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Posts tagged ‘Shadowfae’

First Monday August 2020 – how to be a Valerie Parv Award writing “minion”

Over and over, we’re hearing how our world has changed. If you’d told me last August that I’d be announcing the winner of the 2020 Valerie Parv Award via Zoom at a virtual writing conference, I’d have said you’re dreaming. But thanks to a nasty bug which doesn’t need any more publicity, this is our “new normal.”

Even more astonishing is that this year we’re celebrating 20 years of the Valerie Parv Award under the banner of Romance Writers of Australia.

The winner’s name is a secret until the official announcement later this month but the short list is already out. Congratulations to the finalists, in no particular order, Amanda Newberry, Karen Lieversz, Kristin Silk, Davina Stone, Dianna Lennon, Rachel Armstrong and Frances Dall-Alba. One of you will be my new “minion” as past winners call themselves. As a previous minion tweeted when the list came out, someone’s life is about to change and they don’t even know it.

I’m always thrilled to see the minions winning awards, publishing all over the world, and becoming great friends. The saying is, “once a minion, always a minion.” Sadly, a virtual conference doesn’t allow our annual Minions’ Breakfast where we catch up wearing our special tiaras.

Valerie Parv am and VPA Contest Manager       Karina Coldrick

This year, because of the lockdowns, we all got so much writing done. Yeah, me neither. The world is so crazy that it can be difficult to write at all, with crafting and baking having more appeal.  When actor, Debra Lee Furness, complained about being locked down with her family, a friend said she had no sympathy. Asked why, the friend pointed out that Furness was locked down with Hugh Jackman. Such a sacrifice.

Despite such challenges, this year’s VPA finalists are an impressive group. The entries ranged from a gritty Regency heroine; to a reunion romance; a challenging birthday gift; a mismatched couple finding love in the outback; an escape-worthy fling in the fairytale world; a friends-to-lovers story; and a page-turner “secret baby”.

The final entries, give readers respite or head-on challenges, sometimes both. There’s much experimenting with present tense. Backgrounds are sketched in with a light hand..

So how does a writer become the next VPA minion? These are some aspects I take into account:

  1. You write from the heart

Every highly-placed entry is a labour of love and it shows. Your story may not be perfectly written but your characters are people we care about from the start.

  1. You add a touch of originality

If two entries vie for the top prize, I generally favour the more original. Your story will have something special that transcends genre.

  1. You’re a storyteller

I look for a story that comes to life right away, giving us people we want to see triumph against the odds. I’ll read any genre or time period as do agents and editors. Like them, I forgive occasional writing slips as long as you give me a page-turning story.

  1. You have the X-factor

I know it as soon as I see it. The entry may not be the one I want to choose but the writing makes the choice inescapable. In her winning book, Shadowfae, Erica Hayes thanked me “for wanting so hard for this book not to win, that it did.” A great review in the Wall Street Journal backed me up.

In The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker, one of two books we worked on together, minion Joanna Nell included her “heartfelt thanks…for encouraging her to trust her instincts and tell [her] story from the heart.” IMO this is the very best way to write.

Rather than answers, I give the minions tools they can apply to any story. For example, identify the work the writing has to do. Every sentences, scene and chapter must have a job to do, revealing character, moving the story forward, deepening conflict, filling in essential background, or in a mystery/suspense, planting clues and red herrings.

Another VPA minion, Carly Main, said, “I’ve tried a few critique partners but nobody has ever suggested new ways of telling the story. Is it a matter of experience or do published authors look at manuscripts in a different way?”

I can’t speak for other authors, but I’ve known that once you identify why a scene or chapter is in there, you open up dozens of ways to achieve the purpose, rather than simply rewriting the scene in different words, making rewriting and editing much simpler.

Minion Michelle Somers
checks out a poster in LA

A well-honed story sense is part of the X-factor. The rest is studying your craft to discover not only what works but why. Curiously, however far you go into fantasy and sci-fi, or human psychology, as author and TV show-runner, John Yorke, points out, the basic human story structure remains constant, explaining the world to us, and us to ourselves.

Could you be a future VPA minion? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. The blog is moderated to avoid spam, but your comment can appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone. Happy writing,

Valerie

On Facebook and Twitter @valerieparv

Romance Writers of Australia virtual

conference details at – http://tinyurl.com/yyk76wyd

The writing blog that almost made me cry

I’ve blogged recently about the Valerie Parv Award as it’s dear to my heart, not least because Romance Writers of Australia saw fit to carry it on in my name. I thought that sort of thing only happened when you’re no longer around. Or am I  mixing this up with street names? Thankfully, I didn’t have to drop off my twig for this honour, and after more than a decade of mentoring the winners, the award is an important part of my writing life. Personal life, too, as the winners – affectionately known as minions – are now friends as well.  The Minions’ Breakfast is a fun part of the RW Aust conference each year, when we catch up and welcome the newest winner. You can spot us by our tiaras.

This year’s VPA opened on April 23, restricted to a maximum of 80 entries for the first time. By the I posted this, all 80 openings were taken in under 24 hours. Today’s blog by Anna Cowan about her experiences as a minion moved me almost to tears.  http://annacowan.com/2012/04/23/the-valerie-parv-award-a-minions-tale/

The (in)famous Minions' Breakfast with tiaras

Knowing that you’ve been part of someone’s creative journey is rewarding and humbling.  Many winners are successfully published. Among them are Kelly Hunter, Mel Scott, Bronwyn Clarke writing as Bronwyn Parry, Rachel Robinson writing as Rachel Bailey, Erica Hayes, Kylie Griffin winning a prestige award from Romance Writers of America and seeing her first and second books published this year. This month,  Barbara Jeffcott Geris writing as Barbara de Leo was contracted to Entangled. Others are breathtakingly close. Yes, I’m looking at you, Anna and Michelle de Rooy.

The VPA started life as a contest run by the one-time Australian chapter of Romance Writers of America. In 1999 the award was renamed and placed on Romance Writers of Australia’s calendar in 2005. This year, RWA set a limit on the number of entries because the judging was getting out of hand. My work begins when I receive the final entries, and I guess statistically, your chances of reaching the finals this year are higher than ever.

It’s a rare year when one final entry doesn’t leap out at me much as a singer on The Voice grabs the attention of one or more of the judges within a few bars. Star quality is instantly apparent, and while I give every other entry a fair reading, that quality is usually unbeatable. In the acknowledgement to her first novel, Shadowfae, Erica Hayes even quoted me “wanting so hard for [her book] not to win.” She’s right, I didn’t want to spend a year living in her demonic worlds, but the quality of her writing couldn’t be ignored.

Have you entered or won an award that impacted on your writing? I’d love you to share your experiences by commenting here.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Proud Friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

Established Writer in Residence at Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth July 2012

On Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook

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