Frequently Asked Questions
You are eligible if:
You have never published anything
You have published poetry, fiction, or nonfiction pieces (including memoirs, essays, or feature articles) in a magazine, newsletter, newspaper, literary journal, or trade journal; or have contributed in a minor way to an anthology
You have published such nonfiction works as a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation, or a technical manual or handbook
Your written work has been produced on stage but has not been published
Your illustration work has been published in a print magazine or newsletter or in an online magazine or newsletter
Your illustrations or other artwork have been shown or sold in a gallery or museum or other art space (including online)
Your illustrations have been shown or sold in a self-published book form as a one-time requirement of your academic degree or program
Your written or illustrated work has been produced on calendars, greeting cards, bookmarks, or as similar printed material
You are ineligible if:
You are an employee of Shoreline Arts Alliance or a family member to an employee
You are a members of the judging panel or a family member to a judge
You are a published writers or illustrators. These awards are dedicated to helping new talents emerge.
You have had any book of fiction (novel, novella, short story), poetry, or nonfiction published (in print or e-book format)
You have self-published (in print or e-book format) and offered for sale a book of either fiction, poetry, or nonfiction
You are the named editor of any published book (for instance, anthologies of poetry, short stories, or essays)
You are the illustrator of any published books (for instance, anthologies of poetry, short stories, or essays)
You are the illustrator of any published illustrations in any book form (e-books, children's books, or adult fiction or nonfiction).
What kinds of self-published work make me ineligible to submit?
If your work has ever been printed and bound and has been given an ISBN number and/or has been offered for sale anywhere at any time, either in print of electronically, you are published and are not eligible to enter this competition.
What kinds of self-published work can I have produced that make me still eligible?
If your work has been hand-printed, hand-lettered, or printed in small quantities as a bound book and has not been offered for sale, anywhere, at any time, you remain eligible. If, as a requirement of a certificate or degree program in illustration, you have been asked to create a self-published book project that has been given an ISBN number and offered for sale, you may submit if you can offer proof of the requirement in the form of a letter from a dean, director, or instructor on school letterhead.
How do I enter?
Please read our complete 2023 entry guidelines here.
How should I prepare my manuscript?
Please read our complete entry guidelines and see our sample manuscript pages here.
What font/margin/size should I use?
As described in our guidelines, your manuscript must be double-spaced and submitted on white pages in black, 12-point type. We require standard 8.5" x 11" size pages with "portrait" orientation, one-inch margins, and readable fonts. Times New Roman is recommended. A clear sans-serif font such as Arial or Candara is also acceptable. If you strongly prefer another font, please make sure it is a clear, legible font. To ensure that your submission is accepted, be certain to check that the 12-point size in whatever font you choose is very comparable in size with 12-point Times New Roman. Easy readability is essential. Double spacing is required. Work that is not double-spaced will be discarded, and the entry will not be judged. For tips about pagination and inserting headers, we've provided a helpful Youtube tutorial here. Please see our sample manuscript pages for the proper page set-up and further instruction.
How should I prepare my book dummy?
Please read our Helpful Tips for Illustrators.
Should I submit a cover letter?
No. No cover letters of any kind are necessary for any submissions. You will submit only the required Google Form and your uploaded files.
What if I feel that I must explain my work?
Your intentions should be obvious in the work itself. Please do not add explanatory or personal notes to the judges, either in a cover letter or at the beginning of or at the end of your picture book or novel manuscript.
Should I address my submission to a particular judge?
No. Our volunteer judges remain anonymous, so there is no need to specify a name. Keep in mind that we do not want you to submit a cover letter or any other explanatory notes, biography, resume, or curriculum vitae, so there is no need to address your submission to anyone in particular. Your submission must stand on its own two feet. Any additional materials will be discarded. Please submit only your entry form, your entry fee, and your work. Your submission will be directed to the correct judge with a specialty in the category of submission.
Is the contest only open to Connecticut residents?
Yes. This contest is open only to unpublished writers and illustrators, aged 16 or older at the time of submission, whose primary residence is in the State of Connecticut.
Since this is a competition for CT writers and illustrators, do the submissions have to be about Connecticut or set in Connecticut?
No. Your work can be about any topic set anywhere in the world, and your images may depict any kind of setting anywhere in the world.
Can I submit someone else's material?
No. The manuscript must be your own original work.
May I enter the work of a writer or illustrator who is deceased?
No. The entrant must be the creator of the submission.
Can I submit my entries after the posted deadline?
No. All entries must be submitted either before or exactly on the date of the posted deadline. All late entries will be discarded, and late entrants will not be notified that their entry arrived too late for consideration.
Can I enter this contest more than once?
Yes. Each year, as long as you remain unpublished and you have not already been named a winner in the category, you can submit up to two entries in each of the remaining categories.The entry fee for your first entry is $20; all additional submissions, for any category, have an entry fee of $15.
I have submitted to the Tassy Walden competition in the past and have not been named a winner, an honorable mention, or a finalist. Can I resubmit the same work?
Yes. We recommend that you review your previously submitted work and consider revisions that may improve it. You may also decide to submit new work.
I have submitted to the Tassy Walden competition in the past and have been named an honorable mention or a finalist. Can I resubmit the same work?
Yes. You may resubmit the same work. You may also submit new work.
I have submitted to the Tassy Walden competition in the past and have been named a winner, but I remain unpublished. Can I resubmit the same work?
No. If you have already been named a winner (and you remain unpublished), you may only submit new work in a different category.
I wrote my picture book text, and my friend, child, grandparent, or partner illustrated it - or vice versa. May I submit this work as an author-illustrator?
No. You cannot submit this work as an author/illustrator team. You must be both the author and the illustrator; no author-illustrator collaborations are permitted in this competition. The author and the illustrator must be the exact same person.
I am published as a picture book illustrator but not as an author. Am I still eligible for the picture book text category or for the illustrated picture book category?
No. If your work as an illustrator has been published in book form, you are ineligible for this competition. For the list of possible exceptions, please see the eligibility chart at the top of the page.
I have co-authored my picture book text or my novel with another author. May we submit this work as a single entry?
No, you may not submit a co-authored work. You must be the sole creator of this work.
Can my picture book text be nonfiction?
Yes. We receive many nonfiction picture book texts and nonfiction illustrated picture books. Keep in mind, however, that the target audience should be generally young (toddler through perhaps age 8) and the text can be no longer than 1200 words.
I have illustrated a picture book that has no text. Can I enter this submission in the Illustrated Picture Book category without a manuscript?
Yes. If your illustrated book is a wordless picture book, it is still eligible. Along with your illustrated book dummy file, please include a single file that includes your contact information and states, "This submission is a wordless picture book. It has no text." If your illustrated book has very few words, please be sure that the words appear on your bound dummy and please submit a manuscript file that includes that brief text, plus, if necessary for clarity, the page numbers upon which those words appear.
Can I submit a manuscript that I am still working on?
No - at least not exactly. While you may significantly revise your work even after you submit your picture book text or your novel's first 25 pages to the Tassy Walden competition, we require that your work on your full-length manuscript is both complete and polished at the time of submission.
I'm an agent. Can I submit my client's work to this competition?
No. This competition is for writers and illustrators only. Agents should pitch and submit the projects of their clients to publishing houses in the usual manner. You may certainly urge your client to independently submit an entry to the Tassy Walden competition.
I have an agent who submits my work to publishers. Can I still enter the competition as an individual?
Yes. If you are an agented - but still unpublished - writer or illustrator, you may submit your work to the Tassy Walden competition on your own.
Can I submit if my manuscript or my portfolio is under consideration with a publisher or agent?
Yes. Manuscripts and illustrations that are being considered by publishers remain eligible for submission. However, if your work is accepted for publication and you have signed a contract before the competition entry deadline, you must notify Shoreline Arts Alliance. You must withdraw your entry from consideration by our judges; your entry fee will not be refunded. If your submitted entry should come under contract after the competition deadline (but before the May announcement of winners and finalists), your entry remains eligible and does not have to be withdrawn from consideration by our judges.
Are translations eligible?
Yes, but the author and the original work are subject to the same terms and conditions of all other entries.
Will I be notified when my entry is received?
No. At this time, you will not be automatically notified that your entry has been received by Shoreline Arts Alliance. If you wish to confirm receipt of your submission, please email email@example.com and someone will check for you.
Do I have to submit my work in English?
Yes. All works must be submitted in English. However, if the purpose of your book is to reach a bilingual market or to teach or expose young readers to a second language, parts of your text can be in another language.
Do I keep my copyright if I enter?
Yes. Each submission remains the intellectual property of the entrant, as protected by U.S. copyright law.
Will you accept a manuscript that does not conform to one of the five listed categories?
You should not enter the competition if your work does not conform to one of the five listed categories. At this time, we do not award a prize for poetry anthologies or short stories, for instance, and we do not award a prize for graphic novels. (Note: Graphic novels - that is, novels that feature or rely on an illustrated component - should not be submitted in the Middle Grade or Young Adult categories.) If you submit and pay the entry fee for an entry that does not conform to one of the competition categories, your work will be discarded, and your entry fee will not be refunded. Keep in mind that a poetry anthology is typically a themed assortment of poems by a variety of writers. You may certainly submit a collection of your own themed poems on a single topic in the Picture Book Text or Illustrated Picture Book category.
Are submissions blinded?
No. The judges will be aware of the entrants' identities. Please do not use a pseudonym. You must submit using your real name. Please keep in mind that all entrants must be individuals. Organizations, companies, or corporations cannot submit.
In the Middle Grade Novel and Young Adult Novel categories, can I submit fiction only?
Yes. In the Middle Grade and Young Adult categories, we are asking for the first 25 pages (plus a synopsis) of novel-length fiction manuscripts. At this time, we do not offer a nonfiction category for an older target audience.
How long does my novel need to be?
Along with a complete synopsis, we are asking you to submit only the first 25 pages of your completed novel, but your full-length manuscript for a Middle Grade (MG) or Young Adult (YA) novel should be finished and available upon request. Novels can be of any length. You may wish to research the typical lengths of novels for these target audiences, but, in general, the industry does seem to embrace exceptional novels of varying lengths.
I am submitting a Middle Grade or Young Adult novel to the competition. How long should my synopsis be?
You may choose. Every synopsis should tell the complete plot and character development arc of your story, from beginning to end. Your synopsis may be somewhat lengthy (three to five pages is fairly typical, but fewer or more pages are permissible). Or, with very careful crafting, it may also be a powerful single page. Other competitions and many agents and editors have strict limits (such as 1 page or 250 words), so you may wish to craft a synopsis that you may use again for other purposes. For the Tassy competition, you may choose to write several detailed paragraphs that summarize the action as well as the themes and character elements, or you may choose to create a chapter-by-chapter outline that briefly describes the principal work of each chapter from start to finish. In addition to its most important work of fleshing out your plot and characters, the full synopsis helps to assure the judges that you have completed your novel. Your complete novel must be available immediately upon request. Our judges will be reading for "story" and will not be critiquing your synopsis format, so feel free to choose the format that works best for your work. Your synopsis may be a single-spaced document (in black, 12 point, Times New Roman), and you may place it before or after your 25 manuscript pages.
May I include a prologue before a first chapter in my novel submission?
Yes, a prologue before a first chapter in the MG novel and YA novel categories is fine! Just make sure that the total number of manuscript pages you submit, including that prologue, is 25 maximum! Your synopsis then is added to that 25-page file.
What are the differences between a Middle Grade novel and a Young Adult novel?
The target audience for Middle Grade novels are generally 8 - 12-year-olds; the readers of Young Adult novels are generally 12 - 18-year-olds. For general guidelines as to length, subject matter, and other elements, you may wish to read the information and opinions posted on such blogs and websites as:
Mary Kole: Is it MG or YA
Writer's Digest: The Key Differences Between Middle Grade and Young Adult
Publisher's Weekly: Navigating Middle Grade
Other voices: Introduction to Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction
On what criteria are the submissions judged?
In general, editors are always looking for writers with a fresh voice, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas, and a compelling storyline. Art directors are looking for strong drawing and painting skills, polished techniques, and the ability to portray and expand the narrative in illustrations that are also fresh, original, and compelling. To discover what may help your work stand out, please explore the Tassy Walden Award main page to read about the criteria our judges use to evaluate submissions.
Can you offer any more detail about the ways the judges look at the illustrator's portfolio submissions?
In the portfolio category, the Tassy judges look for a consistent level of quality throughout the ten required pieces of art. All pieces should be at the same level of completion, and a consistent style should carry through the entire array of samples. (If you have two kinds of illustrations to offer, we advise that you have 5 strong pieces of art in one style and 5 strong pieces in the second style. You may also consider making two separate entries if you have two uniquely different illustration styles and want to offer ten pieces in each style in two separate entries. If you make a single entry that features both styles, keep in mind that each style should demonstrate narrative progression in three pieces.) Judges are looking at your technical strengths: strong drawing skills; sharp grasp of perspective; strong sense of composition; good use of value structures; and accomplished examples of difficult elements such as facial expressions, hands, and feet. Especially because this is a children's book illustration competition, the judges look for a strong child-appealing point of view or a sense of humor or wit or whimsy as you attempt to interpret the world for young readers. Since three pieces must focus on a single narrative, be sure to have a theme or story in mind so that you can demonstrate that you can show story progression and can take characters from one scene to another.
Once in a while, no winner is chosen in a particular category, even when several finalists have been named. Can you tell us why this might happen?
One special aspect of the Tassy Walden competition is that each and every submission is judged individually on its own merits, according to standards that are common and highly regarded in the children's book publishing industry. This means that your work is being individually assessed for its own qualities. Your submission is not being judged in comparison to other submissions. The judges look for fresh, original, creative work that has been finely polished and has been presented in a professional manner. They do not look at the entire set of submissions as a whole and simply choose the best of the bunch or the cream of the crop. In selecting finalists, they are searching for submissions that a) demonstrate a clear understanding of childhood and childhood interests and issues; b) have a clear point of view and a clear target audience suitable to the category: and c) have been submitted in a manner that reflects industry guidelines for professional submissions. In selecting winners from the group of finalists, judges are looking for outstanding work that shows exceptional potential. Again, each submission is assessed on its own merits. In these ways, the Tassy Award has meaning that offers entrants valuable information about their own particular work. Finalists, honorable mentions, and winners can feel confident that their work has individual merit and is not merely the best among the particular field of entries in one particular year.
Do the judges offer any feedback?
Unfortunately, due to the volume of submissions, our judges are not able to provide individual feedback or comments on each submission. On occasion, some judges may offer a brief note of praise, encouragement, or advice to finalists and winners.
Will Shoreline Arts Alliance tell me the name of the judge who evaluated my work?
No. All judges will remain anonymous. The chair of the committee, however, does remind the judges that they are welcome to contact winners, finalists, and other entrants at their own discretion.
Will I ever hear from the judge who evaluated my work?
If you were not named a winner or a finalist, it is highly unlikely that you will hear from one of our judges. Entries are not blinded, however, so judges may certainly take notes on entries that intrigue them. In the past, several of our entrants have been contacted by the judges who evaluated their work or by a judge who heard or saw their work at our annual awards ceremony. Some of those entries have been requested by a judge, who may be a literary agent, an editor, or an art director. Some of the requested work has gone on to publication.
When will you announce the finalists? When will you announce the winners or honorable mentions?
All announcements are made at the same time. We do not announce the names of the finalists before the judges have made their final decisions regarding winners or honorable mentions in each category. As soon as all results are in from the judges, the Shoreline Arts Alliance will post the names of all finalists, winners, and any honorable mentions on this website by May 15. At that time we will also send an announcement by email to all entrants. To receive the email notification, be sure to write your email address on your entry form. Each winner (and any honorable mentions) will also receive a personal phone call from the chair of the Tassy Walden Award submissions committee. When possible, those calls are typically made in the first week of May.
If I am named a winner or a finalist or receive an honorable mention, will I benefit from any publicity efforts?
Shoreline Arts Alliance will announce the results through a variety of local and regional media outlets, particularly newspapers. In addition the Shoreline Arts Alliance will post the results of the competition on its website. On several occasions, newspapers and regional and community-access television stations have done features on the competition, particularly if a local resident has been the recipient of an award or if the work has soon come under contract by a publisher. If you wish to promote your own success in the competition, we encourage you to initiate contact with a local news outlet such as newspapers, radio programs, or local community access television programs. Local chapters of the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators also are notified of the winners and finalists, and at each chapter's discretion, those announcements may be passed on to local members. Shoreline Arts Alliance may also invite you to participate in its educational outreach workshops for prospective entrants; these workshops, typically offered in the fall, are an opportunity for our winners and finalists to share their expertise and their Tassy experiences with unpublished writers and illustrators throughout the state.
I have sold or produced some of my creative work in a few kinds of ways and places. I have read the Tassy Walden Award guidelines and the FAQs, but I still have some questions about eligibility. Is there someone I can talk to about this topic?
We'll try to answer your questions as best we can. If you have an unusual case, please send the specifics in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will get back to you as soon as possible.