Stephen brought my attention to a story from the September 23rd Chicago Tribune. It was such a positive article that I shelved my plans for today's post to write about it.
Regular readers of this blog will remember a post from January about the writing contest sponsored by Simon & Schuster and Gather.com, the social networking site. You can read about it here.
The Tribune article explains that more than 2,600 writers posted chapters of their work on Gather.com. The visitors to the site voted on the entries, submitting more than 90,000 votes. Five finalists were selected, and their first three chapters were given to a panel of expert judges from the publishing and bookstore world.
First place was awarded to a mystery by Terry Shaw titled The Way Life Should Be. However, the judges were so impressed by 31-year-old Geoffrey S. Edwards second-place entry, Fire Bell in the Night, that he was told his manuscript would be published as well and he'd receive a $5,000 advance against royalties.
"The novel is set in Charleston, S.C., in 1850, and follows a newspaper reporter from New York as he uncovers a conspiracy whose origins will lead to the Civil War. The title comes from Thomas Jefferson's description of the Missouri Compromise as a 'fire bell in the night,' which 'awakened and filled me with terror'."
The book was released last month, and Edwards sounds as though he still cannot believe his luck, describing himself as "horribly unsuccessful" at finding an agent or publisher prior to the contest.
Edwards was born in Guam, raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and moved to Chicago when he was a high school student. He's a textbook editor with a history degree and is now working on a second novel about the Revolutionary War.
Gather is currently sponsoring two more writing contests. The five finalists have been selected for the "First Chapters Romance Contest," and you can vote on their entries here.
And, ten days ago, I posted about the "Next Great Crime Writer Contest" here. You can read the details about that contest here.
If you'd like to read the entire Chicago Tribune article on Edwards' book, go here.