“It’s so much more than a simple award: it’s a community and a movement” — The grassroots writing award shaking up the literary landscape.
In 2017, author Paula Sheridan won The People’s Book Prize for her debut novel, The Grotto’s Secret. She was invited to a glamorous winners’ ceremony in London and handed her award by Sir Frederick Forsyth, a great recognition for the hard work and commitment that goes into writing a book.
But like most other writers, before this stroke of good luck, Paula had entered her work into numerous contests, and had found the process to be fruitless – closed and cold. Paula explains, “Most of the writing contests out there never share anything about the submissions, nor do they offer the chance to get published or find an agent — but these are things that aspiring authors and writers hope for the most.”
Frustrated with the soulless nature of the writing awards scene, Paula decided to take matters into her own hands; as writing awards offering agent representation, publishing opportunities, exposure, networking, author development — and most crucially, any kind of personal touch — didn’t exist, then she would create one herself. And thus, the Page Turner Awards was born, with one mission — to change as many writers’ lives as possible.
Paula set to work, assembling a judging panel of literati spanning agents, publishers, authors, audiobook producers, journalists and more. She also curated a collection of prizes that she would have found the most meaningful on her own writing journey — mentorships, audiobook production, eBook production, publishing contracts, PR opportunities and more. By February 2020, The Page Turner Awards was open for submissions.
Paula recalls, “When we first started, we were hoping to get at least one writer published and our fingers were crossed for getting one writer represented by a literary agent. But we weren’t expecting a huge intake in our first year”. Paula was shocked as the entries numbered around 400 by the time the submissions window closed in June — quite a feat for a contest just 4 months old. Her panel of judges were blown away by the quality of the submissions. Within weeks of the contest closing, three authors had been picked up by literary agents, even before the shortlists had been announced.
The online winners’ ceremony took place in October 2020 and was a huge success. On top of the authors who won agents, six writers won mentorships, five won a publishing contract and 19 won an audiobook production. Notably, the audiobook production prize was intended to be singular — but publisher Kelly Rinne was so impressed she offered the prize to 19 authors. “You sent over amazing writers. It was so difficult to actually trim it down”, she explains. “You’ve got a great group of folks here; you’ve got a great contest and we’re just thrilled to death”.
Paula was delighted to have such positive feedback from her judging panel, but stresses that the Page Turner Awards is a writer-centric awards, above all. So, what did the writers’ have to say about the contest? Writer Robert Barry notes that the Page Turner Awards “go above and beyond what’s normally expected [with] all kinds of support and opportunities”.
Such dedication and a hands-on approach is a rarity among the world of writing contests, so why does Paula give so much more than is expected? “That’s easy”, she explains, “nothing is more rewarding than helping an aspiring author to make their break in an industry that is notoriously hard to get into. That alone and the fact that we have changed so many lives means that every late night and early morning has been worth it”.
The Page Turner Awards are now open for 2021 submissions, and already receiving some great entries. The judging panel has more than doubled in size and includes Paul Michael Glaser of Starsky and Hutch fame. There are also new categories added such as a Young Writers Award, a Writing Mentorship Award and a Screenplay Award. It’s set to be even bigger and brighter than last year!
It is likely that the Page Turner Awards will go from strength to strength. After all, as Paula explains, “The Page Turner Awards is so much more than a simple award: it’s a community and a movement.”
Submissions are now open for the 2021 awards, and you can enter here: http://bit.ly/PTA-AWIblog Good luck!