Welcome to the Winners’ Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL and IFW Contest winners. Today we’re celebrating Emily Wade Will whose entry Story of a Taino Youth: The Enemy Approaches came in First Place in our Middle Grade Historical Fiction Contest!
What contest was your winning entry submitted to?
Middle Grade Historical Fiction Story
How many writing contests have you entered?
Please give the title of your entry and a short summary of the story.
“Story of a Taino Youth: The Enemy Approaches” is an excerpt from the novel When Parrots Blocked the Sun: A Taino Youth in Exile.
In the story, Koki uses his wits to help save his friend, who has fallen into the Spaniards’ hands. The Spaniards are about to torture Koki’s friend to get him to reveal Chief Hatuey’s whereabouts.
What inspired your winning entry?
I learned about Chief Hatuey and the fascinating Taino people when I wrote “Haiti” for a Modern Nations of the World series by Lucent Press. I tucked away the idea of using Hatuey’s intriguing history as the basis of a novel for young people, and several years later began a first draft during NaNoWriMo.
How has entering this contest helped your writing?
I was amazed at how many words I could trim from an extract (to get to the desired 750-word limit) and still tell the story. The cutting strengthened the pages. Now I need to do the same with other chapters!
How did the critique in the Winners’ Workshop help you?
It renewed my sagging confidence in the story. I’ve heard that juvenile historical fiction is a hard sell, and mine deals with a foreign culture with “strange” names of persons and places, which can be off-putting. I’ve racked up rejections.
Are you a full-time writer? If not, what is your “day job”?
Yes, full time.
How long have you been writing?
What will you do with your piece now that it’s been recognized?
I’ve been sending queries for the full novel and I hope this recognition will bolster interest in the work.
What do you do when you’re feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
I use a timer, telling myself I need only write for an hour or two. Usually what happens is that I’m so into the writing flow when the timer bings that I continue to write, often completing the four or five hours per day that is my goal. A critique group is also invaluable.
If you could go to the yard sale of any character in the history of children’s literature, whose would you go to, and what would you buy?
Pippi Longstocking’s, to view South Pacific curios and hoping to hear her tell a whopper!
What do you like ICL and our opportunities for writers?
I had worked as a journalist and regularly produced feature articles, but I yearned to write fiction, especially for children. I had never learned in school how to construct a story. I didn’t even know what constituted a story, i.e., a character who is thwarted in achieving his or her goal. The ICL class I took when I was in my mid-30s laid it all out, step by step, which was invaluable.