HCC instructor advances to third round of national novel contest


(Release: April 4, 2011) - Hagerstown Community College English instructor Amanda Skjeveland has advanced to the third round of the annual “Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest,” which began in January 2011.

Held each year by Amazon.com, the contest accepts 10,000 fiction entries: 5,000 in general fiction and 5,000 in young adult fiction. Writers may submit novels between 50,000 and 150,000 words that are previously unpublished or self-published. Judges narrow down the entrants over a six-month period and two grand prize winners are announced in June. Skjeveland has made it to the third round of the general fiction competition and is one of 500 entrants remaining. As a quarterfinalist, her full manuscript will be reviewed by Publishers Weekly. In addition, Amazon customers are able to download, rate, and review her novel on Amazon.com, which is intended to provide reader feedback for Penguin editors who are reviewing contest submissions.

“I was really nervous as I waited to find out whether I'd made it to the third round,” says Skjeveland. “Although I always tell my creative writing students to write for themselves, waiting to get that first feedback from readers is both exhilarating and terrifying.”

Skjeveland, who says she’s been writing since she could first hold a pencil, has previously published poetry and short fiction in literary magazines, but has never attempted to publish a novel. She wrote her 70,000-word novel, “Memorabilia,” during the summer of 2010. She says that she undertook the project as part of her own personal “novel-writing month.”

According to Skjeveland, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is held every November. Writers who participate in this project have the ultimate goal of completing a 50,000-word novel in one month but, for academics, trying to write an entire novel during the month of November is often a challenge. To circumvent this issue, Skjeveland held her own NaNoWriMo in June and wrote “Memorabilia” over a five-week period.

The next round of the contest will take place in April during which 100 semi-finalists will be chosen. Three finalists will be announced in May with the final winner announced in June. The grand prize recipient in each of the two categories will receive a full publishing contract with Penguin to market and distribute the winning manuscript as a published book and an award of $15,000 upon full execution of the publishing contract as an advance payment against the royalties to be earned as part of the contract.

“The enthusiastic support from my family, friends, and co-workers has been amazing,” says Skjeveland. “Writing is such a solitary task; it’s an incredible feeling to sit alone for so many hours creating a new world, and then to realize that readers are actually excited to spend time in that world.”