Contest Winner

Sandra Jackson-Opoku - Winners Circle

Sandra Jackson-Opoku

Winning Entry: “Howler Monkey God” from LOST AMONG STRANGERS

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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 Sandra Jackson-Opoku whose entry “Howler Monkey God” from her novel manuscript Lost Among Strangers came in Fifth Place in our IFW Thriller First Pages Contest!

Sandra Jackson-OpokuWhat contest was your winning entry submitted to?

Thriller First Pages

How many writing contests have you entered?

20-30, over the years

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

“Howler Monkey God” is the first chapter of romantic suspense novel, LOST AMONG STRANGERS. Erin Brohan is a professional linguist and amateur master of disguise. With a heart newly broken and pockets emptied, she flees DC for Toronto. Will Erin learn to love again, especially when a dangerous child kidnapping ring leads her to Guatemala?

What inspired your winning entry?
I’ve always loved stories about camouflaged characters and masters of disguise. I see LOST AMONG STRANGERS as a potential series featuring Erin Brohan, a Black female version of Arséne Lupin (without the stealing).

How has entering this contest helped your writing?
I struggled through the first draft then lost my confidence and backburned the project. Being able to place in IFW Thriller First Pages has encouraged me to bring this book out of mothballs and tackle revisions.

How did the critique in the Winners’ Workshop help you?
With a background in literary fiction, I’m accustomed to writing long, sprawling, introspective narratives. This doesn’t quite work in crime fiction. I believe that having the places pointed out where the narrative lags will prove helpful in tackling this issue in other places.

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

IFW complete logo lg

I am a retired university professor who now writes full-time.

How long have you been writing?
Over 50 years

What will you do with your piece now that it’s been recognized?
I will use this wonderful opportunity as a launch pad to reenergize revisions and seek a literary agent for publication opportunities.

Any fun plans for the prize money?
The prize money will go toward airfare for an upcoming residency in Long Island

What do you do when you’re feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
I have various strategies to combat writer’s block, from taking a nap to taking a walk to freewriting exercises that loosen creative pathways. Not every writer has challenges creating in their home  spaces, but I do. I find that escaping to write in art residencies and retreats boosts my productivity exponentially.

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?

What fun it would be to find Mary Poppins’ bottomless black satchel at a yard sale! Who knows what I’d be able to pull out of it…a sofa, a pony, a sedan…maybe even a handsome fella!

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

Having the hard work and sweat equity you’ve put into a work recognized is majorly important. I’d come to think of this work as a failed project, but placing in the IFW Thriller First Pages Contest has lit a fire under me. LOST AMONG STRANGERS is back on the front burner!


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