Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Submitting to the New Voices Writing Contest

With the New Voices submission deadline quickly approaching, aspiring picture book writers preparing to submit to the contest may be asking themselves “Am I ready to send off my story?”. If you are a writer grappling with this question, you’re in luck! We’ve assembled a checklist of ten questions you should ask yourself before submitting to the 2018 New Voices Award writing contest:

New Voices Award banner

  1. Am I an unpublished picture book writer?

The New Voices Award is a writing contest focused on finding, well, new voices! To qualify for the award a participant must self-identify as a person of color or Native nation and have never had a picture book published.

  1. Does my manuscript meet the submissions guidelines?

Our contest judges are interested in picture books for young readers that address the needs of children of color and Native nations by providing stories with which they can identify and relate, and which promote a greater understanding of one another. Submissions must be fiction, non-fiction, or poetry and should be no more than 1500 words in length. If your manuscript is geared towards older audiences, consider submitting it to our New Visions Award contest instead.

  1. Should I submit one manuscript or two?

Can’t decide which story to submit? No problem! We accept up to two submissions per entrant. Both manuscripts should be accompanied by a cover letter and mailed separately.

  1. Did I read my story aloud to make sure the characters’ dialogue sounds believable?

Reading your manuscript out loud is the best way to detect inconsistencies within your story and your characters’ dialogue. Do your children characters use words and phrases an adult would? Does the dialogue in your story contain expressions not typically heard in casual conversation? If so, consider editing these points in your story to make the dialogue sound more natural. A strong manuscript has characters that speak and behave in believable ways.

  1. Did I share my story with others whose feedback I trust?

Sharing your manuscript with trusted readers can be a great way to identify the strengths and weaknesses in your story, so you can make improvements in your next draft.

  1. Did I revise my manuscript based on that feedback?

Revising is an essential part of the writing process. Use the feedback you’ve received to address the weaknesses in your story. It’s through revision that your writing and your manuscript become stronger.

  1. Did I provide all of the required information in my cover letter?

A well-done cover letter contains the writer’s name, address, phone number, email address, brief biographical note, relevant cultural and ethnic information, how they heard about the contest, and their publication history, if any. This information helps our judges get a sense of who each writer is and how they are personally connected to the story they’re submitting.

  1. Did I proofread my manuscript and cover letter? Twice?

We recommend proofreading your manuscript and cover letter more than once to ensure that both are free of errors.

  1. Did I prepare a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to have my manuscript returned to me after the contest?

If you’d like to have your manuscript returned to you with a copy of the official press release announcing the results of the contest, you must include a self-addressed envelope of appropriate size and postage with your submission.

  1. Will my submission be post-marked by August 31, 2018?

Make sure you’re aware of our new submission deadline! All entries must be post-marked by August 31, 2018 to qualify for the New Voices Award.

If you’ve answered “yes” to all ten questions, you’re in great shape! You can find more information about the New Voices Award here. For inspiration and helpful tips, check out our Shaping Up Your Manuscript webinar and these blog posts featuring New Voices Award-winning writers and artists:

Where Are They Now?: New Voices Award Authors and Artists Discuss Their Experience and Creative Process
10 Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Realistic Dialogue