Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The! Winner! Is! ...

Before I announce (and congratulate) the winner, please let me first thank everyone who participated in the contest, whether through entering, commenting, voting, or some combination thereof. This has been a lot of fun, you guys are seriously great, and I sense there are more contests in this blog's future (maybe I AM a seer after all).

Please also allow me to extend another HUGE MASSIVE thanks to Holly, my illustrious co-judge and author of Nothing But Bonfires (you have checked it out and added it to your blog roll, right?), who took many, many hours out of her busy week to help co-judge the contest. And in fact, she was even kind enough to pass along a message to everyone:


Hi everyone, Holly here! I just wanted to introduce myself quickly and thank you all so much for your submissions.

When Nathan originally asked me to be a co-judge in his contest, I leaped at the chance---I mean, really, I think I said yes before he’d even finished asking the question.

“Are you sure you’re up for it?” he said. “I mean, I’m not entirely confident you know what you’re getting yourself in for. There are going to be quite a few entries, you know.”

“Pshaw!” I replied. “Why do you think I wear such strong contact lenses? From reading too much, of course! I devour whole novels in a day! I eat anthologies of short stories for breakfast! I can read a few hundred first pages for your competition, Nathan, no sweat!”

Except it wasn’t a few hundred, was it? It was 675. So, uh, thanks for that.

But the truth is, I had a blast. Honestly, I did. And in case there’s any doubt in your mind, I absolutely, unequivocally, cross-my-heart-and-swear-on-a-stack-of-Hills-DVDs read every single entry. (No, seriously! As Spencer is my witness!)

And narrowing them down was hard. It was excruciatingly hard. I started by copying and pasting the ones I was immediately impressed with into a Word document I called FINALISTS. But then I had so many finalists that I had to start another document called FOR REAL FINALISTS. After that came FINALISTS! NO, SERIOUSLY THIS TIME, NO KIDDING, and in that document I had about 30 entries. I cut that down to 15. I cut that down to 10, and then I sent those 10 to Nathan, who sent me his 10 back in return. We found we had two in common, so we put those on the master list.

After that, it all got a little Sophie’s Choice up in here. Of the two I eventually chose as my picks---Julianne’s and Charlotte’s, in case you’re wondering---both were equally evocative, clever, and just plain well-written. (Both were also about funerals, in case you hadn’t noticed, which prompted Nathan to email me and ask if everything was alright.) But the ones I had to leave behind broke my heart: the dead baby in Elladog’s story, the twelve-year-old smart talker in Lincoln Highwayman’s piece, the tarot card reader in Southern Writer’s intro, the newly boob-jobbed protagonist on Len Joy’s page. I wanted to bring them all with me onto the shortlist, and I’m hugely sorry that I couldn’t.

So thank you to all of you for making my days (and my nights---my long, long nights) that little bit more interesting. Thank you for giving me some truly great stuff to read. Thank you for having the courage to enter the competition and the graciousness to congratulate your peers when it was over.

And now I think it’s about time Nathan bought me a shot.


Nathan again. And yes, I definitely owe Holly a shot.

I'd also like to extend my own personal congratulations to the authors on my list of final 10 that barely missed the final 6: Eric ("Tweed & Scissors" -- almost completed the contest trifecta having made the finalists of two previous blog contests), Walter (the Generalissimo), LindaBudz (the Potato Baby Dare), Ally (the Brown Shoe Diaries), and Michael Reynolds (disappearing teacher). In case you're further curious, heather!anne! (soup can man) and kari (Possible Happiness) were on both Holly's and my lists of top 10, and after Holly chose Julianne and Charlotte I chose luc and terryd to round out the top six.

PENULTIMATE congratulations are in order to our wonderful finalists: Julianne, kari, Charlotte, terryd, and luc. (Please e-mail me to discuss your prizes.)

And the ULTIMATE GRAND PRIZE SUPER DELUXE WINNER IS... after 675 entries, many votes, a whole lot of comments, and one great week.... I'm pleased to announce that heather!anne! is the winner of the Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge!

Thanks again everyone, I hope you will stick around and continue to participate in the blog, and I'll be back later in the week with the usual blog programming.


Steph Leite said...

Congrats y'all!!!

LindaBudz said...

Yea!!! Congrats to Heather!Anne! and to all the finalists. Well deserved!

And Nathan, I am beyond thrilled to see I made your top 10. Thanks for posting that, you've made my day!

rllgthunder said...

Congrats to Heather!Anne! as well as to the other finalists and everyone that entered.

Nice job, Holly and Nathan!

Colorado Writer said...

You deserve a break! Thanks for the fun!

Holly said...

Hmm, and I should maybe also mention the other two that rounded out my list of 10: they were Tom Chatfield and Nina (The Language of Flowers).

Luc said...

Heather!Anne!, congratulations. (I wanted to put an exclamation point after "congratulations," but found I'd run out.) It's a humdinger of a story. Are you going to go for the washer/dryer, the new car, or what's behind door number 1?

R.C. said...

That Holly is a hoot, and I'm glad to have a new blog to read.

Congratulations Heather!Anne! and the rest of the finalists! This was a lot of fun! I have a new fondness for exclamation points!!

Helen said...

Congratulations to heather!ann!

Holly and Nathan! Thanks for the contest! It was a lot of fun.

Cave Dweller said...

Congratulations, Heather!Anne! and to all the finalists, great first pages!

thegirlintthecarthatgotaway said...

Congratulations To All!!! Very Well Done!!!

(psst!! and for anyone who needs it, here quick, get in. I'm driving! We can still getaway!)

Anonymous said...

I'd never done a contest like this before. It was a lot of fun. Thanks Nathan and Holly!

Julianne Douglas said...

Congratulations to Heather Anne and all the finalists, and a huge "thank you" to Holly, Nathan, and everyone who took the time to read and vote. Each of us who learned something here these past few days is a winner! Thanks for the opportunity to share the experience with you, and good luck to everyone in their writing careers.

AstonWest said...

Perhaps a random run-down on some of the remainder of the 675 entries, on why they didn't catch your attention as much as the top entries?

Christopher M. Park said...

Haha, if I'd paid more attention to Nathan's post title, I would have already known who the winner was. Nicely done.

Congratulations to all the finalists, and especially to heather!anne!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the winner, Heather!Anne!, to the other 5 finalists, to the 4 runners-up, to Nathan and Holly for holding and judging the contest...and, especially, to all the writers who submitted their entries! Keep writing.

ORION said...

Congratulations to everyone who was brave enough to enter! Way to go.
And thanks Holly and Nathan- this was a great learning experience for everybody involved!

Taylor said...

Congrats to Heather!Anne! I hope to see you in the next 300 movie.

This! Is! Heather! Anne! :)

Tim said...

Congratulations Heather!Anne!

It's official: The exclamation point is the new black!

Ernest said...

... I thought the exclamation point was the new 30!

Kudos to all, and thanks to Nathan and Holly for sharing your other finalists and methodology, that's illuminating.

Will Heather!Anne!'s critique be public? If it's the 10-min. phone call, can we download the mp3 on iTunes?

Diana said...

Congratulations, Heather!Anne!

Thanks, Nathan and Holly, for making this contest possible!

Sumit said...

Congratulations Heather!Anne!

Paprikapink said...

Hey, I chose Heather!Anne! too. Maybe I'll be a literary agent when I grow up (next time).

Well, I chose that after Holly and Nathan stopped me from also choosing all the other ones I really loved. As an avid reader, it was fun just to have so many good pages to read. And fun to think that my page was getting a few reads of its own too. Thanks, all!

Nadine said...

Congrats to Heather!Anne!! Well done!!!

Adaora A. said...

This blog is all sorts of win.

"Back to regular programming later on in the week."


Love it.

Congrats Heather!Anne!

Is Holly sure that Spencer is a good witness? I mean, he does go around decorating flats without his fiancee's permission. Who does that?

All this I learned about him from reading this blog. I do have two friends who are crazy for this show.

Proud anon b/c I fear that all you bunnies will hunt me down and cause me great harm said...

I think John G. Goetrich should win an award for best post:

"Nathan is a total tool. I thought with him being ostensibly a male, and not in NY, that he may be one to have broken out of the current chick-fluff domination of the publishing industry.

Put away your scarf and penny loafers, put down that latte, and regrow some stones, do something involving sweat, and (re)read some Hemingway or something."

February 4, 2008 9:31 PM

Now that's good writing! Provocative, incisive, funny, and right on target.

All the "finalists" were cozy, cute fluff stuff which apparently suits the taste of the "judges." And all the posters with their happy happy attitudes who shudder at criticism (and Nathan for deleting it) demonstrates that this board is strictly for fluff fans.

sunny said...

Congratulations, Heather!Anne!
And thanks again Nathan and Holly for spending your time and energy on us!

Sue Eves said...

Congratulations, heather!anne! and to all the finalists.
Thanks everyone for the book of first pages - a fascinating read!
Nathan and Holly - I am truly thankful!

elarasophia said...

Congratulations, Heather!Anne!! And well done to all the finalists. Many thanks, Nathan and Holly, for an enjoyable and inspiring contest!

JAK said...

Congrats, Heather!Anne! You were my choice - loved it, loved it!

Southern Writer said...

Congratulations, Heather!Anne! I hope I'll hear when your novel is published so I can read the whole thing. Do you think Nathan would let you at least post your hook so we can see what it's about?

Thanks for the nod, Holly. I've been enjoying your blog, too. You are so funny!

Usman said...

Congrats heather Anne. I think that was the best of the finalists.

Elladog said...

Thanks for mentioning my page, Holly! That's so encouraging!
And thanks to you both for all your effort! It was a lot of fun and I learned a ton! (And gained a new appreciation for excitable punctuation!)

OBF said...

I! Want! To! Read! Heather! Anne's! Full! Novel!


Can't wait until it's published.

sylvia said...

*three cheers*

This was a fun competition and a good learning experience (even for those surly anons -- maybe even ESPECIALLY for them).

There were quite a few entries which would have had me turning the page - above and beyond those listed in this post. There were a lot that lost me fast, and I can absolutely see the need for a hook now: Something to make the inundated agent read on.

Thanks again Nathan and Holly and congratulations Heather!Anne!

It'd be interesting to hear which prize she chooses :)

Cher Gorman said...

Super Congratulations Heather! Anne! and to the other finalists.

Woo Hoo! Enjoy the ride!


Eric said...

Well done and congrats, Heather!Anne!! If you take the phone call as your prize, I'd give that poor bastard a few days to sober up and dry out after what we put him through.

Congrats to the finalists as well, of course, but also to everybody who put it out there for the scrutiny of the masses.

A hearty thank you to Nathan and Holly. I hope your efforts herein are rewarded tenfold, lest we not get another chance to drive you to drink.

TG Franklin said...

WTG heather!anne!

Thanks, Nathan & Holly, for the wonderful contest.

Precie said...

Congratulations, Heather!Anne!

And congratulations again to all the finalists for such fine work!

And THANK YOU again to Nathan and Holly!

DeadlyAccurate said...

Congratulations, Heather!Anne! Yours was one of the three I wanted to pick, though I chose luc's (I'm more of a spec. fiction reader).

LizR said...

Congratulations, Heather!Anne!

And thanks for the contest, Nathan and Holly!

Lori said...

Big congrats to Heather Anne! Though I chose Luc, you were my second choice, so I'm glad that one of the two of you won.

Thanks again to Nathan and Holly for all their hard work.

Carol Burge said...

Congratulations, Heather!Anne! And huge thanks to Nathan and Holly for putting their precious time into this. You guys rock!

Anonymous said...

Congrats to the finalists and others mentioned. And thanks to Nathan and Holly for their hard work and dedication in running the contest.

I know this is an immature reaction, but I'm feeling pretty low about the contest. I do understand that only a tiny percentage of entries can be recognized. But I'm now left in the uncomfortable position of questioning my work without knowing what specifically is wrong with it. (And of course it's gone through multiple critique groups,etc. I'm not trying to write in a vacuum.) My confidence is shaken. I do wish I hadn't entered.

I think it might help if Nathan addressed some of the common issues he saw with entries that didn't work for him. Perhaps that would help some of us who didn't win identify ways to improve.

mlh said...

Congrats to Heather!Anne!.

But I'm wondering, who came in second place? I know you mentioned there would be a second place winner with a set of prizes for him/her? But you didn't mention the name?

Or did you just decide that the remaining four finalists were all second place winners and would receive similar prizes for getting this far?

burgy61 said...

Congratulation's to Heather!Anne! and the other finalist.

Nathan, thanks for having this contest, it has been a real learning experience. Are you sure you want to have more contests? But I happen to know God loves crazy people, I eagerly await your next contest.

Holly, what can one say but THANK YOU! It was a big undertaking to read every submission and making your decisions must of been hard. From the quality of the ones I've read so far I wouldn't want to pick out a winner.

Congratulations to all who entered and the best of luck with your writing.

Diana said...

I think it might help if Nathan addressed some of the common issues he saw with entries that didn't work for him. Perhaps that would help some of us who didn't win identify ways to improve.

Anon - it might just be that yours didn't hit the four things Nathan was looking for. It doesn't mean it was a bad first page. Unless, of course, there was a rotting corpse. He gave us his feelings on rotting corpses.

Richard said...

I couldn't help but notice that the majority of Nathan's choices were written in the first person. Heather!Anne!, Luc and Terryd.

I guess this solidifies in my mind that a "no" from an agent doesn't reflect on your work...generally. It just means they don't feel your work.

Nathan Bransford said...


What I've learned from past contests is that my picks tend to reflect the entrants -- the majority if the entries were first person, and that's reflected in the finalists.

Holly said...

Anonymous at 9:31am -- please don't let this shake your confidence. If you let me know which piece was yours (my email address is on my website), I'd be happy to give you some feedback on it, just from the viewpoint of a common reader.

Anonymous said...

That is so sweet of you, but that wouldn't be fair to you after having already done so much work. (You'd probably be inundated by other upset losers!)
Again, I'd love to hear some of the major problems Nathan saw with entries, in addition to rotting corpses. I'm pleased to say that my writing has never featured a corpse, rotting or not.
Look, I woke up in a bad mood because of the inept way California handled non-partisan voters, and took it out in the comments section here. Fascinating contest.. I've enjoyed it a lot, and apologize for being such a sad sack earlier. I'm over it!

benwah said...

Anon, don't get down. No writer can be all things to all readers.

Scott from Oregon said...

Having entered this party too late for consideration, I still think it was an amusing event.

I even enjoyed the angry vitriol from the anons, as if their righteousness was going to change our planetary trajectory and fix all that is broken in the world of books.

My biggest criticism of the chosen works was that I'd seen most of it all before. Reading, to me, should not be a deja vu experience. Ahh, but my bias is showing...

That said, I thought they were all exceptionally well written, and would give pleasure to many readers.

Thanks to Nathan and Holly for doing this. It has been educational and amusing to be sure...

Cam said...

Whoo!Hoo!Good!Job!Heather!Anne! - and Nathan and Holly.

Chro said...

Congratulations, Heather. You were my second choice, though that was probably because I'm a fan of sci-fi, and Luc wrote in my genre.

For the anonymous poster who thinks this is a 'fluff' blog, that assumes two things:

1) Luc's trailer-trash-in-space entry was 'fluffy'
2) 'Fluff' is defined by a site that isn't overrun by trolls who feel the bloggers OWE them something, particularly after they just hosted a fun contest where they had to read two novels worth of writing just out of the goodness of their hearts.

And lastly, to the anonymous poster who wished he knew what kept his from being selected: this is why a handful of us (including me) posted critiques on our blogs. Sure, we're not Holly or Nathan, but we're your average reader, and could hopefully give you some insight on why your opening isn't as good as it could be.

Richard said...

- Nathan

That makes sense. It's also interesting that a majority were written that way. Is this a trend in the market or merely in the contest?

Nathan Bransford said...


My readers' WIPs tend to skew towards YA and commercial fiction, where first person is more common, I don't know that it's a trend overall, although definitely some very successful works of commercial/literary fiction (like THE KITE RUNNER) have gone that route.

Richard said...

- Nathan

I noticed a lot of very heavy descriptions as well. This seems to have become popular since HP. Describing the feel of the sand, the smell of the cactus and finally the reason the character is in the sand smelling cactus'.

Is the market skewing that way? Or is my perception just off?

Anonymous said...

"I'm pleased to say that my writing has never featured a corpse, rotting or not."

Maybe that's the problem. Throw a corpse in there, see what happens.

mlh said...

Oops, my apologies.

When going back through the other posts, you didn't mention announcing a second place winner.

My mistake.


Jessica said...

Well done to everyone who entered!

Adaora A. said...

LOLing Mlh my love.

Richard in HP it's pretty much necessary. The world is so rich with detail because every little bit you learn does come up later in the series. I was annoyed to say the least with the Heron pairing but I do know that about the HP books.

Nathan have you read all the HP books speaking of them?

Also have to ask: do you watch Gossip Girls? I remember you mentioning on the blog that you'd read one of them.

Diana said...

I'm pleased to say that my writing has never featured a corpse, rotting or not.

That made me smile. And it feels like a line that should be on a first page somewhere.

Richard said...

@ Adaora A.

I totally agree about HP. My comment was in no way a degradation of HP's storytelling ability. I was actually referring to post-HP syndrome. It seems to have become the norm for everything.

Other Lisa said...

Congratulations to Heather!Ann!!

And how do I join the Penny Loafer club?

Neptoon said...


Congratulations Heather!Anne!

I grew up when pennies bought things...when a movie, plus fifteen cartoons, popcorn and a coke hit you up for 35 cents. I believe I have seen your soup can man.

Would love to read more of his story.

In the aloha spirit, I would like to offer free surf lesssons to Heather!Anne! and the two courageous judges, Nathan and Holly, should any of them find their feet on the north shore of Kauai.

And finally, for a choice few brave anon's out there...both Proud and otherwise...I am offering some very special surf lessons for secret spots...perfectly fit for your bravado.

In the spirit of aloha, of course...

Phoenix said...

Late to the party, but wanting to throw in my congrats to Heather!Anne! and the other finalists, as well as my thank you to Nathan and Holly.

There's some tough competition out there!

Ally said...

Nathan and Holly,

Thanks for all your hard work, and cheerleading! This was great fun, and a nice bit of encouragement, as well.

Congratulations to Heather!Anne! and the other 5 finalists, and to all who bravely entered!

d.g.allen said...

I feel like that old saying,"The more I learn the less I know" of the publishing world. However, in addition to a wonderful choice in Ms. Heather Anne's page, I feel like I've learned a bit more with this contest and thank you again for having it. It surprises me a little that some of the people who submitted their pages have had a negative response to their not being chosen, for this reason; To understand what an agent or avid blogger and reader (holly) believe is quality or at very least engaging writing is of utmost value. I couldn't read every submission, and quite frankly I experimented with mine sort of like changing lures when the fish don't bite sort of thing, but I took a great deal of knowledge away from the contest and immediately corrected some flaws in my own manuscript that I didn't fully understand before the contest. So, the bottom line, is thanks to the both of you, and know that there's an old man out in cyberspace that pops in here from time to time for a little inspiration.

Linda Bleser said...

Congrats to Heather!Anne! and the other finalists. Great!job!everyone!

Thanks also to Holly for helping narrow the finalists down. Nathan, look at the bright side. Sure you had 675 entries in the contest, but that leaves 665 people who will probably never bother to query you because they didn't make the cut. If nothing else, you've cut your slush pile down considerably. :)

madison said...

congrats, heather!anne! and to everyone else. great contest idea, Nathan! it was lots of fun to just be a part of it.

McKoala said...

I thought I'd posted, but can't find it. I just wanted to just say thanks to all who entered and to Nathan and Holly for taking this on. It was great reading. Congratulations to all the finalists and especially to Heather!Anne!

Kylie said...

I'll admit I'm somewhat surprised -- we managed to pull this off without a snark post from the fabulous Miss Snark. ;)

superwench83 said...

Sure you had 675 entries in the contest, but that leaves 665 people who will probably never bother to query you because they didn't make the cut. If nothing else, you've cut your slush pile down considerably. :)

Doesn't cut me out of the slush pile! Hey, never know; might like what's on page 2. Besides, most of my novel takes place in San Francisco. It's like a rule that I have to query you or something.

And congrats, Heather!Anne! I almost voted for you. It was a hard choice between you and Luc!

John Dixon said...

Congratulations to Heather!Anne! and all of the finalists.

Thanks, Nathan and Holly, for this very cool contest. It was a lot of fun, and it helped me to rethink the opening of the novel I'm preparing to shop.

Julie Weathers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
julcree said...


mkcbunny said...

Congrats, Heather!Anne!

And thanks again to Nathan and Holly.

Fun, as always.

Polenth said...

Someone wrote:
But I'm now left in the uncomfortable position of questioning my work without knowing what specifically is wrong with it. (And of course it's gone through multiple critique groups,etc. I'm not trying to write in a vacuum.) My confidence is shaken. I do wish I hadn't entered.

You might have a beautifully written piece that isn't the sort of thing Nathan reads/represents. Nathan and Holly didn't have identical lists of pages they liked. My favourites didn't make it to the final. People aren't saying it's subjective just to be nice. It's true. Reading tastes vary widely.

Maripat said...

Congratulations, Heather!!

Anonymous said...

No Wednesday post? Oh my god, we finally broke him.

Jan said...

Thanks Nathan & Holly ... I really enjoyed and every contest I enter I learn a great deal about my writing and come up with new ideas for re-writes.

A Big Congrats to Heather!Anne!
And I've always loved the exclamation point - glad to see it's the new rage :o)

And to all the finalists - way to go!!!

And to the rests of us who entered - bravo for having the courage to put yourself out there!!!

danceluvr said...

Can any of us who weren't in the finalists get some kind of comment from either Nathan or Holly or any of Nathan's minions about why ours didn't "cut it"?

I know I'm disappointed my first page or so wasn't picked.

Nathan Bransford said...

Sorry guys, I know people want more feedback, but I feel like I've done two posts on what worked for me with the winners. It's not so much about what didn't work with the ones who weren't finalists as what DID work with the ones that were. Only six could be finalists -- the rest were a range of not-there-yet to pretty good to very good, but I don't think there's any way for me to give a real breakdown.

ChristineEldin said...

All of the finalists were very, very good. But I favored Heather!Anne!'s--such a great voice!!!!

Congratulations to all!!

Charlotte said...

Just come back from a week's holiday to discover I was a finalist. Woo-hoo! Thanks Nathan and Holly for your enormous efforts, and for making this writer's year.

terryd said...

I was on an intensive working non-holiday and just found this. Congrats to Heather!Anne! and all posters! Thanks to Nathan and Holly for lending their minds and eyes so generously! It really helps to see what grabs you.

Lincoln Highwayman said...

Congratulations to all the winners. And thank you Nathan & Holly for taking on this contest.

I hope everyone had as much fun with this as I did.

Related Posts with Thumbnails