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Hugh Holton Contest Open; Deadline Oct. 15

Unpublished crime fiction manuscript competition opens Oct. 1

Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter’s annual Hugh Holton Award Contest welcomes literary agent Alice Speilburg as judge.


The Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter is pleased to open submissions to its annual Hugh Holton Awards Contest—and to welcome a guest judge for chapter member submissions, literary agent Alice Speilburg.


Alice Speilburg is the founding agent at Speilburg Literary Agency in Kentucky and a member of Mystery Writers of America and its Midwest Chapter since 2014.


The winning manuscript by an unpublished MWA Midwest member, chosen by Speilburg, will be awarded the grand prize of $250. For unpublished nonmembers, chosen by our committee of published authors, the top prize is a year’s membership in Mystery Writers of America and the Midwest Chapter (valued currently at $115).


The deadline for entry is Oct. 15, 2017. Winners will be announced December 3, 2017.


  • The contest is open to any unpublished writer, member or nonmember.
  • Entrants can enter up to 25 pages of a crime/mystery/thriller/suspense story or novel manuscript to be considered for the Holton Awards Contest. [Standard formatting applies: Please use 1-inch margins and 12-point Times New Roman or similar; double-space all paragraphs. Do not send full manuscripts.]
  • Only one entry per writer.


Each submission must be unpublished, original, and the work of the submitting writer. Submitting writers must not have any novels commercially published (this includes self-published authors). Entrants can have short stories or other short pieces published. All entrants must live in one of the thirteen states covered by MWA Midwest Chapter membership (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin).


Submitted manuscripts by MWA Midwest members will be sorted by a committee of MWA Midwest members; the top 15 manuscripts will be judged by Ms. Speilburg. Manuscripts submitted by nonmembers will be judged by a panel of published MWA Midwest member authors, who will be revealed after the contest is over.


Submissions DO NOT receive feedback within this process.


For those who submitted manuscripts to the MWA Midwest Holton Critique Program earlier this year, there is no additional cost; you may submit your revised manuscript for consideration without the fee. For new entries not sent through the critique program this year, the cost is $25 for members, $50 for nonmembers, payable by check made out to MWA Midwest and mailed to Lori Rader-Day, PO Box 30173, Chicago, IL 60630-0173 or through Paypal to Please include the title of your entry story/manuscript in your payment in the memo on the check or in the notes on the Paypal payment.


Submit manuscript only in attached Word file or pdf WITHOUT your name anywhere on the manuscript [no cover letter necessary] to


Entries that went through the Holton Critique Program earlier this year are not required to have made specific changes suggested during that program, but do need to re-send the manuscript for the contest.


The Hugh Holton Award is named for a former member of MWA Midwest. Hugh Holton was a Chicago mystery writer and a pioneer African American writer of crime fiction. He wrote eight books about Chicago Police Detective Larry Cole, all of which drew on his experiences as a Chicago police officer. When Holton died in 2001, MWA Midwest launched a critique program within the chapter to remember Holton’s contribution to the writing community and to MWA Midwest.


Mystery Writers of America is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. MWA is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre. We provide scholarships for writers, sponsor MWA Literacy programs, sponsor symposia and conferences, present the Edgar® Awards, and conduct other activities to further a better appreciation and higher regard for crime writing. The Midwest Chapter represents members in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. For information on joining MWA, please see the national organization’s web site at


Alice Speilburg is the founding literary agent at Speilburg Literary Agency and has worked in publishing since 2008. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators, and she is a board member of Louisville Literary Arts. She is currently building her client list and represents narrative nonfiction and commercial fiction for adult and YA readers. Find more information at her website: or connect with her on Twitter @AliceNicoleH.


2017-10-09T17:08:08+00:00 October 1st, 2017|Contests, Public|