Contest Winner

Latalya Russell Winners Circle

Latalya Russell

Winning Entry: Does It Have to Be You

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Welcome to the Winners Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL and IFW Contest winners. Today we celebrate with Latalya Russell whose first pages for Does It Have to Be You came in 3rd place in our IFW Contemporary Romance First Pages Contest! Congratulations, Latalya!

What contest was your winning entry submitted to?

IFW Contemporary Romance First Pages

How many writing contests have you entered?


Please give  the title of your entry and a short summary of the story.

Does It Have to Be You (There’s no summary; it was written for the contest.)

What inspired your winning entry? 

That ever-powerful motivator, the deadline.

How has entering this contest helped your writing?
I had to find the balance between aiming for desired perfection and being content with what I wrote. It forced me to value my voice.

How did the critique in the Winners Workshop help you?
I gained perspective. I tend to recognize my weaknesses, but not my strengths. The Winners’ Workshop highlighted strengths that I failed to see for myself. (I’m shy to a fault and didn’t participate in the chat, but to the wonderful writers who left encouraging comments, I’m more grateful to you than I can ever express. To Kelli, thanks for elevating Does It Have to Be You into a MET-worthy performance. And to Lynne, you planted seeds of confidence in my heart. Also, I vow never to use a pesky interrobang again. Scout’s honor.)

Are you a full-time writer? If not, what is your “day job”?

I work as a sales associate in a snooty downtown clothing boutique. I’m ill-suite

IFW complete logo lgd for the job, and it’s a wonder that my boss hasn’t given me the stiletto boot.

How long have you been writing?

Decades… Centuries… Eons…

What will you do with your piece now that it’s been recognized?
Full disclosure: I’ve never read a romance novel. Not one. I have no idea how to expand my entry into a viable book that would satisfy romance readers. But in light of the affection my first pages received, I’ll prioritize learning how.

Any fun plans for the prize money?
I’ve got my spendthrift eye on a high-end fountain pen.

What do you do when you’re feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
“Girl, ” I say, straight up with myself, “you’re no genius, and that’s A-OK.” Then, I get back to work. I forget about trying to sound like Gina Berriault and focus on crafting stories that sound like me. As for a tip, write through the writer’s block. Rant about how frustrating the condition is. Ponder what might’ve triggered it. List ideas and stories you’d create if the infernal block would JUST GO AWAY—sheesh!

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?

I adore Frog and Toad Are Friends. I’d wander their yard sale in the warm light of spring, and buy a jar of lost buttons.

Anything you’d like to share about your IFW experience?

The contest emboldened me. I didn’t feel like a writer before, but I do now.



Will you be our next contest winner? Discover our current writing contests here!

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