pace. Understanding how intrusive editing can feel, she takes great pride in providing an honest review and thoughtful suggestions, often with explanation, so not only does the writers current manuscript improve, their overall writing for future projects does as well. Her focus is all in the details to help any writer polish their manuscripts and make them shine.

She creates an environment of open communication where projects are discussed freely and without judgment. Her end goal is to work collaboratively to build a trusting, long-term relationship with each of her clients.

She edits for fiction authors across a variety of genres, with multiple best-selling clients such as Caroline Mitchell, Holly Kammier, and Jessica Therrien. Other clients, including award winners, Bruce Ashkenas, Ramcy Diek, and Debra Kristi.

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Besides these wonderful writing celebrities, the numerous agents and editors attending the DFW Conference (bios available soon), and the seven other WRiTE CLUB winners (Wendy Cross, Aden Polydors, Solange Hommel, Lisa Dunn, Dan Koboldt, Tex Thompson, and Mark Hough), will also have a vote.

Are you willing to WRiTE for what you want?  Then crack those knuckles and get ready to flex that imagination.  

Whatever you do, tell your friends!

This is WRiTE CLUB, the contest where the audience gets clobbered! 







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