PWC Focus on Contests – by Miriam Shnycer


This year our annual contests feature four manuscript contests: Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Scriptwriting. Contestants must be registered for the 2016 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference to enter. Be sure to check out the contests page for all the rules.

Have you ever wondered about entering a contest? Do you have questions of what it takes to win? Have you thought about the rewards of winning? Read what three contest winners do to submit a winning manuscript. Learn how they reap the rewards of winning a contest.

Stephen Delia, 1st place winner of the 2015 poetry contest says he usually has a fellow poet look over his work because spell check only goes to far. Stephen stresses the value of having a good group of poets, such as, a critique group. He belongs to the Mad Poets Society to hear what other poets are doing and to learn from their readings. “It’s terrific for inspiration,” he adds. Stephen learned the hard way when he didn’t follow the guidelines and was disqualified from past contests. “Double and triple check them,” he says.

Jim Kempner, 1st place non-fiction winner in 2015 and 2014, agrees that critique groups are a good way to get feedback, such as, when group members point out things he didn’t think of. “My suggestion,” he says, “is to listen to all the critics and err by following their advice on writing, i.e., awkward sentences, unclear attributions etc., and then con that with what your subconscious wrote.” He advises that if your deadline permits, lay the piece aside and reread it after a few weeks with fresh eyes.

Lanny Larcinese, 1st place winner of the 2015 fiction contest, routinely sends out his work for at least a copy edit and usually a developmental edit too. He may not accept many of the developmental editor’s suggestions, but he listens to what the editor is trying to tell him. He keeps on top of his writing with beta reads but does not belong to a formal critique group. Lanny reads tons about his craft, and he attends all the local coffeehouse meetings. “I self-edit to a sickening degree,” he says.

All these winners were thrilled to win their contests. They use their winning recognitions for public relations and mention it in query letters. They enjoy the applause and the personal attention they receive from writers in the local writing community.

What do I say? Excellent writing wins. Make sure you have dotted all your i’s and crossed all your t’s. If you do not follow the guidelines, you will be eliminated. This year PWC has set aside a Sunday session to announce our winners and to give them the immediate opportunity to be congratulated by their peers.

As Jim succinctly says, “So submit. You can’t win unless you submit.”


Miriam S. Shnycer has been a PWC board member since 1990. She is the author of the book, The Shadows of Death, A Story of Young Holocaust Survivors and is a freelance writer specializing in speeches, profiles, editing, and newsletters. While in the employ of North American Publishing Company in Philadelphia, she was the editor of three trade magazines. She has authored numerous articles published in magazines and newspapers including the Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed page. She is a Life member of Kappa Tau Alpha, the journalism honor society.