2019 Melody of Love winners announced!


Music City Romance Writers is pleased to announce winners in this year’s Melody of Love contest.


First Place: Mine Would Be You by Karen Kiely

Second Place: Something to Talk About by Despina Karras*

Third Place: Forever Gone by Jo Segur

Final Round Judges Ann Rose, Agent, Prospect Agency

Cate Hart, Harvey Klinger Literary Agency


First Place: Bear Necessities by Victoria Luce

Second Place:  The Sidekick and the Supervillain by Lili Draguer

Third Place: Under Your Skin by Kat Turner

Final Round Judges Lexi Smail, Associate Editor, Hatchette Book Group, Forever Yours)

Marlo Berliner, Agent, The Jennifer De Chiara Agency 


First Place: A Dangerous Affinity by Emily Sullivan*

Second Place: How to Steal a Kilt by Gina Conkle

Third Place: Imprudent Love by Diane Maciejewski*

Final Round Judges Sarah Blumenstock, Assistant Editor, Penguin Random House

Katelyn Uplinger, Agent, D4EO Literary Agency


First Place: The Other Brother by Jackie Rutherford**

Second Place:  As Much As I Ever Could by Brandy Woods Snow**

Third Place: Taz by Charisse M Sprague**

Final Round Judges Annette Pollert-Morgan, Editorial Director, Bloomsbury

Elizabeth Poteet, Agent, The Seymour Agency


First Place: The One That Got Away by Marie Christopher

Second Place: Chasing Sharks by Angie Hockman

Third Place: Stand-Up Guy by Miranda Darrow

Final Round Judges Norma Perez-Hernandez, Editor, Kensington

Janna Bonikowski, Agent, The Knight Agency


Jackie Rutherford

*Request for full/partial from final round judge

**Consultation offered by final round judge

Thank you to our outstanding final round judges, and special thanks to Cate Hart for donating the 50 page critique prize. Congratulations to winners and finalists! 

The Melody of Love Contest

About our contest

1. The Melody of Love contest is limited to the first 80 Entries.

2. The contest opens January 1 and closes February 28 at midnight Central Standard Time. Entries received after this time cannot be accepted.

3. Entry fees:  

  • $22 for MCRW/RWA Members
  • $27 for all other RWA Members
  • $32 for NON-RWA members

4. Fees may be paid through PayPal. For other payment options, please contact the contest coordinator. 5. Manuscript entries are set to a maximum of 25 pages. All entries are electronic. 6. Heat level and sub-genre can be specified on entry form, though it is optional.

Note: If co-written with an RWA Member who is not a member of MCRW, the higher rate applies. All fees are non-refundable.

Fine print: Entries received that are found to have been published prior to or during the contest period by any means will be disqualified. No entry may be withdrawn after being submitted to the contest with two exceptions (see below). Entry fees from disqualified entrants will not be refunded. Entrants who finaled in our contest previously may enter again, but don’t re-enter the finaling manuscript. For the purpose of this contest, published is defined as available for sale by any means or as a free download via retail sites such as Smashwords and Amazon. Any entries over the contest limit of 80, or those received after the due date, will be returned along with the entry fees.

Exceptions: Entry fees will be refunded to entrants in any category that does not receive the minimum number of entries unless they request placement in another category. Entry fees can be refunded if a manuscript receives an offer of publication during the contest upon proof of said offer.


The MOL contest is open to any writer meeting the following criteria:

  • An unpublished author.
  • A published author, including in the category entered.
  • The entry must meet minimum word lengths per category. (See category descriptions below). 
  • Manuscript being entered cannot have been previously published  in any format and cannot be currently contracted to be published via any means, including self or subsidy publishing.

Note:  Any category that does not receive a minimum of five entries will be canceled. The manuscript will be placed in the writer’s second choice category.


Contemporary Romance (50,000 words and up)

Manuscripts that are set from 1950 to present and focus on the romantic relationship. Category, single title, inspirational, and romantic suspense.

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance including Women's Fiction with a Central Romance (75,000 words and up)

Mainstream Fiction or Women's Fiction in which themes or elements other than the romance are integral to the story even though a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic resolution to the romance are still present. This category is intended for romances that do not fit neatly into any other category due to their mainstream/women's fiction nature but where the central romance could not be removed without damaging the storyline.

Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance (65,000 words and up)

Manuscripts in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot. Any time period.

Historical Romance (65,000 words and up)

Manuscripts that are set prior to 1950. This category cannot include any elements of the paranormal category, including time travel.

Young Adult Romance (50,000 words and up)

Manuscripts in which the young adult protagonist is typically between 14-18 years old and young adult life is an integral part of the plot. May include elements of other sub-genres (such as paranormal or romantic suspense) and any time period.

Document Formatting

Please submit as follows:

  • A readable document in .RTF, .doc, or .docx format as an email attachment 
  • Double-spaced – no extra spacing between paragraphs. And please, no tightened spacing to get more words on the pages.
  • Times New Roman or approximate font, 12-pt font size 
  • One-inch margins on top, bottom, and both sides 
  • Unjustified right margins 
  • Header with manuscript title on left, category and page number on right 
  • Do not put your name on your manuscript, please. If your name appears on the manuscript it will be disqualified. 
  • Contact contest@mcrw.com for questions or help with formatting.

Judging Specifics:

  • First Round: Judging is on a point basis, with all manuscripts judged by three authors from a pool of PAN, PRO, and trained general members. 
  • The three scores will be totaled to reach the final score. 
  • Barring unforeseen circumstances, first-round finalists will be announced in April. Finalists will be notified via e-mail and posted on the MCRW website, www.mcrw.com, and on our social media. First round scores of finalists will be mailed or emailed as soon as possible.
  • Other scores will be released within 30 days after the finalists are announced.
  • Final Round: Judged by editors and agents as listed below. All judges’ decisions are final.
  • Overall Category Winners will be announced shortly after all final round judges return their scores. The goal will be to announce at MCRW's June meeting.
  • As a reminder, final round judges for 2019 are: Contemporary Romance: Megan Broderick (Assistant Editor, Harlequin) and Ann Rose (Agent, Prospect Agency); Futuristic, Fantasy, & Paranormal Romance: Lexi Smail (Associate Editor, Hatchette Book Group, Forever Yours) and Marlo Berliner (Agent, The Jennifer De Chiara Agency); Historical Romance: Sarah Blumenstock (Assistant Editor, Penguin Random House) and Katelyn Uplinger (Agent, D4EO Literary Agency); Young Adult Romance: Annette Pollert (Editorial Director, Bloomsbury) and Elizabeth Poteet (Agent, The Seymour Agency); Mainstream/Women’s Fiction with Romantic Elements: Norma Perez-Hernandez (Editor, Kensington) and Janna Bonikowski (Agent, The Knight Agency)


  •  First Round Finalists: First, Second, and Third Place Finalists are chosen by their overall score in each category.
  • First Round Finalists will be announced at the MCRW July meeting. 
  • Finalists in each category will receive a certificate and announcement in the RWR (print and online publication), on the MCRW website, and across MCRW’s social media.
  • The #1 Finalist in each category will also receive a $50 cash prize and commemorative pin.
  • Each entry has a chance to win a 50 page professional critique by a published author or editor. Winner selected by random drawing.

Entry Specifics:

  • All entries must be electronic and in standard manuscript format: 12 point standard font (Times New Roman), double-spaced, indented paragraphs (i.e. not block style), 1-inch margins. Pages should be numbered and include a header which states title and category of manuscript. For a sample of a "properly formatted" manuscript, please contact the coordinator.
  • Coordinator will send emails to confirm receipt of entries. Please allow 5 working days (i.e., not weekends or holidays) before you ask the coordinator whether the entry has been received. Email address for questions is contest@mcrw.com and the contest coordinators are Jody Wallace and Dana Brantley-Sieders.
  • Contest limited to 80 total entries, in order of receipt of all three parts. The optional subgenres (e.g. Sweet/Inspirational, Erotic, Romantic Suspense, Mystery, etc.) on the entry form are used only to determine the best judges for your work and do not affect scoring or final round editor assignment.
  • While it is acceptable to submit the entry form and payment before you submit your pages, all three parts (pages, entry form, payment) must be received by February 28, 2019, or your entry will not be counted in the contest. Your entry fee will be reimbursed if this happens. The entry form alone is insufficient to “reserve your spot” should the contest fill up; payment must be included as well.  
  • Scoresheets and/or critiques will be emailed to contestants. You will be asked on the entry form if judges may employ Microsoft Word’s “Comments” feature on your manuscript. Agreement is not required. The scoresheet is extensive and designed to provide a valuable, in-depth assessment of your opening chapter(s), including the hook, plot and conflict, characterization, writing style & technique, dialogue, setting, professional presentation, and overall impression. If you would like to see the scoresheet before committing to the contest, just email the coordinator.

Questions? Contact Contest Coordinators Jody Wallace and Dana Brantley-Sieders at contest@mcrw.com

Want to receive a reminder email about our contest?

This is not a newsletter. We will not spam you. This is only an email list for writers who would like to be notified when the Melody of Love registration opens, along with finalist and winner listings.