I am officially psyched. Seventeen Magazine is holding a fiction contest and I'll be one of the judges...alongside my brilliant editor Abby McAden, and one of my idols, the great author Meg Cabot. I cannot wait to start reading entries (which won't be for a while, because all the entries are due in January, but I know the time will fly!). I hope a LOT of people enter. Seventeen was hands-down my favorite magazine when I was in high school; my best friend and I would get our issues in the mail on the same day, camp out on her living room floor, and read them slowly and carefully, savoring each angsty advice column, each glossy fashion spread, and finally, the short stories in the back. Seventeen doesn't print as much fiction now, but I remember discovering so many amazing writers in its pages, such as Edwidge Danticat. I remember feeling so inspired by the stories--at the time, I was starting to write more and more, to discover my own voice as a writer, and I began to feel like I was part of something bigger, a literary tradition for women, by women.
When I gave Meg Cabot the bound galley of my forthcoming novel, The Year My Sister Got Lucky, I wrote the following on the title page: "I feel like I'm signing a knock-off bag and giving it to Miuccia Prada." Talk about literary tradition; I truly believe that without Meg Cabot, chick-lit books for teens--books for teens in general -- would not be as popular, and not be as good, as they are today. She is the Real Thing, the designer everyone wants to emulate, and she raises the bar with every book. Our writing styles and subject matters are very different, of course, but she is a great source of inspiration for me, and I know, for countless other young adult writers. So her being such a big part of this contest makes it all the cooler.
Though I never entered a writing contest in Seventeen, I did win a prize in a fiction contest run by, of all places, Scholastic Inc., which, aside from Simon Pulse, is where I publish, and work, today. Destiny, perhaps? Who knows? Either way, pick up those pens, laptops, or keyboards, and get to scribbling for Seventeen...you never know where taking a chance might take you.