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Christine DeSmet on Lighting the Creativity Fire

Christine DeSmet is the author of the Fudge Shop Mysteries, and the Mischief in Moonstone series. You can find out more about her at her website, or by clicking here, see her last post here, and buy her books here.

Sometimes writers get into slumps, or don’t know what to write. Or, we know what to write but wait for motivation or some signal to shove us into the prose.

New writers in particular may feel wobbly and need a helping hand or boost.

My suggestion? Enter a contest or two or three. Contests hand you a deadline and help set a fire under a writer or an entire career.

There are respected contests for published authors as well as beginners. Contests are often used by writers or authors for marketing; contest wins or placements help light a fire under readers and buyers, too.

I’m honored this year to be the guest fiction judge in the Wisconsin Writers Association annual contest, deadline June 2. It’s open to anybody; you don’t have to be a member. The contest includes a feedback option, always valuable.

Contests built my career. When I decided to try writing a novel, I knew nothing except that deadlines worked. I was a trained journalist.

I wrote a 300-page novel manuscript in a few months in my first try and entered a national contest. And won. Eek! Wow, right? The fire was lit. I wrote more. I entered more contests and placed well. I now had a “portfolio.”

Those early contests proved I could write fast and well enough to warrant seeking an agent and a contract. The contests also gave me the confidence to say “yes” to joining Jewels of the Quill, a group with the goal of writing novellas for publication under deadline pressure. My nine novellas in the Mischief in Moonstone Series (first four now available on Amazon) came out of that effort.

This spring I entered a poetry contest. I’m not a poet. I was interested in LEARNING. I wanted to feel the glee of being in “writer kindergarten.” The deadline challenged me to create a poetry form called Sijo. After a professional critique, I entered the contest. I didn’t win but the effort earned me a prize—a book about Sijo poetry. Without the creativity fire fueled by the contest, I doubt I would have ever tried Sijo poetry writing.

One of my publishers is building a creativity fire, too, to burn brightly and benefit my books. For the recent three Fudge Shop Mystery books the editor hired an artist this spring to create new covers under a similar theme. That includes Deadly Fudge Divas, and Undercover Fudge, and the forthcoming Holly Jolly Fudge Folly.

The artist, editor, and I went through three drafts. This was real art using real sketches and paint and so on, not stock art. I gave the artists a list of things to consider and had approval power. Seeing the early sketches thrilled my heart.

My publisher/editor is also working with an artist for covers for more of the novellas in the Mischief in Moonstone Series.

The next thing lighting a creative fire for me? June 16th! National Fudge Day!

The word “fudge” may have come about from the old word “fadge,” which means to mess around with things a bit. For those who think “fudge” is related to that other word starting with “fu,” sorry, not so. “Fudge” pre-dates that other word by a couple of centuries.

Fudge is considered to be a truly American word, now associated with Vassar College women students creating the first yummy candies called fudge.

Today, tourists called “fudgies” visit fudge shops in places like Door County, Wisconsin. I hope fudgies discover a fun mystery series set there called the Fudge Shop Mystery Series, recipes included.

What has built your creativity fire in your career thus far? Contests? Deadlines? Fellow writers? A creative editor or publisher? New covers for your books? Fudge?

Christine DeSmet

Christine DeSmet is the author of the Fudge Shop Mystery Series set in Door County, and the Mischief in Moonstone Series set in northwest Wisconsin. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Facebook.

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. tracey64p

    Christine, You’re right about contests helping your portfolio! My debut won a Hugh Holton award the year before it was published. I look at that feather in my cap any time I get down about my career. I like the idea of using the deadlines to keep you motivated! Thanks for the post, and enjoy Fudge Day!

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Hugh Holton–what a nice man. He filled in at our Writers’ Institute one year to help us out.

  2. Avatar

    Thanks for a blogpost that is chock-full of delicious info, and not just fudge. Speaking of which, your fudge shop series has more varieties of fudge than even the most creative writer can imagine. Keep the beautifully-covered contest-winning books rolling in!

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      What a sweet message. Thank you, Saralyn.

  3. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Christine — I agree that contests create a fire under one’s tush that causes us to move forward. Fast! A few years ago, I won an Idaho state writing contest. I won money and a confidence boost.

    Your new book covers are spectacular! I’m looking forward to reading Holly Jolly Fudge Folly.

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Thanks, Laurie. Way to go on that Idaho contest. And thanks for reviewing books and posting reviews so consistently. You’re a true writer’s friend. Thank you.

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    Margaret Mizushima

    I love your new book covers, and this is a great post too! Contests, attending writing craft conferences, and getting a story selected for an anthology helped boost my creative fires in my early career. I think that anthology win is what nudged my publisher into asking to read my manuscript, but I’m not certain about that. I love your Fudge Shop Mysteries and am excited that they’re getting a new face lift, although the old covers were cute too!

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Yes, attending craft conferences is a must! I did that immediately of course because the contests were part of conferences. Always a great combination for excitement and getting a boost. Conferences let you meet so many people just like yourself. I made friends for life at craft conferences and through their contests.

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    Marie Sutro

    Great advice about contests. I may need to set my sights on becoming a Fudgie!

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Go for it, Marie, on both counts, contests and fudge! Live life sweetly. Thanks for visiting the blog.

  6. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    I have to agree. It was winning 3rd place out of 97 entries in mystery that encouraged me to continue.

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Whew, that’s a great placement! Congratulations on that and your entire career. Congratulations on your new book that’s out, too, your memoir.

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    Avanti Centrae

    Congrats on your contest wins. I agree we all need a little extra motivation now and again. I love hearing from readers – that’s what fans my flames!

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Yes, yes! I agree on readers. I love, love hearing from them. There is one man who collects all my books set in Door County and he collects other books set in Door County as well. I feel honored to be part of his effort to serve the Wisconsin literary scene. And he’s from Illinois!

      1. Joy Ann Ribar
        Joy Ann Ribar

        Another wonderful piece of advice from you, Christine. Little fires in many places have sparked my creativity. I’ve had a few contest successes through WWA and the Hemingway short fiction contest. Much of my motivation comes from events where I get to engage with readers in bookish conversations. I love that!

        1. Christine DeSmet
          Christine DeSmet

          Joy, the fire from events is so important. I find both online events and in-person events worthy ways to get charged up. We are social animals and I always feel it’s important just to have lunch now and then with fellow writers or readers and friends. I did that just yesterday and I feel so refreshed!

  8. Avatar
    Ann Dallman

    “Live life sweetly.” A lovely quote from a great writer. Thank you for all you do–now it’s time to go on a search for a little fudge!

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Thanks, Ann. I hope people are finding your YA mystery books! The Native American high-school characters are perfect and enlightening. Love your books.

  9. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Thanks, Christine, for the contest idea. I’ve never entered writing contests, but I find submitting my books for awards and won many. But what really lights my creative fire is opening my laptop and seeing the screen saver. There, looking at me, are the cherubic, smiling faces of my two grandkids. They are why I write for kids. Enjoy National Fudge Day. Very cool!

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Sherrill, that’s a special reason to be writing! What a gift to your grandkids. That’s lovely.

  10. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Contests are a fantastic inspiration! Not as good as fudge, mind you, but certainly something that motivates me to et moving. Having a deadline makes me finish editing. Thanks, Christine!

    1. Christine DeSmet
      Christine DeSmet

      Yeah, deadlines are the charm for me, too. They work!

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