It is 1906, and a young woman steps off a train in Chicago and bumps into a couple who seem pleasant enough. They offer her a job as governess for their two children. How fortunate for her! Or is it too good to be true?

This sets the stage for the winner of the Chicago Writers Association’s 5th Annual First Chapter Contest

This opening chapter to Where the Bloom and the Laughter Go by Janet Souter captured first place. Janet has been awarded a full scholarship to attend either the All-Genre Novel-In-Progress (NIP) Bookcamp & Writing Retreat May 23 to 29, 2021 or the Speculative Fiction NIP Bookcamp August 1 to 7, 2021, at the Cedar Valley Center & Spa, 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, near West Bend, Wisconsin (value: $1385). 

Second place goes to the first chapter of Christopher Hawkins' I Contain Multitudes. Christopher has received a cash award of $150.

Third place has been awarded to Bill Mathis for the opening chapter of The Memory Tree. Bill, who took first place in last year's First Chapter Contest, has generously donated his cash award of $75 back to CWA.

This year we received a record number of entries and the race was the tightest we've ever had. It was so close that we are doing something we have never done before and recognizing three other entries. Honorable mentions and cash prizes of $25 each have been awarded to: 

  • Tagged by Jonnie Guernsey 
  • On the Edge of So Many Things by Cyn Vargas 
  • The Argonaut by Mim Eichman 

Congratulations to all of the winners! You'll be able to read the top three winning chapters in upcoming editions of CWA’s Write City Magazine.

Members of CWA’s Board of Directors selected the prize winners, which will be published in CWA’s e-zine, Write City Magazine, from a record 70 entries. Judging was based on merits that should be found in a first chapter, including a good opening hook, strong characterizations, compelling voice, conflict, dialogue, and no grammar/mechanical errors.

Thank you to all of those who entered. The field of more than 70 entries was highly competitive. The judges were all impressed by the quality of this year’s entries. 

Look for details about the 5th Annual First Chapter Contest coming in the summer of 2021.