The Freshman Fifteens, a group of 15 authors publishing debut Young Adult novels in 2015, are teaming with online writing community Wattpad to organize a writing and mentoring contest that opened for entries on June 30.
The effort, called the Common Room Teen Mentoring Contest, will pair the authors of 15 winning entries with a member of the Freshman Fifteens. The established authors will then mentor the teens through the writing and publishing process. The 15 winning teen entries will be collected in Common Room, an anthology that will be published on Wattpad in January 2015.
Designed to replicate the traditional book publishing experience, the contest solicits query pitch letters from teens between 13-19. Once submitted, the authors of The Freshman Fifteens will pick the 15 best queries--each outlining the story the teen plans to tell--and match each winner to a member of the group. The mentors will then edit and guide the young writer, helping them turn their query into a 3,000-word short story. Among the debut authors of the Freshman Fifteen are Chandler Baker (Alive, Disney-Hyperion), Charlotte Huang (For the Record, Delacorte) and Jasmine Warga (My Heart and Other Black Holes, HarperCollins).
The notion to organize a writing contest/mentoring program began, said Lori Goldstein, author of Becoming Jinn, a debut YA novel coming from Macmillan’s Feiwel and Friends imprint in spring 2015, after the members of the Freshman Fifteens discovered each other online.
The group, she said, met on Twitter and were drawn together “by the simple fact that we all had young adult books publishing in 2015. But we quickly realized that we had much more in common, including a passion for sharing our love of reading and writing with teens—the amazing community we write about and for.”
Last March the group got together for a face-to-face retreat to brainstorm a project they could work on together. Mentoring quickly came up, said Goldstein, as well as using Wattpad as a platform for the contest.
Goldstein heard about Wattpad from a fellow Feiwel and Friends author, Nikki Kelly, whose debut YA novel Lailah (fall 2014) began on Wattpad, which now has more than 25 million monthly visitors (many, among them, teens). “Nikki’s an honorary member of the Freshman Fifteens, and helped to put us in touch with Wattpad,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein emphasized that the Common Room contest “is organized by authors, not publishers." She added, "We want to introduce [the teens] to the process of traditional publishing, and the contest will mirror that process.”
Those entering the contest can upload their query letters at the Common Room contest site, along with a short sample of their writing. After the final stories are submitted Wattpad will have a cover design contest for the collection.
“For 15 people who met online by virtue of one shared fact, the bond we’ve created is incredible,” Goldstein said. “Egos are left at the door. We laugh. We’ve been known to cry at times, but the number one thing is support. It’s a talented group of authors I’m lucky to be a part of. I want nothing more than for the teens we work with to be able to share the same one day.”