Promising Beginnings Contest

Because I believe in the power, impact, and influence Christian writers’ conferences have for authors, the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, which I direct, is now sponsoring the Promising Beginnings contest.

The winner of this contest will be awarded a FULL SCHOLARSHIP to the 2020 SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, July 8-11, at Azusa Pacific University. Includes meals in the dining hall during the conference and dual-occupancy dorm lodging (you may pay the difference to upgrade) plus reimbursement of travel expenses (domestic economy air fare or mileage, whichever is less) up to $300.

There is NO FEE to enter this contest. It is open to both published and unpublished writers.

– One entry per person
– First five pages of an unpublished or self-published manuscript
            Does not have to be a completed manuscript.
            Do not send more than five pages, even if the last page ends in mid-sentence.
– Fiction or nonfiction—no poetry or children’s books
– Book does not need to be overtly Christian but must have a Judeo-Christian worldview
– Must be written in English and follow the formatting guidelines below

Deadline for submission is February 27, 2020.
Entries received after midnight February 27 will not be considered.

Submissions will be judged on how much promise is shown in the quality of the writing, including:

  • intriguing opening “hook”
  • appealing tone/style
  • good flow/pace/smoothness
  • clarity, ease of readability, tight writing
  • application of professional writing techniques
  • cleanness (without typos, inconsistencies, or errors in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling)

Submissions must be formatted according to the following guidelines:

  • All margins 1 inch
  • Roman 12-point font
  • Double-space all text. No extra space between paragraphs. (Take out automatic paragraph spacing.)
  • Using the header feature, put your first and last name (real name, not pen name), followed by a slash, then your e-mail address, all flush left, and a running page number in the right corner.
  • At the top of the first page, type the working title of your book in ALL CAPS. If you have a subtitle, type that in Initial Caps on the next line. After skipping one line, type your name (pen name, if you use one). After skipping another line, type “Chapter 1” (or “Chapter One,” “Prologue,” “Introduction,” “Preface,” etc.). On the next line, put the chapter title (if it has one). This should all be centered (without left indent). Skip one more line, then start the text.
  • For all other text, use left alignment. (Leave right margin “ragged.”)
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph ½ inch (using automatic indentation, not spaces).

Save the file as a Word document (.doc or .docx, not .pages or PDF). The filename should be your first and last name, then an underscore (_), then the working title of your entry. (If the title is long, just the first few words.)

Email your entry as an attachment to our contest coordinator, Lori Freeland, at

Put “Promising Beginnings Contest” in the subject line of your e-mail, followed by your first and last name. In the body of the e-mail, please include:

Your name
E-mail address
Where you live (city & state or country)
Working title of the manuscript
Target readers’ age range
How you heard about this contest

The winner will be notified by e-mail no later than March 30, 2020. After that, an announcement will be posted on the SoCal website with the winner’s name and the working title of the submission.

To give your entry the best chance of winning, you may want to consider having your writing professionally critiqued, edited, and/or proofread. (NOTE: This is only a suggestion; it is not a requirement for submission to the contest.)

To find a high-quality Christian editor, feel free to check out Christian Editor Connection and fill out the form to Request an Editor.

To polish your “PUGS” (Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling), consider getting a copy of my Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors.

If you would like to contribute to this contest, please let me know. We would love to be able to offer more than just one scholarship!

In 2018, Laurel Shaler won the 6th annual Promising Beginnings contest. She attended the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference that summer and had a book published by Moody Publishers the following February.

Could the Lord have something similar in store for you?