Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project!

The Soon To Be Famous Blog

Past Winners at Galena LitFest

Five of our award-winning indie authors shared their thoughts on writing, marketing, and independent publishing in a virtual panel event as part of Galena LitFest 2024. Moderated by Soon to Be Famous committee member, Lucy Tarabour, the event took place February 13, 2024.

Watch the video replay in its entirety below.

The virtual panel features current and past winners of the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author contests, including the 2022 winner in the adult fiction category, Alina Rubin, the 2022 winner of the manuscript award, Sarah Roots, and past winners: Joanne Zienty, Michael Alan Peck, and Geralyn Hesslau Magrady.


Galena LitFest is the tenth annual literary festival organized and funded by the Galena Public Library with support from the Friends of the Galena Public Library. Events take place February through May 2024.

2023 Winner Announced

Angelique Burrell, teacher, writer, and mom, can now add “award-winning author” to  her long list of accomplishments. On January 23, her young adult novel A Mark in the Road was chosen winner of the 2023 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project book competition.

Angelique commented, “I was honored to be a finalist and winning is beyond my expectations, especially after learning about the talented authors who were also finalists. I am without words, partly because I’m jumping up and down!  And thank you to the Illinois Author Project for holding this competition to help new Illinois authors connect with readers and to the Illinois libraries for supporting and promoting creativity and independent thought through all their programming and resources.” 

There was high praise for A Mark in the Road from the volunteer librarian judges:

“A thrilling and enjoyable novel with a touch of magical realism and a unique premise anchored by a classic road trip. I genuinely enjoyed my entire time with this book and find it easy to recommend to teen and adult readers alike. Mason and Addie read like two real high school students with a little chemistry and a lot of history, and the supernatural slant separates this out from other thrillers/light romances. Among the nine titles I read for this competition, this one stands heads and shoulders above the rest.”

“It's a thought-provoking premise that traumatic events can trigger unknown human abilities. Without preaching, the story demonstrates the importance of sharing inner thoughts and struggles.”

“Well written suspense with relatable characters and intriguing dialogue. The pacing was on-point and lent to a climactic finish.”

“This was a very creative concept for a plot. I’ve never read anything like it.”

“Well-developed characters, believable dialogue and relatable situations made this an easy-to-read story that kept me interested from beginning to end. Rich descriptions of the characters helped me sympathize with their challenges and cheer for their triumphs!”

As winner, Angelique will win a $2000 cash prize and the opportunity to appear at author events at Illinois libraries, as well as the chance to have her novel included in a select collection of ebooks available to the public through their libraries.

Congratulations Angelique!


Of the many book competitions in existence, the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project (STBF) is unique because it was created and is run exclusively by librarians and other library staff. No other group is more in tune with what appeals to readers than librarians, and no other group is more trusted to make good recommendations. 

Now entering its tenth year, the Project is the brainchild of a group of library marketing professionals who challenged themselves to demonstrate the power of libraries to create a market for authors and find more great reads for their patrons. STBF invites all Illinois authors of self- or indie-published adult or young adult fiction to submit their books to be evaluated by a panel of librarian judges.  In 2015, the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project won the prestigious John Cotton Dana Award for excellence in library public relations by the American Library Association.

Since its inception, STBF has been replicated in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. With help from sponsor BiblioLabs, a division of Lyrasis, winning books from all regions now compete for Indie Author of the Year. Learn more at indieauthorproject.com.

The Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author project is being coordinated in collaboration with the Illinois Library Association (ILA) and Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) and is supported by the American Library Association Digital Content Working Group, the Public Library Association (PLA), and the Illinois Heartland Library System.

 

Naperville author wins 2023 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project

Published here courtesy of the NAPERVILLE SUN

By Tess Kenny

Naperville Sun

Published: Jan 23, 2024

Naperville author Angelique Burrell, right, seen here with her daughter, Hadyn, in front of a poster for her book, is the winner of the 2023 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project.

Burrell, selected from among three finalists, won the statewide writing competition for her debut novel, A Mark in the Road.

“I’m astounded,” Burrell said Tuesday, just after hearing the news. “Certainly, I was honored to be nominated but winning was just beyond all of my expectations. … I’m so completely shocked.”

Established in 2013, the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project is a celebration of self- or indie-published authors across the state. It was started by a group of librarians in northern Illinois who wanted to demonstrate how important self-published books can be in the lives of readers.

Library professionals still run the contest today.

Every year for the past decade, the project has enticed Illinois writers to submit their books to be evaluated by a panel of volunteer librarian judges. The venture is also coordinated in collaboration with the Illinois Library Association and the Reaching Across Illinois Library System.

When Burrell first heard that she was named a 2023 finalist earlier this month, she said she couldn’t believe it.

“I was thrilled and so honored because it is difficult to be a writer when you’re putting something out there, and there’s that idea of rejection and (whether) people are going to like it — there’s all of that self-doubt that goes into it,” she said. “So it was just uplifting to find out that I was a finalist.”

Burrell, a longtime resident of Naperville, has dabbled in writing for most of her life. For years, she scratched her passion for writing in the classroom. A high school English teacher for the past three decades, Burrell has long shared her love for writing with her students.

But about 10 years ago, she decided she was going to focus on her craft and write a book. That’s how A Mark in the Road began.

Published in October 2023, A Mark in the Road is a young adult thriller. It tells the story of 18-year-old Mason, who can see the stories behind skid marks left in the road, Burrell said.

“If he goes over them, (what happened) plays out in his mind,” she said.

The book follows Mason as he goes on a cross-country road trip from Naperville to Nevada, and the stories he sees along the way.

The concept was inspired by Burrell’s own road trips with her family.

“Our trips … were kind of the fuel for it and just kind of created the story,” she said. “(I crafted) a lot of it while we were driving, just in my mind while we were on the road.”

Burrell said her debut novel was made possible by her publisher and her agent, but also the support she’s received from friends and neighbors, one of whom helped design the cover of A Mark in the Road.

A few weeks ago, Burrell was featured in a local author showcase at Anderson’s Bookshop in downtown Naperville. Burrell’s book is now available at Anderson’s as well as the Naperville Public Library.

“It’s been a group project, I would say,” she said.

As the winner of the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project’s 2023 competition, Burrell will receive $2,000 and the opportunity to promote her book at Illinois public libraries.

Burrell said she didn’t even know about the prize. She was just happy to win.

“Getting anything else is just a bonus,” she said.

Accolades aside, Burrell said what makes this honor especially rewarding is it’s an affirmation as much as it is an award.

“It definitely gives kind of a new sense of energy to my writing,” she said, “to maybe just trust myself a little bit more. … It helps me remember that it’s OK to be me as a writer.”

2024 Manuscript Contest Accepting Entries

We're excited to announce the opening of our 2024 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Manuscript Project contest. This year marks our sixth annual competition.

Do you have a manuscript ready to take to the next level? We're looking for the best unpublished works of adult fiction. We will accept complete manuscripts of adult fiction in book length (50,000 to 100,000 words) from Illinois authors only. Our winner receives these valuable prizes:

  • Professional line editor who will work with you to polish your novel.
  • Professionally designed cover.
  • Self-publishing guidance from past STBF winners and committee members.
  • Finished book automatically entered as semi-finalist status in the next Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project contest.

    Here is how our contest works:

  • Contest opens January 2, 2024 and closes on March 1, 2024.
  • Participating authors must live in Illinois, and the manuscript being submitted must be unpublished and in an adult fiction genre.
  • Submissions must meet certain other criteria in order to be eligible. Before submitting, please verify that your manuscript includes:
  • A Title Page with the following:
    • Title (Working)
    • Author Name
    • Word count number (entries must be no fewer than 50,000 and no more than 100,000 words)
    • A Synopsis on the title page (50 words or less)
    • An Author Bio also on the title page (100 words or less)
  • The Manuscript itself must be formatted as a single Word Doc or PDF
    • 12 pt (Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman)
    • 1.5 line spacing
    • Multiple files not accepted.

Note: failure to meet criteria may result in disqualification for the entry.

If you are ready to enter the 2024 Manuscript Contest, click the button below. The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2024.


2023 Finalists React!

After our recent finalist announcement for the 2023 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project contest, our three authors had this to say:

“When I saw the email from the Soon to Be Famous Project telling me I was a finalist, at first I wondered if it was a scam! Then I realized that I do know these folks at the STBF project, and I actually was a finalist,” commented Michael Pickard who was chosen for his detective mystery novel Creative Deductions.

Michelle Cox, author of A Spying Eye responded, "I'm absolutely floored and delighted!  Truly honored to be a finalist!" 

Angelique Burrell, author of A Mark in the Road was also “sincerely honored” to be chosen as a finalist.

These finalists in the statewide Illinois writing competition were chosen to advance in the competition by a team of volunteer librarian judges. We'll announce the winner later in January 2024.

Of the many book competitions in existence, the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project is unique because it was created and is run exclusively by librarians and other library staff. No other group is more in tune with what appeals to readers than librarians, and no other group is more trusted to make good recommendations. Past winners have enjoyed increased book sales, opportunities to appear at author events at public libraries, and the opportunity to include their books in a select collection of ebooks available to the public through their libraries.

2023 Finalists Indie Author Project Announced

Our Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project judges have completed their review of this year's contest submissions of indie-published books by Illinois authors. They've narrowed down their choices to these top three entries listed below (in alphabetical order by author’s last name).

A Mark in the Road by Angelique Burrell – Naperville Public Library

A Spying Eye by Michelle Cox – Grayslake Area Public Library

Creative Deductions by Michael Pickard – Highland Park Public Library

Congratulations to these finalists who go on to compete in the final round where one will emerge as 2023's winner. Watch this blog for the winner announcement in early 2024.

Pascuala Herrera named Indie Author of the Year

The Indie Author Project is thrilled to announce that Pascuala Herrera, author of Not Always a Valley of Tears, is the 2022 winner of the fourth annual Indie Author of the Year award. She previously was named winner of the state-wide de la Página a la Fama award from the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project recognizing excellence in self or indie-published Spanish language literature.

Herrera, a self-published author from Franklin Park, IL  was chosen from a stellar group of 18 authors who have each won regional Indie Author Contests held in 16 states as well as two Canadian provinces. The Indie Author of the Year is chosen by a team of industry experts on the basis of marketability, overall impact, personal brand, and potential for the author to break out. This year’s distinguished group of judges included:

  • Carl Pritzkat, COO of Publishers Weekly
  • Guy Gonzalez, Chief Content Officer for LibraryPass
  • Leslye Penelope, award-winning author with St. Martin’s Press
  • Kiera Parrot, Director of Darien Public Library, Norwalk, CT

Herrera’s inspirational memoir tells the story of a strong Latina woman overcoming  many obstacles to realize her dream. At the age of six, Pascuala who had many medical challenges including a disability that required her to use a wheelchair, immigrated from Mexico with her large family. Despite these difficulties, she completed her education including a Bachelors and Masters at DePaul University in Chicago. After graduating, she joined the faculty at Harper College where she worked with students with all types of disabilities. She continues to be very active in the movement for the rights of people with disabilities. 

After losing her mother in 2018, Pascuala’s daughter encouraged her to turn her childhood stories into a memoir to celebrate the life of her mother. The result is a memoir filled with honest painful stories, simple yet joyous triumphs, and humor that will lead all readers to embrace their own struggles and realize that life is Not Always a Valley of Tears. Pascuala published the book in English as well as Spanish to reach the Latino community.

She commented, "Being the winner of the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project opened so many doors for me as a new indie author! I am thrilled and so grateful to have been selected as the Indie Author of the Year! There is nothing more rewarding than to know that my memoir is being recognized for this distinction and that my written words are available in libraries so that readers around the country can access my story. Once again, I am reminded that life is Not Always a Valley of Tears."

2023 Manuscript Winner

Announcing the winner of our 2023 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Manuscript Project contest:

Burn and Balm by Kate Guerrero

(Schaumburg Township District Library)

Kate Guerrero of Schaumburg took “a giant leap of faith” writing the manuscript for Burn and Balm, a razor-sharp tale of “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss” culture set against a backdrop of diapers and breast pumps. It’s about the complexities of female friendship and the unique power women hold to both uplift and destroy one another.

“Writing this book (my first!) [has] been a huge learning experience involving lots of emotions. Winning the manuscript contest has been such a boost to my determination to become a published author, and such a vote of confidence that my novel is worth reading,” she commented.

Guerrero is the latest recipient of the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Manuscript Project Contest, now in its fifth year. Run entirely by library volunteers, the contest recognizes excellent quality unpublished adult fiction by Illinois authors. As winner, she will receive free line editing and cover design services as well as guidance from the Soon to Be Famous Team and former award winners.

Kate is a writer and artist currently seeking representation for her winning debut novel, Burn and Balm. Turning out excellent client copy by day and furiously scribbling fiction by night. Kate loves writing about topics related to motherhood, friendship, and growing into your dreams. She believes that trying something new is worth making a mess.

Kate's prizes include:

  • Professional line editor
  • Professionally designed cover
  • Self-publishing guidance.
  • Finished book entered as semi-finalist status in the next Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project contest.

About the Project

Since 2014, the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project has been demonstrating the power of libraries to create a market for authors and find more great reads for patrons. We recognize excellence in self-published and indie-published fiction in our book contest, and have been seeking out high quality unpublished adult fiction for our manuscript contest for five years.

Since its inception, STBF has been replicated in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. With help from sponsor BiblioLabs, a division of Lyrisis, winning books from all regions now compete for Indie Author of the Year. Learn more at indieauthorproject.com.

The Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author project is being coordinated in collaboration with the Illinois Library Association (ILA) and Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) and is supported by the American Library Association Digital Content Working Group, the Public Library Association (PLA), and the Illinois Heartland Library System.

2023 Manuscript Contest Finalists

Our judges have completed their second review of the 2023 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Manuscript Project contest submissions. We're excited to announce these three finalists moving on to our final round (in alphabetical order by author’s last name). Watch this website for our winner announcement coming in the late Summer 2023.

  • Burn and Balm by Kate Guerrero (Schaumburg Township District Library)
  • Infinity Mirror by Brian Newcomb (Manhattan-Elwood Public Library District)
  • The Camera Liked Her by Floyd Sullivan (Chicago Public Library, Jefferson Park Branch)

Congratulations to these Illinois authors. For details about our Manuscript Project click here.

2023 Manuscript Contest Semi-finalists

Our judges have completed their initial review of the 2023 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Manuscript Project contest submissions. We're thrilled to announce these semi-finalists who are moving on to our second round (in alphabetical order by author’s last name):

  • Love in a Time of Monsters by Kathleen Alberts (Alsip-Merrionette Park Library District)
  • The Librarians by Eric Diekhans (Evanston Public Library)
  • Burn and Balm by Kate Guerrero (Schaumburg Township District Library)
  • The Family You Choose by Christina Ho (Vernon Area Public Library District)
  • The Descent by Donna Kathryn Kelly (Cary Area Public Library District)
  • Infinity Mirror by Brian Newcomb (Manhattan-Elwood Public Library District)
  • The Untimely Death of Erica Javitz by Barbara E. Schmidt (Lillie M. Evans Library District)
  • The Lake House by Patti Sherry-Crews (Evanston Public Library)
  • The Camera Liked Her by Floyd Sullivan (Chicago Public Library, Jefferson Park Branch)

Congratulations to these Illinois authors. For details about our Manuscript Project click here.

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