Vote for the Winners

Due to suspicious voting activity, the poll has been closed. Official results will be announced Tuesday in the SIDEBAR. →

Hey everyone, thanks for sending in your “Writing is Like American Idol Because…” entries! I loved reading them and appreciated all the writing insights. Below are my seven favorites. To vote for the winner, go to the sidebar. Voting will end at noon on Tuesday, and please only vote ONCE.


debcleve1971 said…

I am Meredith Grey. Afraid, insecure, longing for what I don’t have. Loving McDreamy with a passion (my writing), yet afraid of him at the same time. Will he/my writing just end of giving me more heartache? I’d much rather shake my Meredith skin and climb into Susan Boyle’s any day…plucked or unplucked eyebrows. She believes in herself. She believes in her talent and the ability to pull it off. And, she has never given up. I long to look my judges in the eye and prove them wrong.

H. Scott Hunt said…

Randy: “Yo, yo, yo. Check it out. Dude. I was thinking all week long, like, man, how is he gonna do with this genre. But Dude, let me tell ya; you knocked it out of the park!”

Kara: “I’ve got just three words: You-Could-Write-The-Phonebook!”

Paula: “I…let’s…I think…what…your cover looks really great tonight.”

Simon: “Honestly, I don’t know what these other three were reading. Your story was rubbish and quite boring really, and I think the ramblings of a third grader’s essay on what he did this past summer would have been more enjoyable. I really couldn’t wait until it was over. I think you’re in serious trouble this week.”

Jabez said…

1. The best have quiet confidence; the worst have no doubts.

2. The same errors recur. Judges struggle to find new words to critique.

3. Industry insiders keep the gates, but the public decides who wins.

4. Makeovers help.

Lell said…

Writing is like American Idol because
everybody has a dream,

only a few dreamers
are brave enough to try
to turn that dream into reality,

only a few of those get an opportunity
to reach an audience with their work,

and finally,

enough other people have to see value
in the expression of that dream
for the dreamer to be successful.

Kate said…

It starts with a bang. An idea strikes like a plane flattening itself against the earth. Then comes confusion, the need for direction. A clear path presents itself and you begin to write, navigating your way through a jungle of characters and conflicts.

Finally, the next step–the hatch, a closed door you have to open. The quest for an agent feels impossible, but you work at it and eventually blow the thing open with your fantastic query.

But the journey continues. Now inside the hatch, you must keep working away, revising over and over to the rhythm of a button being pressed. Finally, the sky turns purple–an unforgettable moment when the book finally sells. You’re in a different world now, but you build relationships with the people around as you work toward a common goal, always striving to reach that next level without forgetting where you came from.

Aaron said…

Smiling confidently, you stand before the judges, as an amazing talent finally discovered. People have said they admired your work and that you could make a living at this. You unveil upon them your gift.

Their apathy and dissatisfaction pierce your heart as your eyes blur with tears. Are they blind? How can they not see your talent? You are so not like the delusional others who are just copycat writers. You are different. You can do this. You must do this. This is your life.

The final judge takes a deep breath and leans forward. You can’t breathe. Maybe he will give you some validation. Besides, his vote is the most important. If he likes you, then you’re in.

“Forgettable,” he says with a snide accent, “utterly forgettable.”

He hands back your manuscript and recommends a total re-write. “We are looking for the next Robert Jordan, not Jordin Sparks.”

Mark H. said…

Like a passenger climbing on Oceanic Flight 815, the journey starts peacefully. We’re cruising along, putting words to paper like nobody’s business. Yup, a whole chapter.

Then, the crash. The realization that this is a ton of work. We don’t know if we can last long enough to survive. We scratch out a living (or novel) using whatever scraps and spare parts we can find.

But this is no ordinary island. There are rules. Whether it’s “show, don’t tell” or pushing the right button, you’re bound to hear about it every 108 minutes. People who break them are banished, except for a few who are celebrated and granted leadership positions, like John Locke. Agents and publishers live in an uneasy truce, like Dharma and the Others, and we don’t understand them or fit in. Eventually, we are accepted…but then we have to turn back time, and start over again. Sigh…revisions…

* * *

HONORABLE MENTIONS… in case you wanted to read more.

Camille Cannon Eide wrote the following. She’s a client and not eligible to win, but I love it so I wanted you to see it.

“Research is like LOST: by the time your question is answered, six more have arisen. In publishing, Jack is the sales director who is convinced it’s up to him to save this rag-tag outfit. Locke is the acquisitions editor who believes there is magic here and will do whatever it takes to convince the others. Hurley is the agent—he’s connected, knows what he likes, and is always there for you, dude. And he’s accustomed to dealing with imaginary people. The Island is the writer’s mind: an endless source of disturbing manifestations that normal people are too afraid to explore. And talk about writer’s block: Kate is the pathetic writer who can’t figure out who her flippin hero is and changes her mind more often than Ben lies. Desmond is . . . just plain cool. And the current whereabouts of Sun and Jin’s baby is a MYSTERY.”

Some of the entries had a line or two I thought were insightful:

Holly Bodger: Yet, even if I succeed in making it to the very few who are published (top 12), the only thing that matters is whether or not the public will vote for me (buy my book).

Rose McCauley: My writing journey is like Lost because I am continually uncovering surprises about my characters and myself. I am learning that my characters’ back-stories need to be told in snippets, in active mode and only as much as is absolutely necessary.

Linda: Idol judges watch person after person sing, easily telling which ones had mamas lie to them.

Kat: It’s about finding that wow-factor, that special something that silences the nay-sayers. It’s about finding your voice, and showing the world that you have something worth paying attention to.

Chatty Kelly: But I won’t let their vote define my worth, because sometimes Taylor Hicks beats Chris Daughtry.

Jill: Sometimes people get passed over in the writing world and in AI, but they study and work and come back again the next time to try again. The only way to guarantee you’ll never make it in the publishing world or on AI is to stop trying.

Thanks for all the entries!

P.S. Sorry for my schizophrenic approach to blog design. I get bored of my blog really quickly so it seems I frequently change it up. Maybe one of these days I’ll get a design I really love so I can stick with it for longer!
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Matilda McCloud on May 5, 2009 at 11:39 AM


    It sounds like you need a bit of a break from internet chatter (blogs, websites, contests). I find these fun and useful to read and participate in, but then I have to return to what is really important to me–my writing.

  2. Jabez on May 5, 2009 at 10:22 AM


    Re: “the writing doesn’t matter,” I think you’re correct in an isolated, quality-of-prose sense.

    But in another sense I think the writing is all important: If the words we put on the page appear likely to create an experience for the reader that many people will surrender their hard-earned money for, then someone will want to publish them.

    If you think your novel meets that criterion, please don’t quit until you’ve tried hard to be published. So long as you manage your expectations, what do you have to lose? You’ve already written the book, after all.

  3. Anonymous on May 5, 2009 at 1:29 AM

    >Hi Rachelle.
    The contest was a little window into the Christian publishing world.

    I won’t critique others. We’re all working forward, aren’t we?

    “The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism.” – Flannery O’Connor.

    Not that she would suffer the indignity, but the woman would never make it past a query.

    No platform. No market. No target audience. Not something Christians would want to read.

    Hard, muscular, convicting prose that shreds a heart in the name of Christ.

    No thanks. We like yada yada prayer thingies.

    It’s stretching credulity to believe that “the writing” really does matter anymore.

    I believe in my writing. I’m a paid writer.

    But I know my fine novel will die a peaceful death on my bookshelf.

    Oh well. I wrote 24 words that elicited a response from an agent. I’m happy with that. But I’ve got 97,000 more that will never see the light of day.

    That’s what I get.

    Just had a long funeral for my Christian publishing dream.

    The contests, the agents’ blogs and the snippets of my competitors’ prose provided the eulogy.

  4. Linda on May 5, 2009 at 12:11 AM

    >Thanks, Rachelle, for your blogs and contest which gave me a valuable learning experience . I am very pleased to be in your honorable mention list.

  5. Rachelle on May 4, 2009 at 9:18 PM

    >Anon 7:53, Please explain. I don’t know what you mean. What do you “get”? Why is there no point? What are you quitting? Inquiring minds…

  6. Anonymous on May 4, 2009 at 8:53 PM

    >This has been a good exercise for me. I get it.

    There really is no point in writing to a Christian audience.

    I quit.

  7. Careann on May 4, 2009 at 6:23 PM

    >This was a lot of fun. Congrats to the finalists and honorable mentions. Thanks for the opportunity, Rachelle. What’s next? Learning to trim wordcount a la The Biggest Loser? 😉

  8. Anonymous on May 4, 2009 at 6:07 PM

    >jabez. less is more.


  9. lynnrush on May 4, 2009 at 4:14 PM

    >Great job everyone! It’s fun reading these!!!

  10. Rose McCauley on May 4, 2009 at 3:51 PM

    >What a fun contest–very creative posts and some invaluable writing advice. I’m just pleased to be in the honorable mentions!

  11. Robin Archibald on May 4, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    >Okay, I’m stuck between H. Scott and Jabez. H. Scott seems to have the voices and personalities of the judges down, even though I’ve never watched more than a snippet of AI.

    I love the combination of humor and insight in both entries. Both were layered. Jabez’s final reference to the importance of good looks (and a sly reference to Susan Boyle) made me laugh and was a pithy end.

    But I think I’ll go with H. Scott. His execution of the voices, both in word choice and tone (Simon: “rubbish and quite boring, really”) and his skilled use of punctuation and orthography to help us “hear” the judges (Yo, yo, yo.) was really quite impressive. OMG, I sound like Simon! Really.

  12. Solvang Sherrie on May 4, 2009 at 2:19 PM

    >Those are fun entries! H. Scott Hunt has my vote though, because he totally captured exactly what the judges would say. Perfect!

  13. Dawn on May 4, 2009 at 1:20 PM

    >I enjoyed reading the variety of entries. Fun contest. Thanks!

    Today’s post has provided an entertaining break from slaving away at the “day” job.

  14. Jill on May 4, 2009 at 12:06 PM

    >Thanks for the honorable mention. I feel just like I did–well, the last time I got an encouraging rejection from an editor, actually. LOL But I’m sure I’ll recover. And if I’m going to stay true to my words, I’ll get up and try again. (Not on the contest. Just on my WIP.)*grin*

  15. Anonymous on May 4, 2009 at 11:01 AM

    >Alright, I know all the stuff in the comments about the contest, but I must say, I really like the new look of your blogsite, here. It’s much cleaner, and very nice.

  16. Camille Cannon Eide on May 4, 2009 at 9:49 AM

    >I cracked a smile (my equivalent to your LOL) at H. Scott Hunt’s on first read. Absolutely, dude!

    Thanks for the honorable mention, Rachelle, and for the contest. Being both a writing AND a Lost addict, I couldn’t resist.

    Cheers to everyone for all the great entries!

  17. Sara Cox Landolt on May 4, 2009 at 9:38 AM

    >Thanks for organizing this contest, great fun! Congrats to the selected favorites, well done!

  18. Kate on May 4, 2009 at 9:33 AM

    >I should add- Rachelle, thank you so much for this blog. It’s such an entertaining, informative, and comforting place for an aspiring author to visit every day. The advice and support you provide to the author community is immeasurable.
    Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to share a bit of our creativity with you.

  19. Kim Kasch on May 4, 2009 at 9:24 AM

    >CONGRATS to all those who won, placed or showed . . . us

  20. Mark H. on May 4, 2009 at 9:20 AM


    Thanks for continuing to give us these opportunities. They’re really fun, and you made my day.

    I’m sure I will be completely biased with my vote, but I gotta say, Scott’s entry made me laugh out loud.

    Good work, everyone!

  21. Kate on May 4, 2009 at 9:15 AM

    >I’m so excited and humbled to see my entry included in the final picks. Good luck to everyone! It was a lot of fun to read all of the different creative approaches 🙂

  22. David Olagoke on May 4, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    >Nice efforts. I saw the invitation late and could not enter.

  23. Anne L.B. on May 4, 2009 at 9:00 AM

    >I agonized between Lell and Jabez for a long time before I finally went with poetic over practical and chose Lell.

  24. Krista Phillips on May 4, 2009 at 7:58 AM

    >Great picks!! Congrats to the finalists!

    In honor of AI, anyone want to start a “vote for the worst” campaign!?

    Just kidding! Besides, they are ALL good anyway!

    And Katie, wow, McDreamy… *grin* There’s also a McSteamy if I remember correctly (I used to watch the show but it’s been a while…)

  25. Chatty Kelly on May 4, 2009 at 7:31 AM

    >Thanks for the shout out.

    This was fun. Congrats to all the finalists!

  26. Jessica on May 4, 2009 at 7:22 AM

    >Woohoo! Congrats to everyone! Great entries. 🙂

  27. Marybeth on May 4, 2009 at 6:56 AM

    >I could not stop laughing at H. Scott Hunt’s version. I’m voting for him all the way! I was hoping he’d make it to the top.

    Katie! Who is McDreamy! Oh dear girl…what are we going to do with you 🙂 I will dedicate my blog to enlightening you today!!!

  28. Kristen Torres-Toro on May 4, 2009 at 6:29 AM

    >Congrats to all who made it to this round! It has been fun to read all the entries!

  29. Kristen Torres-Toro on May 4, 2009 at 6:29 AM

    >Congrats to all who made it to this round! It has been fun to read all the entries!

  30. Katie on May 4, 2009 at 5:45 AM

    >I’m eager to see who the winner will be! I’m confused about something… maybe I’m out of the loop here – but who is McDreamy?? If someone could enlighten me, that would be awesome!