Teens Can Write, Too!

Changing the world's opinion… as soon as we finish this math homework

Introducing… Secret Santa Crits!


So yesterday, I hinted at a new mini-contest which is “like a secret santa for teen writers,” and since all of you seemed so excited about it, I’m going to go ahead and announce it early. (For those of you who don’t know, a “secret santa” is not really anything to do with Christmas. It’s where you are assigned a person to anonymously give gifts to and leaves hints about who you are, and the deed is reciprocated by someone else–but you don’t know who your secret santa is.)

The contest is called “Secret Santa Crits” (if you’re on twitter, check the hashtag #SScrits) and it will run through the next few weeks. It has no connection to CritFest, although you should definitely start working on those CritFest short stories because we need more entries!

How It Works:

– Each of you will submit  applications to me at TCWTcontests(at)gmail(dot)com answering certain questions about yourselves and your writing (found below). You can start submitting now. The last day to submit is December 12th.

– I will then, on the 13th, pick one person to be your secret santa and one person for you to be a secret santa to, based off the applications. You will not know who your secret santa is, and the person you are secret santa to won’t know it’s you–so please keep yourself anonymous until the reveal! You also will not be paired with the same person, don’t worry. If we need another person, I’ll jump in to be someone’s secret santa.

– After I pick the secret santas, I will email you their  first page, query (if they choose to include a query), and pitch, and you will do a (thorough!) critique of it and email it to the person you’re secret santa to by December 16th. (I will include their email.) Again, please keep it anonymous. Someone will do the same for you, and you’ll make any corrections based off of their feedback, then resubmit to TCWTcontests(at)gmail(dot)com by December 18th. 

– Then the cool stuff happens. On December 19th, four teen writer superhumans, awesome teens with agents or book deals (names announced below), will go around reading through the entries in the inbox, critiquing little bits and pieces of each. They only need to critique a small part of the entry–like the first paragraph of the sample, or just the pitch, or just the query, though they may do more. Still, by the end, each entry will have a critique of some sort from at least one of these teen writer superhumans.

And on December 22nd, these teens will each choose one entry to critique the first two or more pages of. So basically critiques. From awesome teen writer superhumans. Total win, right??

– Throughout this whole process, please please please keep in contact with your secret santa! Stay anonymous until the winners are chosen, but I encourage you to send them little notes and hints about who you are, maybe pictures of chocolate, maybe swap more of your writing, or whatever. Then when the winners are announced on the blog on the 22nd, reveal yourself to the person–and your secret santa will reveal him or herself to you!

– The point of the contest is to meet people. This is an excellent way to find new, amazing teen writers to talk to and get a second pair of eyes on your manuscript. If you like your secret santa, maybe you can even become critique partners. Plus, no matter what, you will get some sort of critique by one of the teen superhumans, so there is absolutely no way to lose.

– The manuscript you enter does not have to be completed, or fully revised, or longer than a page.

– Please make the book you’re entering a would-be complete novel and not a short story (and definitely not a CritFest short story!), even if the book is not yet complete.

– You must be of the ages 13 – 20 to enter.

Meet the teen writer superhumans…

Stefan Bachmann 

Uber-talented 18-year-old author of THE PECULIAR (HarperCollins, 2012). Represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency.


Kate Coursey

Genius 19-year-old YA writer represented by Edward Necarsulmer IV of McIntosh & Otis and freelance editor at Teen Eyes Editorial.


Amy Zhang

Impossibly skilled 16-year-old YA writer represented by Emily Keyes of L. Perkins Agency and lover of narwhals.


Stephanie Diaz

Overachieving 20-year-old author of EXTRACTION (St. Martin’s, 2014) and overall evil genius.


Now, the application. This is just to help me choose someone similar to you who I think you don’t already know, so it won’t affect whether or not one of the teen writer superhumans choose you. Please keep these answers 1-2 sentences per answer.

– What genre do you write?

– How far into the novel you’re submitting are you?

– Are you writing for fun, or do you plan to search for an agent? A small press?

– What is your favorite type of dessert?

(I know, that last one was totally necessary.)

Please paste your answers into the body email, and also put your first page, your pitch, and your query–although you can choose whether or not to include this last one–into the body of the email. (Don’t know how to write a pitch? See here.) Put “Secret Santa Crits: [Your Name]” in the subject line of the email and send it to TCWTcontests(at)gmail(dot)com by December 12th to enter.


Questions? I’m really excited for this one. So gogogogo enterenterenter!


About Michael Waters

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

29 comments on “Introducing… Secret Santa Crits!

  1. gabriellan
    December 9, 2012

    Reblogged this on Of a Writerly Sort.

  2. loonytuney
    December 9, 2012

    This sounds AWESOME! One question, though: how are we supposed to stay anonymous? Like…do we create a new email account or something?

    By the way, I wouldn’t worry about the lack of CritFest entries just yet. Everyone I’ve talked to is still working on theirs (we’re teenagers, we like to procrastinate, remember?).

    • John Hansen
      December 9, 2012

      Oh, oops–you send them to the contest email, and I won’t read them, I’ll just forward them onto the person. Glad you’re excited!

  3. cait
    December 9, 2012

    Yesss! Critiques. My life for critiques… xD This sounds great!

  4. This sounds like fun! This is me pledging to participate, so I can’t chicken out later.
    Thanks for putting this together!

    • John Hansen
      December 9, 2012

      No problem, and glad to see you’re participating!

      • Quick question, how should we stay in touch with our Secret Santas, but still remain anonymous?
        Sorry if you answered this above, and I was completely oblivious to it.

      • John Hansen
        December 10, 2012

        No, I forgot to answer it. I was going to have you send all messages to the contests email, which I’d forward on without reading, but you can also create a fake account. If you prefer.

  5. Miss Alexandrina
    December 9, 2012

    I kinda lost you a bit through the post, but I’ll just follow the instructions one step at a time 😉
    Also: is the ‘favorite type of desert’ meant to be dessert? ’cause I like the Sahara and all, but I like caramel ice-cream more! xD

    • John Hansen
      December 9, 2012

      Haha, yes, I meant “dessert.” That’s what I get for typing this up half-asleep.

    • Kristina
      December 9, 2012

      Oh gosh I really did laugh out loud when reading this comment (:

  6. Miss Alexandrina
    December 9, 2012

    Also! Another question: is there a specific format we have to use for the first page, like double-spacing and indentation, or not?

    • John Hansen
      December 9, 2012

      Standard format, so: double spaced, indented, 12 pt font, TNR/Calibri.

      • Miss Alexandrina
        December 11, 2012

        Cheers 🙂

  7. gabriellan
    December 9, 2012

    This is awesome! The best of all contests mashed together 🙂

  8. Kristina
    December 9, 2012

    Entered, although the formatting on my email went a bit haywire and I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to show up on the other end.

  9. Pingback: ZAPP Blog Hop: Introduction Post: The Princess Marquesse de Gabrielle | Of a Writerly Sort

  10. bandersontps
    December 10, 2012

    Reblogged this on worldpen and commented:
    I just entered this. It looks pretty fun. But there’s not much time left to sign up…so hurry!

  11. Jacinta Swindell
    December 10, 2012

    Does it have to be the first page? Mine needs LOTS of work.

  12. Miss Alexandrina
    December 15, 2012

    Sent my critique but I wasn’t sure what to put as subject line, so I did RE: then the original subject line and ‘critique’ at the end. Hope it’s clear!

  13. Sarah Faulkner
    December 18, 2012

    What do we put in the e-mail and the subject for round 2?

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