For the last three years, YA and adult romance author Jennifer Armentrout has run a contest to send one unpublished author to the RT Booklovers Convention. For Armentrout, the convention is an important one for aspiring writers. There are “awesome networking opportunities. They bring out a substantial amount of authors and agents and editors. It’s a good way to get your face in front of editors and agents,” she said.

Armentrout discovered the convention after she was published, but said she still gets an immense amount out of attending because so many readers are there. But the importance of the event for unpublished writers is what is inspiring her to maintain a contest to award a free trip there: “Before I was published, I didn’t know it existed, which is why I tailor the contest to aspiring writers.” After seeing how useful the convention was for writers, but also how expensive, Armentrout wanted to do something to help authors without the means to get to the contest.

So Armentrout and fellow judges Jay Crownover, Wendy Higgins, Christopher Rice, Veronica Rossi, Christina Lauren, and Cora Carmack are accepting story submissions via email ( by December 31, 2015, or until 150 submissions are received. The stories must be up to 1,500 words and either original short stories, or inspired by one of the judge’s previously published works. Adding the option to submit an original short story is new this year. Armentrout hopes that it will expand the number of writers who have a chance at winning, without “just limiting it to our fans. It’s something I realized I was unintentionally doing, limiting [the contest] to fans of the judges.” She added that a lot of authors “won’t read in their genre as they’re writing,” to avoid taking on “the voice or trope of what they’re reading” into their own work, so expecting them to read her or the judges’ work to create the submission may have been an additional limitation for some writers.

Armentrout is looking forward to reading the submissions, as years past have yielded particularly creative entries. “The talent blows me away,” she said. But ultimately, it’s the act of helping out a starting writer that motivates Armentrout the most. “It’s going to sound kind of cheesy, but I believe in paying it forward. When you’re in a position to help other people, I believe in doing that.” Armentrout’s goal is to offer aspiring authors opportunities she wishes she’d had when starting out. “I think showing [writers] that there are authors that support what they want to do, it shows them that the community of writers, and romance writers especially, is one of the most welcoming communities.”