The 2014 Manuscript Contest is now accepting entries. The deadline for submission is February 21st, 2014 at midnight. Last year Cornelia Levy won in the Historical Fiction category. This is her story.


One very late evening in May, I checked my e-mails and this is what I read: Congratulations! You are a WLT Manuscript Contest Winner

My heart started beating so fast I could not breathe.  I ran to the phone and called my son in Los Angeles and my daughter in Austin and burst out the news.

A few weeks before, I had found myself a finalist in the historical fiction category- an unexpected gift.  But nothing compared with being chosen winner. So what did that mean?  What was expected of me? A ten-minute conference with the agent who chose me winner, and “the opportunity to read a short excerpt from my work in front of an audience of conference attendees.”  There was much to be done and learned.

I first read the critique from the judges who chose me finalist. The synopsis is not a teaser, they said: be specific about the “inevitable.”   They loved my opening sentence, but asked I look at the rest of first page. “Don’t make a saint of this character.”  And, oh my, a cliché!  That is an abomination to any writer, but especially to a historical fiction writer.

Then I found out I only would have one and a half minutes to read from my manuscript- not narration but action.   This is where I started. I picked a scene that enhanced the characters, mentioned the conflict, and had a little humor.  But the timing was not right.  So I started cutting unnecessary words, making sure the dialogue was strong, and the setting worked. Having taught acting and creative writing, I wasn’t shy when I went up to read.  And to my delight, several of the attendees that night and the next day stopped by to tell me they enjoyed the reading.

            On Saturday morning I went to an outstanding panel on historical fiction where I met the agent I would see in the afternoon.  During our conference, she greeted me with a smile, told me there were passages in my first five pages that she liked, and invited me to tell her about my novel. Excited to share a story I love, I accepted. The agent seemed very interested and asked for the next two chapters and a query letter.

All summer, I made revisions, removed clichés, fixed my synopsis, and changed the title of my book. Though my story was not for her, I understood.  A few days after she let me know , I received e-mail from an editor of a reputable publishing house requesting I send her my novel.  “When a door closes, a window opens.”

And all because I entered the Manuscript Contest!  And look at all I learned in the process.  If you have written a story you want to share, get it ready, especially the first five pages, and enter the contest.   Add the critique to your entry.  I learned so much about beginnings, synopsis, characters, and clichés.

I can’t thank the Writers’ League of Texas enough for providing this opportunity to dreamers and writers.  “If not now, when?”

Cornelia Levy

To enter the 2014 Manuscript Contest go to:


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