Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Kelly Hayes-Raitt explains below why she enters writing competitions. Wow; I can’t wait to read her book:

In my preparation for a search for an agent, I started sending out chapters of my nearly complete book to various contests.¬† My book (tentatively titled Keeping the Faith:¬† An American Woman’s Listening Tour Among the World’s Forgotten) is about my work with Iraqi and Palestinian refugees — a series of stories that put a human face on US foreign policies — and about my healing from a mid-life loss.¬† I call it a political Eat, Pray, Love.

It was a ballsy move to enter chapters for competition.¬† This is my first book, and I hardly consider myself having award-winning chops.¬† Additionally, my work is highly political, making it even more subjective to judges’ whims.¬† But, last year my Chapter Three was awarded First Prize by the country’s oldest writing group, the Alabama Writers Conclave!¬† A month later, it was awarded Second Prize by the Southern Illinois Writers Guild, then placed Honorable Mention at the DePaul University Summer Writing Conference.¬† Chapter Three now considers itself a stuck-up breadwinner…

Not to be outdone, Chapter One just won Honorable Mention for International Essay in the SF-based Soul-Making Literary Competition.  This chapter will also appear (along with an excerpt from another chapter) in an anthology Random House is publishing this spring.  More on that extraordinary development later!

I continue submitting other chapters in competition.¬† I feel the process prepares me for rejection, shows potential agents and publishers that I’m not afraid to get my work “out there,” starts building an audience for my book, and, hey, every once in a while, a chapter wins something, allowing me to plump my book proposal and queries.¬† Besides, I never know who is reading these contest entries.¬† One judge recently asked if I would consider having my (losing) entry included in an anthology she is pitching to publishers.

Contest entries are time-consuming and entry fees add up, so I choose wisely, making sure I beat the deadlines and meet the entry specifications (word count, format).¬† I only enter contests I feel I can win and contests I feel I can afford to lose.¬† Like everything else in publishing, it’s a numbers game, so I just keep submitting!

Kelly Hayes-Raitt, is an (ahem) award-winning author who is tempted to start her own competition among agents to drum up interest in her book…except, of course, it doesn’t work in that direction.¬† She blogs at


2 Comments so far

  1. James O'Reilly on March 12, 2010 12:18 pm

    Kelly, I’d love to read some sample chapters from your Keeping the Faith ms, or if easier to email whole ms, that’s fine too. Or hard copy if that’s easier for any reason to me at 853 Alma St. Palo Alto CA 94301.

  2. Dalel Khalil on March 22, 2010 5:49 pm

    I met Kelly in Damascus, Syria in 2008 – I told her about my book (FROM VEILS TO THONGS An Arab Chick’s Survival Guide to Balancing One’s Ethnic Identity in America) and she told me about Keeping the Faith.

    I can honestly say that her passion for truth, her strong voice for voices unheard, her courage and captivating story telling makes it no surprise that she wins all these awards. Veritas!

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