By Judson Battaglia, Office Manager at The Writer's Center
Completing your first novel is an achievement worth celebrating. Each year, The Writer’s Center chooses a new author as the recipient of the McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns First Novel Prize. The prize was created by our own former board member Neal P. Gillen as a means of recognizing new talent. It is named after Ann McLaughlin, Barbara Esstman, and Lynn Stearns, three longstanding members of The Writer’s Center faculty.
Last year was my first experience organizing the competition, and I was inspired by the huge variety of work that reached The Writer’s Center from across the country. Our competition welcomes novels from major and independent presses, spanning a multitude of genres. I encountered mysteries, romance stories, historical and science-fiction, and some books that altogether defied categorization.
It was also my responsibility to reach out to our workshop leaders and friends of the Center in search of judges. Copies of the novels made trips back and forth across state lines as they changed hands. Only three books can make it to the final round, in which Barbara, Lynn and Ann select the winner themselves. Last year, Brett Anthony Johnson’s Remember Me Like This made the final cut.
As Lynn Stearns wrote in response to the book, "I have to be able to trust the voice immediately, feel like I'm living through the story, not just watching it, and I like a fresh theme." She goes on to say, "It was a surprise to be left with unanswered questions at the end, just like the characters, and yet, that's what made the work so authentic, which made it so memorable. This work is definitely worthy of a first-place award." Johnson was awarded $500, and we are looking forward to a reading from his book this November.
He is in good company, joining the ranks of previous winners Raoul Wientzen The Assembler of Parts (2014), Karen Thompson Walker for The Age of Miracles (2013), Ismet Prcic for Shards (2012) Heidi Durrow for The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (2011).
It’s not too late to submit your first novel for consideration! You can find a complete list of our criteria at the link below:
Don’t miss this opportunity to share your story with us!