Winners' Circle - Chelle Martin

September 27, 2019

Welcome to the Winner's Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL and IFW Contest winners. Today we're celebrating Chelle Martin whose entry The Cabin in the Woods came in Second Place!

What contest was your winning entry submitted to?
ICL’s YA mystery

How many writing contests have you entered?
Dozens over the years, three with ICL.

Please give the title of your entry and a short summary of the story.
The Cabin in the Woods. Teens are taking part in the latest challenge to spend the night in an abandoned cabin in an old campground. They can’t bring food, water or cell phones. When Jenna and Mitz are dropped off at the site, it’s almost dark. Once inside their sleeping bags, they realize neither told their parents where they are. Was that a noise? Are their friends trying to scare them, or is someone else lurking about? The question is answered in the morning when Jenna finds a bloody knife.

What inspired your winning entry?
I’m a mystery writer for the most part. I like writing with humor, but this story went in its own direction. I wanted a deserted location. Then I thought of some of the crazy challenges that have been in the news and came up with the idea of spending the night in an isolated place. Kids have forever been lying about where they are and who they’re with. But being in the middle of nowhere with no phone amped up the suspense.

How has entering this contest helped your writing?
Contests give writers at all levels a positive reinforcement of what they’re doing right. Are they reaching their audience? Did the story have a strong opening to draw the reader in? Did it make them laugh? Keep them turning the pages? It’s a good feeling when readers ask for more. I’ve been slowly moving into the children's market, so I’m hoping another contest win in this genre will help with finding an agent.

How did the critique in the Winners' Workshop help you?
I enjoyed listening to critiques of all the finalists. Having written for a long time now and being in a few critique groups, some issues with plot, dialogue, etc. become obvious. But there are things you don’t always catch with your own work because you’re so close to the story. Writers see plots unfolding in their heads, but don’t always convey things in a concise and clear way.

Are you a full-time writer? If not, what is your "day job"?
I am a full-time writer and dog Mom.

How long have you been writing?
I started writing romance in 1994, then moved on to mysteries. I have dozens of short stories published with small presses.

What will you do with your piece now that it's been recognized?
I’m going to pursue picture books, though quite a few people want me to finish The Cabin in the Woods. I love mysteries, so I just might.

Any fun plans for the prize money?

Yes, it’s going into my Puppy Fund. I’ve been looking to add a new addition to the pack.

What do you do when you're feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
I call my writer friends. I reread an old story that I published. I would tell writers who feel blocked to try another genre. It took me years to find my passion, longer to find my voice. Getting published doesn’t happen overnight, but when it does, the feeling is amazing. Once you get that first sale, more will follow.

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’d definitely be at a Peanuts’ yard sale. I’d buy Linus’s security blanket to cuddle up with and read, Snoopy’s dog house for my fur baby, and the Charlie Brown Christmas tree because (not to sound cliche), all it needed was a little love, and I have a green thumb when it comes to gardening.

What do you like ICL and our opportunities for writers?
ICL offers such wonderful opportunities with their contests. The themes are fun and challenging, entry fees are reasonable, and even if you don’t win, the critiques will help your writing.

I look forward to listening to Katie Davis’s podcasts. The guests are entertaining and the information is interesting, whether it’s on craft or how another writer got his/her start.

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.

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