Teens Can Write, Too!

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Winning the PUSH Novel Contest – Kate Coursey

Guys, I’m incredibly excited to introduce Kate Coursey, winner of Scholastic’s PUSH novel contest, which is a great opportunity for teen writers (and appears to be run by DAVID FREAKING LEVITHAN). She’s here to tell you all a little bit about how it all works.

Kate Coursey has been editing professionally since 2010. She helped found Teen Eyes in 2011, working with clients from all over the world to perfect their manuscripts. As a YA author, she is represented by Edward Necarsulmer IV of Dunow, Carlson & Lerner, and her novel LIKE CLOCKWORK won Scholastic’s PUSH Novel Contest when she was 16 years old. In addition to having extensive experience as a freelance editor, Kate worked as an intern at Scholastic Press, where she read many agented and unagented submissions. She received the prestigious Sterling Scholar Grant in 2011 based on an extensive creative writing sample. 

***

Hi everyone!

My name’s Kate, and I’m an 18-year-old writer from Salt Lake City, Utah. John asked if I would stop by to talk about the PUSH Novel Contest. Run in conjunction with the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the PUSH Novel Contest is the only (as far as I know) novel contest aimed at students in grades 7-12. I won it my junior year of high school and I cannot speak highly enough of the Scholastic team.

Generally speaking, one Novel contest winner is chosen each year from thousands of applicants. There were two winners my year, but no winner the year before, so it really depends on the quality of the application pool. Winners receive a month-long paid summer internship at Scholastic in NYC, invitation to the award ceremony at Carnegie Hall, and, most importantly, the chance to work with an editor at Scholastic to polish the submitted manuscript. Once through with revisions, Scholastic will decide whether or not to acquire and publish it. This is where PUSH differs from other Novel contests (in a good way). With, for instance, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, winners are given a boilerplate contract with Penguin. This contract has certain clauses that aren’t in the author’s favor, and there’s no possibility to negotiate advance or the acquisition of certain rights. PUSH doesn’t guarantee publication of the winning entry. However, they will work with you for as long as it takes to get the novel ready, and if/when they decide to purchase it, you can negotiate the deal as you would any other offer of publication (this is where an agent comes in handy).

Contest logo

After winning the PUSH Novel Contest I wrote a second book, which I sent out to agents during my senior year of high school. I had a very high request rate based on my query letter, part of which I attribute to having PUSH as a writing credential. I ended up with six offers of representation and chose to sign with Edward Necarsulmer IV of McIntosh & Otis. Since then, Edward and I have been preparing my second book for submission to editors, while I continue to revise Book #1 with my editor at Scholastic Press (Jody Corbett). Last summer I spent a month in New York City completing my internship at Scholastic. For lack of a better description, it was awesome. I basically got paid to sit around and write my own books seven hours a day, which, as I’m sure many of you can imagine, is pretty much a writer’s dream job. I also got an inside look at the editorial process. By the end of the month I felt like a publishing insider, having witnessed the steps of writing an editorial letter, drafting initial reader reports, and going through the dreaded slush pile. Plus, since Scholastic publishes Harry Potter, I got to see the eighth and final Harry Potter movie at a special employee screening before it came out :).

With valuable experience under my belt, I decided to start a freelance editorial company with my writer friend Taryn. We critique YA and MG manuscripts for aspiring authors. Teen Eyes (http://teeneyeseditorial.blogspot.com) launched in August, and I attribute much of its success to my time at Scholastic, because having gone through such an internship lends credibility to my business. So far it’s been a very successful venture, and Taryn and I plan on attending BEA this June in order to further promote it.

So there you have it. I’ve come a long way in the past year and a half, and all of it (my editor, my agent, my internship, my freelance business, etc) can be traced back to the PUSH Novel Contest. It’s such an amazing opportunity for middle and high school students who want careers as writers. The deadline for 2012 is February 17, and submissions must include an outline as well as the first 50 pages (3-5 chapters). Scholastic has done absolutely amazing things for my career and I would recommend this contest a hundred times over! If you have any questions, you can visit my blog at http://katecoursey.blogspot.com.

Thanks for having me, John!

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About Michael Waters

I'm Michael, I'm eighteen, and I blog about YA books for Barnes & Noble.

One comment on “Winning the PUSH Novel Contest – Kate Coursey

  1. Stephanie Morrill
    February 14, 2012

    I was fascinated by your story, Kate! Thanks for sharing!

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