New writing contest: Book blurbs!

Photo by Francisco Delgado on Unsplash

Whether you’re distance learning or at school, start fall with this new contest

With talk of a second corona virus wave coming late summer, knowing what “school” will look like in August or September is impossible right now.

However, one thing I know for sure: on the first day of school, my creative writing class –whether we’re in my classroom or delving into distance learning yet again — will be writing 100-word book blurbs.

QueryLetter.com contacted me recently with news of an interesting FREE contest for students and non-students alike, from anywhere in the world. Take note, international schools!

Check out these details:

  1. Students compete by writing a 100-word (or fewer) blurb for the back cover of a non-existent, hypothetical novel. Students make up the plot, theme, characters, setting… everything. It’s all up to them!
  2. The contest deadline is Sept. 15 at noon U.S. Eastern time, so there’s plenty of time to brainstorm, draft, revise, edit, present, and enter their writing.
  3. Students enter the contest at QueryLetter.com, a service that connects authors with agents, using a dedicated submission link.
  4. One writer will receive a $500 prize! Yes!!! Extra motivation!
  5. Judging, done by professional query letter writers, will evaluate three things: the blurb’s hook, writing style, and overall impression.
  6. Did I mention that it’s FREE to enter?!
This “book blurb” contest is hosted by QueryLetter.com.

I think it will be refreshing to jump right into this contest on day one.

Kids will have had enough rules and procedures for one day, and besides, we can sprinkle those in later during the first week.

Instead of procedures, I picture myself lugging a bunch of books into my classroom from the library (or maybe having my class visit the library, if possible) and then spending a class period reading the back covers, passing the books around, talking about them, and discussing these questions:

  • What works about the blurb on this book?
  • How does the blurb tempt the reader?
  • How does the blurb provide the needed narrative points? For example, how many words are devoted to setting, conflict, plot?
  • What phrase or sentence made this blurb stand out from the other drafts that were no doubt submitted to the book’s editors?
  • Do we know what the book’s theme is based on info in the blurb? In other words, do we know what the book is really about?
  • In the words of the contest’s guidelines, does the blurb reveal what “raises the stakes in a way that makes readers want to find out more?”

Here are some mentor book blurbs we could discuss:

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan: These two paragraphs comprise 115 words.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: These two paragraphs clock in at 84 words.

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans: This top banner tag plus the paragraph below add up to 105 words.

Maybe we’ll do some quick presentations where students find the best blurbs from those we find in the library and then “teach” that blurb’s best qualities. That might be fun. In fact, these informal presentations could be done via Zoom meeting, having students upload a slide to a Google Slides presentation, or adding to a Padlet board.

After we read these mentor blurbs, it’ll be time to start brainstorming some story ideas.

After that, we’ll draft out some messy blurbs.

It will likely be best to just write out blurbs for our first drafts, ignoring the 100-word limit. We can always revise, edit, and otherwise refine the drafts in Protocol Peer Review Groups later.

I think I’ll also throw in some new vocabulary.

Do students know the meaning of the word “query?”

  • In the world of writing, a query letter is a communication that authors send to publishers when they are seeking publication. It’s a brief proposal that provides a snapshot of the novel or book.
  • The noun “query” means “a question, especially one addressed to an official or organization.” The verb “query” means “to ask a question about something, especially in order to express one’s doubts about it or to check its validity or accuracy.”
  • The noun form derives from the Latin quaere, meaning a “question.” The word translated to “query” around 1600 due to the prominence of the word “inquiry,” according to Online Etymology Dictionary.

I envision this project taking about four class periods or so.

That would leave us enough time to let our entries “cure” so we can revisit them a final time two weeks later before submitting. I plan to have students submit their entries about a week before the Sept. 15 deadline.

Visit this page for more rules about the contest from QueryLetter.com.

For more contests, ELA teaching ideas and lessons, sign up for my mailing list. Enter your email below — THANK YOU!

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Thanks for reading! I love contests and it seems like they are becoming harder and harder to discover. Check out my Student Writing Contest page where I’ve grouped all my writing contest posts. Feel free to share your writing contest experience in the comments below!

Published by marilynyung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

2 thoughts on “New writing contest: Book blurbs!

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