In manuscript contest, UB grad has publication on the line
Madeline Smyth, a 1984 graduate of the University at Buffalo, has spent her whole life working toward the goal of becoming a published author. It’s a difficult goal, and Smyth says aspiring authors often wind up trapped in a Catch-22: publishers don’t want to deal with writers who don’t have representation, but agents don’t want to represent writers who don’t have a publisher interested in them.
Smyth says the contest circuit is one way to break out of the Catch-22, and she just advanced to the second round of one with a life-changing prize: “Writing with the Stars,” sponsored by RT Book Review Magazine and Kensington Publishers. The winner will have his or her manuscript published by Kensington Publishers.
Smyth describes the contest as “American Idol for authors.” Te n finalists were selected from 500 entries, and these finalists face off in six online elimination rounds. The first round was “Best First Paragraph and Last Line” and closed on Oct. 26.
The current round is “Best Hero and Heroine.” It began on Monday and will close on Nov. 28. Subsequent rounds include “Best Back Cover Blurb,” “Best Secondary Character,” and “Best Love Scene.” And authors are scrambling to marshal their friends, family and fan bases to garner votes.
“The contest is about promoting and marketing yourself,” said Smyth, the mother of three children who attend SS. Peter and Paul School. “It’s a very difficult thing for many authors.”
The manuscript that Smyth entered is called “Aliyah Arabesque” and was inspired in part by the events of Sept. 11.
“Like a lot of Americans, I was devastated by Sept. 11. I had ties to a lot of the cities involved,” Smyth said. Smyth had worked with Arab Muslims, and as the interest in Islam and Arabic culture grew, she became aware of how little most Americans understood it.
The plot of the novel concerns Aliyah Roberts, adult child of an American father and Arab mother, who loses both of her parents on Sept. 11 and travels to Saudi Arabia in search of her sister. There, she meets Faruq.
“Aliyah is a very complicated heroine as a woman of Arab blood who lost both her parents on Sept. 11. She’s a woman of conflict, conflict between two worlds,” said Smyth. “Her relationship with Faruq and his people becomes the resolution of that conflict.”
Smyth is a 1984 graduate of the University at Buffalo. She studied writing under the famous Black Mountain Poets, including Robert Creeley and Joel Oppenheimer. She was raised in New York City and lived in a variety of cities before returning to Western New York. She currently lives near the Tonawanda-Kenmore line with her family.
“This hasn’t been just about my journey, it’s been about the spirit of Buffalo. I chose to come back because of the people. There’s no place like Buffalo, and no person like a Western New Yorker,” Smyth said. She has reached out to her community, and to current UB students and alumni. She credits their help with her success in the first round.
“Once the people know, they want to vote, they want to put their cities on the map,” Smyth said.