My name is Fiona Marsden andI’m a SYTYCW tragic. Some people live for Christmas, Baseball Season, Poldark re-runs. I live for those few weeks of the year when I join my pod and swim madly, passionately, with them to the mating grounds. That’s a euphemism for hanging with my fellow aspiring romance writing peeps while we find out who gets a publishing contract.
I’ve been entering the SYTYCW contests run by Harlequin since they started under that name. They had a similar competition the first year I tried for publication but called something different. I sent my badly formatted first draft copy off in an email and received a politely worded form rejection letter some time later. Wham, Bam, thank you, Ma’am. And rightly so.
But the SYTYCW format was different. I’d just discovered social media. A whole newworld, a dazzling place I never knew… You get my drift. This was fun. F. U. N.
It was also a place where a real world introvert could fling off the shackles of social invisibility and pretend to be all sparkly and annoying…well maybe pretending the sparkly bit.
In 2012 I scraped into the top fifty when some poor entrant didn’t have a finished manuscript. I even got a request which resulted in a PERSONALISED rejection letter. I felt so special. I keep that letter close to my heart. On my hard drive anyway. Near enough.
2013 I got another request and another, thanks but no thanks. I kept that too. Because someone noticed me. My story anyway. *cries* I’m so happy.
2014. I have a secret. You won’t tell anyone, will you? I entered a manuscript that really wasn’t suitable. It was a lovely manuscript, but I knew the only chance it had of winning was if somehow the entire SYTYCW competition was transported through a Celtic stone circle to 1972. I’m pretty sure it would have been a winner back then. But I was desperate to be a part of the SYTYCW party. I would have done anything…short of plagiarism of course.
So we come to SYTYCW15. I would guarantee that I am the most prolific tweeter on the hashtag. Because I am determined to have fun. Sure I’d like to get published. But what I love about the competition is the new friends I make. Reading their stories. Many of the friends I’ve made in past years have gone on to be published. So every year there is a new batch.
I also love doing my read of the entries and trying to pick winners. I knew the moment I read Jennifer Hayward’s The Divorce Party back in 2012 it was “The One.” Since then I’ve picked quite a few that have been published as a result of the SYTYCW competition. It’s a challenge and a learning process and I hope others enjoy it too.
There is also the added pathos of never knowing when it will be your last. Because once that publishing contract comes, SYTYCW becomes something you can only watch and enjoy from the outside. Would I give up a publishing contract for the sake of another go at playing at SYTYCW?
No. Sometimes you have to be the grownup.
But it will be with a fond nostalgia that I bid it goodbye for the last time. This year…next year. Sometime. We have to dream big after all.