by Angela Ruth Strong

When it comes to contests, I’m like a little girl all excited to get my ears pierced, but when it’s time to actually have a hole punched through my earlobe, I wonder, Why did I want to do this again?

In the same way, it can be terrifying to receive negative feedback, to lose publicly after becoming a finalist, or even climb onstage in front of an audience if you win. But now that I’ve done all three, I’m grateful for the experience.

No matter the outcome listed above, entering a contest takes you one step closer to your writing goals. Imagine it as a stepping stone, building block, and platform for your career.

  1. Stepping Stone—I’m at this stage again as I learn to craft screenplays. Because the format is new to me, I don’t know if my writing is good or not. I need feedback to improve. So often as newbies, we don’t have a place to send our work in the beginning, but contests offer an open door. Not only is it an opportunity to grow alongside other writers on the same journey, but it’s also preparation for presenting to the agents, editors, and reviewers who will judge your work in the future.
  2. Building Block—Becoming a finalist feels like winning! Your hard work is getting recognized. As a finalist, you can attend the related conference with a little more clout. Your name will be listed on websites and social media, and you might even have a special ribbon on your name tag. Even if you can’t make it to the conference, it looks good on a query letter and in your bio.
  3. Platform—When you win, other people do the work to promote you. You are celebrated, and your writing is more sought after. After I won a Cascade Award, a photographer snapped a picture of me with my award, which ended up in the program the following year. Though I wasn’t there that year, attendees tagged me in their posts.

The cool thing about entering a Christian writing contest is that you aren’t stepping out on your own. You’re growing in the gifts God has given you, and He will use them in his time.

True story: One year, I judged the Cascade Awards, and there were two entries I loved. One of them belonged to an unpublished writer who randomly ended up sitting next to me at the awards ceremony. The entry I’d loved so much ended up not winning the contest, but she had a second entry that did. Directly afterwards, she met an agent who ended up signing her, and her work went on to final in the Christy Awards. That writer is none other than Joanna Davidson Politano.

Because I knew Joanna’s story, I just figured the other manuscript I’d loved had been published as well. I went looking for the book to read but couldn’t find it anywhere. So, I enlisted the help of the CCW staff to find the writer. Once we discovered her, I reached out and asked what had happened to her manuscript. Nothing. Nothing had happened. So, I encouraged her to send it to my editor, and—long story short—Mountain Brook Ink published Rain by Dana McNeely, which finaled in both the Christy and the Carol Awards.

Wherever you are in your career, the Cascade Contest can help take you to the next level. All you have to do is be as brave as a little girl getting her ears pierced and sit your butt in the chair to get it done.  Visit the Cascade Writing Contest page and get started!


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Angela Ruth Strong survived breast cancer and works as a flight attendant and uses her own crazy life experiences as inspiration for the stories she writes. Her books have earned TOP PICK in Romantic Times, been nominated for a Christy, won the Cascade Award, and become Amazon bestsellers. She and her husband also got to play extras when her novel Finding Love in Big Sky was adapted for film. To help aspiring authors, Angela started IDAhope Writers where she lives in Idaho and blogs regularlyon inspyromance and She’d love for you to visit her at

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