When my phone registers an unknown number, I never answer. But when the same number rang twice without leaving a message recently, I became intrigued. I Googled the area code: Cincinnati. I don’t know anyone in Cincinnati. Ignore. Ten minutes later, another call. This time I answered, revved up to tell the caller–whom I assumed to be a telemarketer–to stop pestering me and to take my number off their call list!

The woman on the other end informed me she was calling from Writer’s Digest magazine…

Ah, yes, I recalled getting a notice in the mail that my subscription was set to expire. They’d never phoned me before, but maybe their salespeople were getting more aggressive, I mused. A long-time subscriber, I planned to renew but hadn’t gotten around to it. I was about to capitulate and tell the caller I’d go get my credit card info when she announced the actual reason for her call: I’d won grand prize in their annual writing competition!

Excuse me?

WDarticleThe fact that I’d even entered the contest had almost entirely slipped my radar. A few months earlier, I’d excerpted a story from my as-yet unpublished novel and adapted it to stand on its own as a short story. My agent has been shopping the novel for a while and had garnered me several glowing rejection letters. I’d hoped placing in the contest–even an honorable mention–might pique an editor’s interest in the book. I hadn’t considered I might win the whole shebang, so when the lovely Chelsea from Writer’s Digest began listing the various prizes that came along with the award–including an article about me in their Nov/Dec 2015 issue–I was beyond flabbergasted. 

If, like me, you have a beloved but unpublished manuscript, read it with fresh eyes. Perhaps there’s a nugget or two that can be repurposed. A minor character waiting for a star turn in a different vehicle, perhaps. Consider submitting an excerpt to an anthology or a competition. And maybe take a chance on an unknown caller.

Order the anthology (featuring the winning stories in all the categories)