Induction into the Louisiana Writers Collection

I live in Texas, but I’m in an anthology of mostly Louisiana writers.

I plan to attend this event.



My contemporary sweet romcom short story has shades of bittersweet moments and takes place on Kaitlyn’s wedding day. It tells of two couples in love, one just starting out and a devoted pair who are dealing with Alzheimer’s.

I’m doing a GIVEAWAY of this original watercolor painting of my character, Kaitlyn, to promote the release of the newest RWA NOLASTARS Anthology, Forever and Always A B & B Anthology.

Email me at for further details.

Books will be discounted at $12 each for this promo. Contact me directly to take advantage of this giveaway and the discounted book price.

Please share!

Thank you, guys!

Changes to the Blog

Hi All,

My main website address and home page will remain the same, but the blog is moving.

I’m switching my blog over to because of constant problems  with our self hosted blog.

For new blog posts delivered to your mailbox, please subscribe to the blog here.

If you haven’t signed up for my announcements newsletter, please consider subscribing to it here. This is for announcements and updates only.

Thank you for your support, guys. It means more than I can say.

Donna Jo

How to Win a Novel Writing Contest

How to Win a Novel Writing Contest

I’ve got contests on the brain. There’s no point in entering unless you are in it to win it . . . except when you enter for feedback like I did. I wanted some uncensored examination of my work before I submit this book to agents.


I’ve always wondered what the judges were looking for in novel writing contests and I had the opportunity recently to volunteer as a judge. The coordinator provided a score sheet and directions. I had not done a great deal of research into writing contests, but I have discovered many of the contests have their score sheets published.

It’s a good idea to look at the score sheets before you enter to see if your novel is a good fit and fulfills the requirements to score high. Score sheets are also useful for doing a self check of your manuscript before you submit it anywhere.

Pick the Best Contest to Enter

Aside from choosing a contest that fits your novel, here are a few other things I’ve learned along the way.

If there is a fee, make sure the contest are entering has a good track record. Even then, you may not get the feedback you desire. I was discouraged by the first writing contest I entered because the judges did not provide a great deal of feedback, and the comments I did get directly contradicted each other on two of the three evaluations! The third person gave minimal feedback.

The second contest I entered was not well known, but the entry fee was either nonexistent or negligible. I received valuable feedback from three different judges. Many contests keep the judges anonymous, but this one did not. in that contest I tied for third place. It was shocked to find myself in good company among the winners.

The contest should have multiple judges. Both of the contests I entered had three judges look over every manuscript. I prefer a contest that allows the participant to have information about the judges’ qualifications. This might help an inexperienced writer to know how much weight to give an opinion that feels off.

Best advice for choosing a contest to enter? Ask around.

Follow the rules

Whatever contest you choose to enter make sure you meticulously pay attention to the rules. If you choose to enter a contest without checking out all the boxes, you probably won’t place well.

Edit your work

Even if you’re entering a contest for feedback only, edit your work. Make sure you’re presenting the best manuscript you can. Use a spellchecker and a grammar checker.

Buddy Up

Have a critique partner look over your work. If you’re going to shell out your hard earned money for a chance at the golden ring, it makes sense to enter the best version of your work you can. Critique partners can help you polish that manuscript.

Learn From Feedback

Keep in mind that all the judges have their own particular areas of expertise and opinions. Even if you get contradicting advice as I did, chalk it up as a learning experience. Try to find the commonalities and take the information you can use to apply to your work. The judges spent time and effort trying to help the participants improve their writing. In every contest I entered, the judges have been volunteers. I appreciate the time and energy they give to the writing community.

Contests are about more than the big prize. Uncensored feedback is good. Perhaps painful, but good.

Don’t Take a Loss to Heart

Contests are funny things. There are a plethora of variables. Who you get as a judge is the luck of the draw. The score sheets may be slanted towards a criteria your novel does not fit into. An individual judge may determine that your novel does not fit into a specific standard while another judge may find it perfectly acceptable.

You can’t take negative feedback to personally. For both of the contests I entered I submitted  the identical manuscript but received vastly different evaluations. Which brings me to my last point.

It’s All a Matter of Opinion

There are certain parameters and requirements if you want to have your novel traditionally published, but in the end, follow your heart. If you have a story to tell, tell it.







You only fail if you stop trying.

Keep writing.

Do you have any advice about entering a writing contests?


☕ Book Break ☕ |~Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner~

I’ve been meaning to review this one for a while and right now it is on sale for Kindle for $1.99. It seems like a good time to post about it!

~Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner~

I find stories about this time period intriguing. WWII novels and nonfiction have been a special interest of mine for the last fifteen years or so, I suppose because we are fast losing those who experienced the war.

This is a story about choices and consequences and this is skillfully illustrated throughout.

I didn’t connect with the title, but have read many of her books and selected this after reading As Bright As Heaven. I got another of her titles at the same time, titled A Bridge Across the Ocean, about the time period immediately after WWII and kept confusing the two.

Loved the idea of a bridal shop, and the revisiting of the “bride’s box” of bridal gown sketches throughout. A good afternoon read. Everything ties up neatly. This is a story with a point, and the tale is well crafted, delivering the main point in a story readers can enjoy and relate to.

I liked all the characters who had a part. Susan Meissner is a gifted writer. Plenty of good and uplifting messages throughout. I unexpectedly teared up at one scene. I was hooked by Emme’s plight from the beginning and could not put the book down until I knew what happened to Julia!

I do prefer stories set in England to have a bit more of the flavor of England to them in dialog and description, but this was a good novel for those looking for WWII fiction.

O Christmas Tree

I intended to have a white tree this year. I have a nice space, I have silver and blue, red and more silver. We have never had one of those trees. You know, the kind where everything matches and makes a lovely picture.

When we got out the boxes of decorations, I remembered we didn’t have any lights with white strings. Lights we have. In abundance. But they all have green wire.

I could have sent a text to one of the boys and had them go to the store, but I could not do that to them again. My guys do not do well with Christmas décor selection.

Instead I ordered lights. They will be here in four days.

This is where the tree was going to be.


I say going to be, because when we got our little three foot tree out of the storage building, my girl noticed the white tree had orange spots. Moisture has gotten to it. Rust.

We have a large green tree as well, but my children always want the smaller one. And they want it decorated like this.


The saving grace is that there is only so much room on this little guy. I have culled some of the bits they prefer, but some are not to be parted with.


The tree has been repaired many times. It came with a bit of a wobble, resting on a flimsy plastic base. Now the tree is much more solid, a block of wood replacing the broken plastic that had been encrusted with my glue gun handiwork.

Every year I say we should get a new tree, but they love this one.

I bought this tree the week before Christmas on the year we were ‘without permanent housing’. Under a borrowed roof, in the middle of nowhere, I decided that circumstances would not determine our celebration.

It was a cheap tree to start. The tree was marked down, perhaps because of its defects, perhaps because it was late in the season, or perhaps it was simply waiting for us to come claim it. I spent less than forty dollars on gifts for four children, a few plastic ornaments and the tree.

I would have been happy to chuck that tree as soon as possible and return to the possibility of nine foot tall trees. But no, we keep this one. Some years it is our only tree, some years it is The Little Tree or The Charlie Brown.

You would think kids would want presents, toys, things for themselves more, but it’s the tree they cling to. I get the feeling this tree will always wear lights at Christmas.

It’s even beginning to shed needles. I thought only real trees did that.


I guess we don’t really need a department store tree.

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