Randi Shelton

Randi Shelton

Every year, SDSU Writers’ Conference Director Erin Quinn awards a scholarship to an aspiring writer for full-paid admission to the conference ($499 value) and the choice of an Advance Reading or Consultation appointment ($50 value) with an agent or editor. The former requires submitting the first 10 pages of your manuscript to be read prior to the conference; the latter is a Q&A opportunity to pitch your project as a whole and discuss its viability in the marketplace.

The SDSU Writers’ Conference was among the first to pioneer these 1:1 appointments, giving writers unprecedented access to top-tier publishing professionals — many of whom interact with unpublished authors only through conferences.

The scholarship entry form is on Erin Quinn’s website, where each year hopefuls must submit a statement of 100 words or less about why they want to go. The statement is to verify that entrants are indeed writers (versus contest enthusiasts) and the winner is chosen by random selection by a third party, and notified on or around November 15.

Quin has been awarding a scholarship every year since 2006.

“I know how tough this business is,” said Quinn. “Through my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have had mentors who helped me on the way. I wanted to give back in some way and I presented the idea of a scholarship to SDSU, and SDSU embraced it. I firmly believe that going to a conference — any conference, but especially one as professional and high-caliber as SDSU — is a huge and necessary investment in any writer’s future. Making that investment often makes the dream real, and that’s a critical turning point for a writer. Believing that the dream can become a reality is the first step to making it a reality.”

This year’s scholarship winner is Randi Shelton of Arizona, who will be pitching her New Adult romance series. (Winners are responsible for their own travel fees.)  Shelton shares her goals for the SDSU Writers’ Conference and her writing career.

Are you a writer by profession or is it an avocation?
I’m an aspiring writer hoping that one day soon it will be my profession. But until then I spend my days as a maitre d’.

How did you find out about Erin Quinn’s Scholarship to the SDSU Writers’ Conference?
Erin Quinn told me about this wonderful opportunity herself! Last spring I was a volunteer at Arizona State University’s “Desert Nights, Rising Stars” Writers Conference where a fellow volunteer insisted that I be introduced to one of the conference faculty members who is a huge success in the romance genre. After I attended one of Erin’s brilliant Craft classes, we were introduced and she asked about what projects I was currently working on. I shared with her the content of my New Adult series which she followed up with telling me about her amazing scholarship!

What did your entry entail?
Other than the basic information I had to provide, the core of my entry was the synopsis to my novel Bigger the Bottle, Messier the Mistake:

“No harm, no foul in waking up hung over in a random boy’s bed—or so Leila Davis has taught herself. Just as this emotionally unavailable coed has grown accustom to her repeat offenses with men, she finds herself in the bed of one Tyson Cameron, the friend who stands to threaten her routine. Within a few hours of waking up with Tyson, Leila runs into old flame Jace Henderson. The spark is reignited and she suddenly finds herself in the middle of an exhausting love triangle. Maintaining an impressive grade-point average seems to be breeze compared to seeing through a lover’s charm and empty promises. One suitor has set out to satisfy his vendetta against her whereas the other has the purest of intentions. Leila is unaware of her paramour’s ulterior motives. These two boys are capable of confusing her nonchalant attitude towards casual flings and turn it into something she had not been expecting: genuine emotions. As she attempts to remain neutral, her body’s cravings and heart’s desires are split. There could not be enough vodka or nicotine in the world to help determine who her heart should belong to, if anyone at all.”

How did Erin notify you that you had won a scholarship to attend the 2016 SDSU Writers’ Conference, and how did it feel?
I was notified by an unexpected email. When I applied for the scholarship in July, I knew my chances were slim. That’s why when I received Erin’s email I actually screamed from excitement! It took a solid five minutes to get my jaw off the ground. It’s such an honor to win!

Had you ever attended the SDSU Writers’ Conference before?
This will be my first SDSU Writers’ Conference but hopefully not my last!

Do you have a project you plan to pitch?
Yes. I signed up for an Advance Reading! This is the same novel that I used the synopsis for as my entry for the scholarship. Bigger the Bottle, Messier the Mistake is the first book in a New Adult Romance series about a promiscuous female who finds herself in a summer love triangle between a vindictive ex-lover and a male friend.

I’ve been working on this particular project for over four years now because as every writer knows, no matter how many times we reread our work, we can always find something new to tweak. Here’s a sneak peak of this humorous tale!

Once the sunlight hit Leila’s face, her eyes flashed open automatically. She scanned her surroundings, somewhat fearful of where last night’s drunken stupor had led her. The young coed examined her present location until finally stumbling upon Tyson Cameron, the boy who was graciously sharing his bed. It was Leila’s first instinct to grab her floral print dress and bra—which had somehow managed to wind up on the bedroom door handle—and get the hell out of there. Being in Tyson’s bed, bare chest exposed, did not shock her. Considering the increasing ache in her head, each second worse than the previous, she could not be less surprised. This had meant another drunken night and another random boy to occupy her time. She just wished that this particular male had not been a part of her social group.

Do you have a query letter to bring to the conference’s popular On-the-Spot Query Critique?
Yes! I’m always looking for any feedback or critiques anyone has to offer me.

What are your writing goals and what do you hope to gain from the conference?
That’s a long list of goals! A few would include being a New York Times best seller, writing a successful screenplay for one of my own book series, and if all goes well writing a couple Lifetime movies is on my to-do list as well! However, for the Bigger the Bottle, Messier the Mistake series I am hoping it will be the launch of the writing career I’ve been dreaming of and working towards since I was eight years old. As for the conference, I’m looking to connect with fellow authors, learn new techniques for further projects, but mainly come home with great memories!

What’s the first book that spoke to you as a young reader?
That’s a tough question. I read so many different types of books and learn something from each and every one but the one book I’ve read a dozen times over since I was in middle school and still read at least once a year is Someone Like You, by Sarah Dessen. The YA novel addresses the hardships of a teenage girl who falls in love for the first time and is helping her best friend through a teen pregnancy. Whenever I find myself struggling with writer’s block, I will put down the pen and pick up a copy of Someone Like You. I’m unable to pinpoint exactly what about this book has inspired me for over a decade. It could be the relatable characters, the memorable lessons about heartache, or the way Dessen’s words flow perfectly together. No matter what it is, I always come back for more.

Who’s your favorite author (or top three if it’s hard to choose one)?
As an adult I’ve become fond of Jodi Picoult’s work. One of my many writing goals is to be able to write as gracefully as she does. However, I still reread my favorite childhood authors Sarah Dessen and Ameilia Atwater-Rhodes.

What keeps you going in the pursuit of your writing goal?
Love. My love for the written word, love for piecing together my own universe, and love for sharing that universe with others. I have yet to experience a feeling greater than the one when a fan tells me how much they love getting lost in the world I created.

The 32nd Annual SDSU Writers’ Conference is Jan. 22-24, 2016 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley. Register now for three amazing days that could change your writing life.

For more information, visit neverstoplearning.net/writers, call (619) 594-0670 or email sdsuwritersconference@sdsu.edu.

If you’d like apply for the 2017 scholarship, the entry form will be on Erin Quinn’s website starting in February or March. Apply before November 15.