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diverse voices query contest winners!

Thanks so much to all that submitted their projects! I saw a tremendous response to this contest and am so grateful for the chance to consider so much amazing work. There are some really outstanding stories out there and I’m hopeful that they’ll find their way into readers’ hands and hearts.

By now, everyone who sent in queries should have received some kind of response. If eligible entrants who followed all guidelines did NOT receive a response, then I must have missed it, and you are invited to resend.

Now, here are our winners! I was amazed by the quality of work in these subs, the standout writing, and celebration of marginalized perspectives in many different ways and in all sorts of packages.

Congratulations to all! And THANK YOU!

winner of 50pg critique

Natasha Razi:


HONEY & LEMONS (YA Contemporary Fantasy)

Pitch: Being trans and broke was hard enough; now Aldonza's gotten herself and her parents cursed. To undo it, she must investigate her curse-caster's missing family, but someone's trying to stop the investigation. With bullets. Great.

top 5 winners of 10pg critiques (in no particular order)

Erica Shaw:


SAVAGE ARIA (YA Speculative)

Pitch: Seventeen-year-old empath Gene Cole can taste other’s emotions. It’s the bitter scent emanating from his dad that betrays his painful secret—he’s dying of cancer and there’s nothing Gene can do to save him. Forced to bond with his estranged mother, Gene is exposed to her genetically-engineered medical marijuana called Aria, and something short of a miracle happens—he inherits Aria’s healing powers. Gene knows exactly what he will do with these abilities. There’s just one problem. The more Aria heals, the more the plant absorbs fatal infections—a risk Gene’s not sure he’s ready to take once the FDA confiscates the plant and starts asking questions that might lead them his way. 

Amelia Creed:


BEWARE OF BOLTON MANOR (Contemporary Gothic Romance)

Pitch: When estate agent Olivia Abbate arrives at the coveted Bolton Manor, all she wants is a signed contract. Instead, she gets a forced weeklong stay at the crumbling estate, a dry-humored heir who's too tempting for his own good (or hers), and a vanished coworker. To save both him and her career, she has to learn to trust the heir's questionable methods of helping her, one encrypted algorithm at a time, or she might fall prey to the madness scurrying in the bowels of Bolton Manor.

Jen Vincent:



Pitch: Nina May Whitfield is a sixteen-year-old Latina in a predominantly white community, an artist in a blue-collar family...and a girl who completely fumbled her almost-first kiss. When her friends’ plans to get her out from behind the canvas and over her first-kiss fears turn her world upside down, she goes from a girl who couldn’t even manage one guy to suddenly juggling three and she finally realizes her insecurity is deeper than boy trouble or mixed media art. If she can confront her self-doubt, then she can take her art to the next level, let herself fall in love, and finally find herself.

Vicki Johnson:


EARTHKEEPERS (MG Magical Realism)

Pitch: Twelve-year-old tomboy Sage can feel animals' pain, and she can tell something awful is happening. That's why corporate profiteers want her out of the way.

RaeChell Garrett:


IN OUR DEFENSE (YA Contemporary)

Pitch: Erik wants to get his sister away from her abusive boyfriend, and help her start a new life somewhere else. Nichole needs access to a bank-breaking medication if she wants to help her mother recover from her debilitating depression. Together, they’ll try anything to get the money they need. Even if it means using other people’s personal information, and pretending to be people they aren’t. 

This was such a success and enjoyable experience that I can’t resist doing more contests in the future. Keep checking this space and follow me on Twitter at @beth_phelan for more opportunities like this!

query contest! [CLOSED]

I’ve been an enthusiastic reader since I was in elementary school. But for a long time, I didn’t even know it was possible to see someone who looked like me in a book that wasn’t assigned reading. We’ve made great strides in bringing more diversity to this industry, but we still have a long way to go.

This contest is meant to encourage, celebrate, and support diverse writers and allies working toward more balanced representation and inclusion in literature. This is not meant to exclude, shame, minimize or otherwise offend anyone. It is also not meant to presume diverse people should write exclusively diverse stories and characters (or vice versa), or to impede any writer from opening themselves up to narratives and histories not their own. This is about shining a light on important stories and voices that have been otherwise on the margins.


Any other day, all queries sent to me receive a response. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, every qualifying (see below for rules) submission sent to me on January 18, 2016, will receive a personal, honest, possibly brutal, hopefully helpful response. The Top 5 qualifying submissions will receive a critique on the first 10 pages of their manuscript. The short pitch and first page will also be posted on my website.* The winner will receive a query critique as well as a critique on the first 50 pages of their manuscript.

There is no fee.

I never require exclusive submissions, so you are absolutely encouraged to continue querying even while participating in this contest.

I aim to respond to qualifying submissions within a week of receipt (so, by Monday January 25, 2016). The Top 5 (plus the winner!) will be posted here on my website, also on January 25, 2016, and their critiques will be delivered within a month of their submission. I may still request full manuscripts!

*If you prefer not to appear on my website should you place in the Top 5, please let me know that you want to opt out in your email to me. Your decision to opt out will have absolutely no bearing on my decision.

rules & eligibility

Authors must identify as diverse, or must be writing a story celebrating diversity in a well-researched and authentic way. Diverse does not simply mean not white. As best I can explain today, right now, diverse applies to (but is not limited to) people of color; people living or born/raised outside of the US; people with disabilities; people with illness; people on marginalized ends of the socioeconomic, religious, and/or cultural spectrum; people identifying as LGBTQIA+.

Authors must be un-agented and so far unpublished, including under pen names, self-publishing, and small press publishing. Short stories, articles, essays, and poetry are okay!

Authors must submit work that falls under a category I already represent. These categories are: middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, contemporary romance (including romantic suspense), and upmarket domestic suspense/thrillers (i.e. I’m not right for international/conspiracy/political/legal/supernatural thrillers, cozy mysteries, procedurals, detective fiction, or noir).

The project must be complete and ready for submission to an agent.

Authors must follow submission guidelines.

submission guidelines

Authors may only submit ONE project for consideration.

Authors must submit their work to phelanqueries [@] thebentagency [.] com between 12:00AM EST and 11:59PM EST on January 18, 2016.

The subject line must contain the title of your work and “DIVERSE VOICE.”

Submission materials must include a standard query letter with a short paragraph that explains what makes the author and/or their work diverse, and how their experience has informed and influenced their work. Tell me YOUR story. Authors may also include a short pitch of 30-50 words (optional). Authors must also include the first 10 pages of their manuscript embedded in the email, below everything else. Please note that I won’t open attachments.

Any submission that does not follow guidelines, or is ineligible per the rules described above, will be disqualified (but will still receive a regular response).

I am still open and excited to consider ALL other queries, so everyone should feel free to submit whenever they want.

If you are an author with a diverse project unable or unwilling to participate in this contest, please know that I am always looking for those stories outside of this contest and I’d still love to consider your work per my usual guidelines, so feel free to submit at your convenience.