awards for website 3The Northern California Publishers and Authors (NCPA) association presented their 21st Annual Book Awards on April 27th. I am ecstatic to report From Tears to Triumph, My Journey to The House of Hope won 1st Place in the memoir division and 1st Place for Cover/Design over all genres. This is the second 1st Place award in the memoir category – with From Tears to Triumph taking the Gold Medal in the national Illumination’s book contest in January of this year.  

A few days after the NCPA awards ceremony, I prepared my notes and heart to speak at the Writer’s Network breakfast meeting with my topic being, “Five Things You Need to Know to Become an Award Winning Author.” To add flavor and extra value to my presentation, I asked one of the NCPA independent judges for insight into a judge’s mind when reading/critiquing and judging books. His response follows:

“I hope I can be of some help to you on the topic of winning awards, but I’m not so certain it’s what I’m looking for as much as it is what I’m hoping to not see. Coming at the reading (for either a contest or a critique), I’m looking to see what I can do to help the author improve, so if I find something that is rough or interrupts my enjoyment, that is what I comment on. So, for identifying a winner, it’s almost more of not having any negatives that makes it. If there’s nothing I can do to improve the work, then it must be pretty wonderful already, and that is the key.

“Keeping that in mind, there are some places where I start looking before I even get to the story itself, most of which are hopefully out of the author’s control: formatting and layout issues. By ‘out of the author’s control’, I mean that even though the author isn’t doing the formatting, he is still ultimately responsible for it, because he will sign off on it. The problem is that many authors are focused only on the story and are often unaware of the requirements. That’s where having a dependable book designer comes into play (sometimes done by the editor of the content, sometimes by a separate person).

“In the category of formatting and layout, I check even basic things such as having the page numbers in the right place and right style (Roman numerals in the front matter, Arabic in the main text; odd pages on the right, even on the left; page 1 as the first page of content; no page numbers on certain pages, like blanks ones; etc.). I look for information on the back cover such as genre, blurbs, a quick summary, and I even check the ISBN formatting (are the hyphens in the right place? etc.). For both fiction and non-fiction, I go over the front matter and back matter. Is there a Table of Contents? Is there an Index? Does the author include Acknowledgements, Preface, Dedication, Foreword, Introduction, etc. Does the story need a Prologue or Epilogue? How about an Afterword, Conclusion, Postscript, or even an Appendix or Glossary (especially a fiction story set in a world different enough that the reader might need/want additional information)? For non-fiction, is there a Bibliography, List of Contributors, or End Notes?

“Then after all that, I start reading the story itself. Here, I expect to be entertained without interruption. I don’t want to come across a confusing section and be forced to re-read anything. I don’t want to find any misspelled words (or the wrong word for the way it is used). I don’t want to question the motives of the characters. I don’t mind getting anxious about the characters, but I don’t want to see the author hiding anything from me that the characters know. And a pet peeve of mine is POV. If we start a chapter (or section) in one person’s head (first person) or on their shoulder (third person), I want to stick with that person until we’re done with him. Most people I know have spent their entire life in only one head, and that’s the way I want to experience the book. Yes, I want to experience the book! Usually as I read, I feel that I am the main character, so I want to know everything he knows, I want to feel what he feels, and I want to see the world through his eyes.

“When I get to the end, I want to be surprised by the ending, but it has to be logical. It has to make sense that it ends the way it does, but I don’t want to be able to predict it. When I think back, the ending has to be the right one, but I wouldn’t have expected it until it happens. As the last thing I read, the ending is what will stick with me, and that is the part that I’ll mention to my friends. The best (or worst) advertisement is word of mouth, whether it be good or bad.

“Many of these ideas are oft repeated, but based on what I see out there, they aren’t oft heard or heeded. (Hmmm...sounds like a poster: ‘oft repeated but not heeded’.)

“Anyway, after all that, all I really want is some escape from the real, mundane world. Give me some excitement, some adventure, some emotion. Things that I will probably never experience in my real life. That is all most readers really want.”

THANK YOU, Wes Turner for your candid and important insight, and for allowing me to share this with my readers.

Mr. Turner can be reached at He provides copy editing, critiquing, and proofreading services.

What is next for From Tears to Triumph? My television interview on the Barb Marshall, Love Your Life Ministries show, will air on May 25th. I’ll post time and channels on my Facebook page,

In additionthe book is being translated into Spanish! De grimas a Triunfo, Mi Camino a La Casa de la Esperanza, is due out by the end of this year.


                        Linda Bello-Ruiz, Award-winning author, Speaker

(707) 331-3684

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