Sunday, July 8th, 2012
I’ve been sending out the following press release, thanks to a fellow contestant, Whipchick, who wrote up a template for the Top 30 contestants to send.
So far I’ve sent it to the Delaware County Times, Philadelphia Weekly, Philadelphia Inquirer & The Daily News, New Jersey Star-Ledger, Milton Standard-Journal, Sunbury Daily Item, Williamsport Sun-Gazette, and the Bloomsburg Press-Enterprise. I also plan to send it to The Penn Stater and am open to other suggestions.
LOCAL WRITER FINDS SUCCESS IN INTERNATIONAL CONTEST
Anyone can enter. There is no prize. And more than thirty grueling weeks into The Real LJ Idol, Alyce Wilson is still writing alongside contestants from the UK, Australia, Sweden, Canada, and across the USA.
“Winning mainly means bragging rights,” says Wilson, a Philadelphia-area freelancer and stay-at-home mom who joined the contest “to keep my writing fresh and to challenge myself. In addition, I’ve made a lot of contacts in what is essentially a virtual writing community.”
Created and moderated by a Florida writer, Gary Dreslinski, The Real LJ Idol is structured somewhat like a reality show. Each week, a prompt is posted, and the competing authors write pieces inspired by it. There’s no restriction on form or content – entries have included personal essays, science fiction, horror, poems and songs. Some writers, like Wilson, try to write something different each week; others become known for a specific genre or unfold a novel chapter by chapter. Anything goes, as long as they survive the voting rounds.
“Standing out from the pack is essential,” says Wilson, “so I try to take a creative approach to each topic. Over the course of the competition so far, I’ve written everything from personal essays to skits to poems, and I’ve even produced a video. I enjoy changing it up.”
Voting is open to the public most rounds, with the lowest vote-getters “going home.” Many stick around to write for the “Home Game,” to vote, and to engage in the community as “beta readers” who give requested feedback on drafts so other writers can improve their entries before posting.
A record-breaking 367 writers signed up when the contest’s eighth season began in October; fewer than 20 are still in the running. Some of the entrants were already professional writers (Wilson has published a book of columns and essays, “The Art of Life,” available at her personal Web site AlyceWilson.com, and is a featured contributor at Yahoo! Movies and Yahoo! Television), but many are talented hobbyists. Writers in Europe and New Zealand carefully count time zones to make the submission deadline every week.
In Season 5, Wilson’s first time participating in the contest, she placed fifth out of nearly 200 participants (some of that work appears in “Art of Life”). In Season 6, under a pen name, she made it into the Top 25 out of roughly 240 but was cut, ironically, the week her son was born. She found out the results while she was in the delivery room. “It was a disappointment, but a bit of a relief, with my new responsibilities,” she admitted. Now, she’s learned to juggle childcare with writing, which she feels has helped her reach this stage in the competition.
Past winners have landed professional gigs, such as Season Six winner Ellie DeLano, now a columnist for “Women’s Day.” Wilson says, “Looking back at my entries to date, I’ve created a range of pieces I never would have written otherwise. Whether I win or not, I’ll still consider that an accomplishment.”