Winners' Circle - Peggy House

February 25, 2017

Welcome to the Winner's Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL students. Today we are cheering for Peggy House! 

What contest was your winning entry submitted to?
I glanced at the novel [first page] contest invitation from the Institute and thought . . . why not try?

How many writing contests have you entered?
Yet, the thought of winning has tantalized me, even though I had tried at least a dozen times before.

Tell us the title of your entry and a short summary of the story.

This manuscript, like my protagonist, had been rejected way too many times. Because she never gave up, I decided not too either.  Fifteen-year-old Elena, aging out of orphanage life in Ukraine, faced street life after a failed adoption. Overwhelmed and scared, Elena seeks the help of the one person she can trust - a social worker who finds a slot for her in a trade school. While housed in government-owned dorms, Elena meets even seedier characters and struggles to maintain her courage and dignity amid thieves, trickery, and human trafficking. A small wooden Matryoshka doll, a stowaway from her childhood home, becomes a symbol of courage throughout the story. In the depths of discouragement, Elena receives an offer and must decide what to do with the one choice she is given.  

What inspired your winning entry?
While teaching English to teens in Ukraine, I met Elena in person, and was awed by her struggle. Her story kept me awake at night, a story I could not NOT write.

How has entering this contest helped your writing?
Winning said, "Someone hears. Someone approves. Someone thinks this story is valuable." Writing is hard, lonely work. Winning moved this manuscript from the trash to the submission pile. 

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

I left my full-time, day job as a teacher to embrace writing; yet, like every other writer, I fight my to-do list to push that pencil daily.

How long have you been writing?
While I believe I was born with a pencil in my infant fist, I have actively pursued published writing for six years.

What will you do with your piece now that it's been recognized?

Given this new added courage,  will keep knocking on doors of agents, editors and anyone willing to listen, until this manuscript sees print.

Any fun plans for the prize money?
I donated the prize money to a charity of like-minded folks who help needy kids. I could do no less.

What do you do when you're feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
Because writing feels like private practice at best and solitary confinement at worst, I have joined several professional organizations (like the Institute) to keep encouraged and updated on industry news.

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?
The protagonist from Between Shades of Gray -Lina - intrigues me. I'd scour her garage sale looking for art she drew while in the Siberian work camp. I try to detect the clues she secretly attempted to pass on to her incarcerated father?

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your ICL experience?
The benefits from entering a contest far outweigh the cost. Joining in the camaraderie provides a writing discipline every writer should exercise.


Quinton tschetter
February 25, 2017

Congrats, Princess. Proud of you!

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