Harlequin Presents Writing Competition 2009: the Winners!

by editor Joanne Grant

We launched The Harlequin Presents Writing Competition 2009 on July 6th this year and from the moment the announcement went out, we were overwhelmed by the response! There was so much excitement and buzz and it is fair to say that the buzz has continued right through to now – the moment everyone has been waiting for…

From 544 to 4…we have our winners and runners-up!

We found it so hard to choose between our final shortlist that we decided to honour both streams of editorial, so we have two winners and two runners-up! They are:






Modern Heat





Once we had decided on our winners and contacted them (it was so exciting to call them all up to break the good news!), we discovered that both of our Presents/Modern winners were North American and have some recent publishing experience, whereas both of our Modern Heat winners are from the UK and are unpublished. It is so great to think that through our competition we have found talent from both sides of the pond with such different levels of experience.

Both winners, Susanna and Gill, win an editor for a year, and our runners-up, Maggie and Joanne, have won a consultation on their entries with an editor. Please join me, and the editorial team, in congratulating them!

We would also like to thank all of you who entered and for your continued interest and enthusiasm! Although we cannot give individual feedback on the majority go the submissions, we will be sending out an email to each and every one of you. Our aim is for all responses to be sent no later than December 18th.

We will be sharing the winning chapters and our thoughts on them in the coming months, so be sure to come back and visit is regularly!

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Comments ( 268 )
  1. Suzanne
    December 15, 2009 at 5:59 am

    I’m feeling a little lost these days. lol.. But as everyone says, it is almost Christmas. Be Happy, go to your loved ones, give them a cuddle and hold on tight, for tomorrow we don’t know what’s around the corner. Be thankful for now, today. And don’t forget have a happy christmas. There will be other comps, other opportunities, other avenuens. I’m actually shedding a tear here. I’m so upset that you guys are upset… gosh, I’m a damn softie.

    But truly to all who entered, you have the ability to write a chapter, a manuscript. Not many can. Smile and be happy or I’ll damn well cry again. 🙂

  2. Michelle Hickson
    December 15, 2009 at 6:02 am


    I have read all of the recent comments with great interest. I also entered and got the dreaded R email this morning, am saddened, I never thought I would place but never the less it is still upsetting when you get told it is not worth even re-writing. I work full time and it took me nearly a year to write my MS (1 month to keep rewriting the first chapter) so am disapointed of course. I will keep writing but right or wrong dont think I will have the same passion for it I once did. I guess that is the risk you take on submitting. Damn that ‘what if’that rung in my ears for weeks before I pressed the send button.

    I would also like to say congrats to the two non published winners, I cant wait to read your entries. I am not going to get into the ins and outs of what happened, as many I thought this was for ‘aspiring authors’ Like a previous person mentioned which I agree, all it would have taken was for Harlequin to pick non published authors and contact the two women in question directly and get them to submit seperately they would still get the chance to get their MS published, I know it could also work the other way and non published authors can also be contacted (if you did well done)but it would have stopped this situation arising. The prize was for an editor for a year or a discussion about your submission and the feedback we all so much wanted. If you are also published surly this means you have or had access to editors and feedback why take this away from someone who never had this wonderful experience.

    Thats me done on this anyway. I also love the idea of the Crit group, fantastic, the possibility of getting some feedback even if it was negative as long as it was constructive and could help me improve my writing, after all thats what I am sure most of us want. I will be looking them up shortly.


  3. Romantic at heart
    December 15, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Suzanne and Michelle -I know the feeling, I got the dreaded don’t even bother trying to rewrite rejection too. I’d hoped for some feedback but it wasn’t to be.

    What stops me lapsing into despair, is the fact that through RWA I know a number of writers who received multiple standard rejections from M&B but have been published in single title.

    They are really great writers and their books are selling well. They mustn’t have had the voice M&B were looking for but they are GREAT writers. Heck, Helen Fielding (of Bridget Jones’s Diary fame) was rejected by M&B, so it’s not about talent per se but the very particular ms that M&B is looking for.

    I’m taking some time out, revisiting what I think are the strengths of my writing and finding a way to play to those strengths rather than trying to force myself into a particular mould-which obviously isn’t working.

    Onwards and upwards I say!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Francine Howarth
    December 15, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Don’t be disheartened, let’s get together and read each others’ first chapters!!!

    I’ve posted mine at: http://tgunwriter.blogspot.com

  5. Francine Howarth
    December 15, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Don’t be disheartened 🙁

    Let’s together and read each others’ first chapters.

    mine is posted at:


  6. Francine Howarth
    December 15, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Sorry fouled last post.


    I’ve posted my first chapter.

    Let’s all get together and view each others’ first chaps.

  7. Cynthia
    December 15, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Hi Lolo Dee,

    I couldn’t find Christine’s group on google groups either, but just sent her an email at angels-of-romance@googlegroups.com.

    I got the standard R also. The Friday before I also received a rejection for the partial I had sent to M&B. Like others have previously stated it made me feel like a real “writer” since I’ve joined the esteemed group of present authors who were rejected many times before. It’s actually hanging on my office wall right now.

    Let’s just keep writing everyone… it’s the only way we have a chance to ever get published!

  8. Daisychain
    December 15, 2009 at 9:20 am

    How naive am I? I didn’t even know there was a dirty version of a daisychain… thats an image I’ll never get out of my head now that I know what it is.

    I love Francine’s idea of reading each others chapters. With 540 that weren’t used some must be good and maybe we should support each others work even if they were rejected. I don’t want to slag off M&B but I’ve had to give up on more than one of their published books because it was so appallingly written so their judgment is not infallible. Just because you were not appropriate for them does not mean that you are not good enough to find a publisher elsewhere. We could give each other the words of encouragement need to continue despite this set back to our confidence.

  9. Francine Howarth
    December 15, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Absolutely Daisychain, couldn’t agree more.

    Keeping up morale is so important.

    That said, posting chapters should not be about getting ‘ace comments’ or indepth critiques as such. It’s just a means of knowing what others like writing: style etc., and themes.

    Well, I’m game. Eat me or bin me :0

  10. Catch
    December 15, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Hi Cristine, Lola Dee,Francine, Petronella

    Group sounds great. I’ve emailed Christine at angels-of -romance. As I’m an Aussie you won’t get that till some time in the middle of the night i think.

    The hardest part about submitting a piece of writing to a publisher is not getting feedback. M&B obviously can’t give feedback to over 500 entrants so giving it to each other sounds good.

    Petronella, English is my first language but I still hate it when people critique my spelling rather than my writing. Know where you’re coming from there.

    Amy – thanks again for these posts. It’s been good to talk and listen to everyone.


  11. Cynthia
    December 15, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Francine: I just read your chapter and really enjoyed it. I’d think you should post more if you’ve finished it. It also showed me that my voice definitely doesn’t fit what Harlequin/M&B is looking for.

    Daisychain: I liked your thoughts: “Just because you were not appropriate for them does not mean that you are not good enough to find a publisher elsewhere. We could give each other the words of encouragement need to continue despite this set back to our confidence.”

    After also receiving an R from M&B two weeks ago for a partial I had sent, I’m now going to pursue a Chick Lit book that has been running around in my head for a year.

    As for “daisychain” and the earlier description of it, it reminded me of my roommate’s boyfriend from college (which was many years ago). Whenever he would come to our room I would always find my stuffed animals left in a “chain” across my bed. LOL!

  12. Francine Howarth
    December 15, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Hi Cynthia,

    Mine didn’t fit M&B tastes either, so we’re all in the same punt!

    Has anyone located the Url for Romance Angels Group?

    Post it. Why not!

  13. Donna Alward
    December 15, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Form rejections.

    Please, PLEASE don’t take form rejections to heart. It is impossible for editorial to respond personally to 540 submissions in addition to their regular workload.

    To clarify: the suggestion to not rework that project doesn’t mean please don’t send us any more work. It means you are better off focusing on a new story. Remember it’s the story being rejected, and not you personally. And you may leave a long trail of unsold manuscripts in your wake before you get The Call. I know I did. Going back and trying to fix old mss would have only taken me longer in the end. Taking what you’ve learned and applying it to a new story is such a great idea. While some people sell their first or second story, many many more write for years and several stories before making it.

    I have a file folder full of rejections that say, in essence, to move on and leave that story alone. In fact I have a lovely variety of form letters from over the years. 🙂 Don’t let it discourage you.



  14. Abby Green
    December 15, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Daisychain – imagine my own bemusement at all this bandying about of Daisy (and er, chains), when that’s my real name..! Quite disturbing altogether… 😉
    x Abby

  15. Abby Green
    December 15, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Daisy, that is…not Daisychain…that would be too weird.

  16. Amy
    December 15, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I’m going to close this thread. I think everything to be said has been said. As Joanne and I have said, the editors will be taking the concerns about the rules and the feeling that people were mislead into account for the future.

    And for those caught in the crossfire, I’m sorry it went on so long over the weekend…

    But so as not to stop the setting up of the critique groups and such, I’ll set up a post for that. Please keep on topic there, though.

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