Winners' Circle: Tabbi Hodges Barrow

August 7, 2020

Welcome to the Winners' Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL and IFW Contest winners. Today we're celebrating Tabbi Hodges Barrow whose entry Sole Angel came in Third Place in our YA Fantasy First Pages Contest!

What contest was your winning entry submitted to?
YA Fantasy First Pages

How many writing contests have you entered?
Just one!

Please give the title of your entry and a short summary of the story.
My novel is entitled Sole Angel.

What if your life depended on a double-lung transplant while the entire existence of a planet depended on you? Welcome to Celestial Green's world. She's a 16-year-old future rock star with the life-threatening disease, cystic fibrosis. Weird stuff—stuff completely unrelated to her disease—has always happened to her, but nothing compares to when hospital staff find her in her room sitting straight up, completely unresponsive, with glowing purple light radiating from her eyeballs. She's offered no explanation until a strange (and rather rude) boy shows up in her hospital room, claiming she's the next Sole Angel of Ava, a planet in peril in the Dhavi-Oren galaxy, and that she must travel there with him to save it.

What inspired your winning entry?
While in undergrad, I studied to be a child life specialist, a position in children's hospitals that provides medical play and psychosocial support to children and their families. While working in the hospital, I fell in love with a little girl named Celest who had cystic fibrosis. She inspired my main character, Celestial, and my strong desire to promote CF awareness, especially after her passing in 2014.  The sci-fi and fantasy elements were/are inspired by a lifelong obsession with sci-fi and fantasy novels/movies, anime, and video games, especially The Legend of Zelda.

How has entering this contest helped your writing?
I have struggled my entire life with believing in myself. Aside from local writing groups in my hometown, this was my first time putting my work out there. I was crying so hard when they announced my third place win, I couldn't even hear Katie reading my entry aloud. This was the first time I told myself, "Self, you ARE a writer."

How did the critique in the Winners' Workshop help you?
As evident by this interview, I tend to be verbose. Though I was told it was "really good telling," I was telling more than I was showing. And telling with far too many words. Celestial tends to give the reader retrospective information rather than allowing the reader to experience things with her. After this critique, I have newfound inspiration to dive right into the action, even with past events.

Are you a full-time writer? If not, what is your "day job"?
I am happily paid to play. I teach adapted (special ed) PE to children with varying exceptionalities from ages 3-15. I am also a busy momma of three. Additionally, I play roller derby!

How long have you been writing?
I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I've been off and on with this novel for eight years now!

What will you do with your piece now that it's been recognized?
I will finish this novel. I will finish this thing. Yes, I am a writer. Yes, I can write. I am a writer. I will finish this novel. I can. I will.

Any fun plans for the prize money?

I'm contentedly basking in the fact that I earned money for my writing in the first place.

What do you do when you're feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
Though they are not as developed as Sole Angel, I have other novel ideas brewing. When I am feeling discouraged, I try to work on developing story maps or notes for the fledgling novels. I will also go back to what inspires me, such as my favorite novels or anime series. Getting out in nature is also helpful, as I find blocks are often caused more by the everyday distractions of life (you know, bills and stuff) and less by anything internal.

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?
No question about this one. I'd go to Bastian Balthazar Bux's yard sale and buy Auryn. Then, I'd wish for the strength and perseverance to get Sole Angel finished. But, of course, I know the strength is already within me and I don't need Auryn to see my wishes come to fruition. I'll just put Auryn in a glass case and invite all my friends over to see it.

What do you like ICL and our opportunities for writers?
How to even begin! I truly didn't know squat about creative writing until I took the ICL course. I never even noticed sensory information in stories until the ICL brought it to my attention. I am forever grateful for the guidance and critiques I received from my instructors. As for the contest, it has changed my life. I was both floored and fueled by the commentary, both positive and constructive, that came from the judges and the webinar participants. Now, I'm pretty sure I'm addicted to the contests and can't wait to enter the next one! Thank you, IWF/ICL, for believing in me and my Celestial.

Are you our next contest winner? There's $1,300 of prize money up for grabs! Check out our current contests on our Contests Page.


Andrea Walker
August 8, 2020

As a member of West Florida Literary Federation, I had the pleasure of meeting Celestial and Tabbi when she was working on Sole Angel. I loved her writing and characters and admire her great imagination. I always had faith in her writing and am thrilled she has this accomplishment under her belt. I can't wait to read the finished novel by this wonderful writer!

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