Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project!

The Soon To Be Famous Blog

2019 Adult Winner Jean Rabe

Meet Jean Rabe, the 2019 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project winner with her Adult fiction novel The Bone Shroud.

This interview took place moments after the winner announcement at this year's Illinois Library Association Conference.

2019 Young Adult Winner Lauren Eckhardt

Meet Lauren Eckhardt, the 2019 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project winner with her Young Adult fiction novel The Remedy Files: Illusion.

This interview took place moments after the winner announcement at this year's Illinois Library Association Conference.

2020 Manuscript Contest Now Accepting Submissions

Announcing our second annual Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Manuscript Project contest is now open.

Starting November 1, 2019 and continuing through January 2, 2020, we are accepting complete manuscripts of adult fiction in book length (50,000 to 100,000 words) from Illinois authors only. NEW this year: authors can submit their work directly. Visit the Manuscript Project page for details about this year's contest. And to start the submission process, visit the For Authors section of our website.

Catch up with last year's Manuscript Project contest winner, Hollie Smurthwaite, here.

Our 2019 Winners

We are excited to announce this year’s winners for the 2019 Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project. Our librarian judges from across Illinois scored the finalists to select our winners in our two categories (Adult and YA fiction).

Watch the video of the ceremony:

Adult Fiction Winner:

The Bone Shroud by Jean Rabe

Check out this newspaper article about Jean's win.

Young Adult Fiction Winner:

The Remedy Files: Illusion by Lauren Eckhardt

Be sure to read Lauren's musing on her win at her blog.


2019 Finalists Announced

We are excited to announce this year’s finalists for the 2019 Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project. Our librarian judges from across Illinois have scored the semi-finalists and have narrowed the submissions down to three finalists in our two categories (Adult and YA fiction). Congratulations to these finalists!

Adult Fiction 2019 Finalists

Controlled Descent by K.M. Herkes
The inventor of a gadget that could change the world--or end it--claws his way back from death's door after a failed murder attempt and goes on the hunt for the people who want him dead. A mystery-thriller set in a dystopian socialist future. Forty-two years have passed since the Restored United States emerged from decades of chaos and revolution. The future is a brave new world, but some things never change. Money still talks, power still corrupts, and trust is a rare and precious commodity.
The Bone Shroud by Jean Rabe
Irem Madigan’s wedding trip to Rome turns into a desperate search for historical relics, and a struggle to stay ahead of a killer. Irem, an archivist at the Chicago Field Museum, flies to Italy to be the “best man” in her brother’s wedding. He’s marrying an archaeologist who lures Irem into a centuries-old mystery. Unfortunately, there are other players in the game, and some of them are playing deadly. Can she survive and uncover the ancient secrets?.
Renegade Pawn by Craig S Wilson
Lucas Rocha didn't know he'd be a reluctant hero.Lucas Rocha never meant to become a drug dealer. But when he picks the wallet of vacationing DEA Agent Daniel Burke, Lucas becomes a pawn in the battle between Rio's drug cartel and lawmakers' attempts to bring them to justice. The lives of these two strangers quickly become permanently—and dangerously—intertwined when Lucas is asked to infiltrate the cartel and navigate the deathly politics of its powerful drug lords. Hell-bent on beating the odds and escaping alive, Lucas not only survives but begins to rise in the cartel's ranks. Life on the inside is dangerous, but the tradeoff is that he can gain power, protection, and money. The temptation is great for one who comes from so little and also has two little sisters he must protect as they have no one else but him.Nor does Lucas know that his many years as a street kid will now offer him the perfect path to power.

Young Adult Fiction 2019 Finalists

The Chronocar by Steve Bellinger
Imagine being born the son of a slave with the mind of a genius. That was Simmie Johnson in the years following the Civil War. After a perilous escape from lynch mobs in Mississippi, he manages to earn a PhD in physics at Tuskegee, and in his research, discovers the secret of time travel. He develops a design for a time machine, called a Chronocar, but the technology required to make it work does not yet exist.Fast forward a hundred and twenty-five years. A young African American Illinois Tech student in Chicago finds Dr. Johnson’s plans and builds a Chronocar. He goes back to the year 1919 to meet the doctor and his beautiful daughter, Ollie, who live in Chicago’s Black Belt, now known as Bronzeville. But, he has chosen an unfortunate time in the past and becomes involved in the bloodiest race riot in Chicago’s history.
The Remedy Files: Illusion by Lauren Eckhardt
A life without feelings, a life without decisions; that’s the only life Evangeline knows. Because of the manufacturing of Remedy, her community of Impetus has discovered a way to survive and prevent the self-destructing mistakes of The Before by inhibiting feelings, creating a society that relies wholly on logic and entrusts Impetus to make all the decisions for its people. A chance encounter results in a friendship between Evangeline and a boy outside of Impetus named Gavin who challenges Evangeline to reassess her conviction in the world she has always known and introduces her to a choice she never thought she had.When she defies Impetus on her 18th birthday, Evangeline journeys through awakened truths, divided worlds, power struggles, and love triangles. For the first time in her life, the vitality of physical and emotional feelings forces her to understand and see Gavin in ways like never before. Broken, tested, and challenged, Evangeline must make decisions on her own for once, determining who she trusts, who she loves, and who she’s willing to sacrifice in pursuit of what’s right and to fight what she believes is wrong.
Orbit by Leigh Hellman
Ciaan Gennett isn’t green, despite the brand of light hair that betrays her heritage: an Earth mother. A mother she remembers but doesn’t know, who left one day and never came back. Ciaan’s as metal as her home planet—cold and hard and full of so many cracks she’s trying to ignore that she doesn’t have time to wonder about questions that don’t get answers.After one too many run-ins with the law, Ciaan finds herself sentenced to probation at a port facility and given an ultimatum: Prove that your potential is worth believing in. With help from her best friend Tidoris, Ciaan stays away from trouble—and trouble stays away from her. But when a routine refueling turns into a revelation, Ciaan and Tidoris find themselves forced into an alliance with an Earth captain of questionable morality and his stoic, artificially-grown first officer. Their escalating resistance against bureaucratic cover-ups begins unraveling a history of human monstrosity and an ugly truth that Ciaan isn’t so sure she wants to discover.Now they all must decide how far they are willing to dig into humanity's dark desperation—and what they are willing to do about what digs back.

Congratulations to the six authors listed above (in alphabetical order). We thank everyone who took the time to submit their work. And if you didn’t make it to the finalist round this year, we encourage you to keep writing and editing. And perhaps, try again next year. The 2020 contest will open in the Spring 2020.

Announcing: Semi-finalists for 2019 Illinois Author Project

This year 81 Illinois authors submitted their works of Adult or Young Adult fiction to be considered for the 2019 Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project contest. After carefully reviewing these submissions, we are excited to announce our Semi-Finalists for the 2019 contest.  Congratulations!

Adult Fiction

In alphabetical order by author.
  • The River Caught Sunlight, Katie Andraski
  • Getting Rid of Mabel, Keziah Frost
  • Give me Chocolate, Annie Hansen
  • War, Spies, and Bobby Sox, Libby Hellmann
  • Controlled Descent, K. M. Herkes
  • The Dragon of New Orleans, Genevieve Jack
  • American Past Time, Len Joy
  • Full Slab Dead, EM Kaplan
  • My Life as a Star, Ruth Kaufman
  • Unrequited Guilt, Kim Praser
  • Punk Charming, Laura Quinn
  • The Bone Shroud, Jean Rabe
  • The Pear Tree, K. M. Sandrick
  • Renegade Pawn, Craig S. Wilson
  • Twisted Secrets, Donna M. Zadunajsky

Young Adult Fiction

In alphabetical order by author.
  • The Chronocar, Steve Bellinger
  • One Night, Deanna Cabinian
  • The Remedy Files: Illusion, Lauren Eckhardt
  • Orbit, Leigh Hellman
  • Missing the Mark, Keith Thomas Hoerner
  • Just the Way You Are, Allison M. Lewis
  • Through The Woods, Margie Mack
  • The Fifth Floor and Just Like Ziggy, Julie Oleszek
  • Just One Summer, Lynn Stevens

Congratulations to these 25 authors listed above. We thank everyone who took the time to submit their work. And if you didn’t make it to the second round this year, we encourage you to keep writing and editing. And perhaps, try again next year. 

The Big Win

Read this interesting account of her experience entering and winning the 2019 Manuscript Contest from author Hollie Smurthwaite. The article appears on her own website. Click to read her story.


Back in 2018, I attended a series of Northbrook Writes lectures at the Northbrook Public Library.  Each time, there was a flier on the table about the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Manuscript Project.  What a great deal–free to enter and the prizes were pretty nice:  line editing, book cover, and an automatic semi-finalist for the 2020 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project contest.  So cool!  And I had a manuscript that I thought could be ready for beta readers by the end of the year ... 

Read more here.

Winner: Soon to Be Famous Illinois Manuscript Contest

Watch the video below to meet our 2019 Soon to Be Famous Manuscript contest winner.

Congratulations to Hollie Smurthwaite, the winner of our first Soon to Be Famous Illinois Manuscript Contest. In this video, the author of The Color of Trauma discusses her writing, the story behind the manuscript, why she entered the contest, and what's next for her budding novel. When the video began, she had no idea she'd actually won the contest. Watch her reaction when she finds out the good news.

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 2020 Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project contest.

The next contest returns in late 2019.

Illinois Author Project Now Accepting Submissions

The Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project is proud to announce the start of this year’s contest. Our sixth annual competition to find the best self- and indie-published authors in Illinois kicks off April 1, 2019, and submissions will be accepted through May 31, 2019. New this year is the addition of the Young Adult Fiction category joining our regular contest for Adult fiction.

Each book submitted to the contest must be:

  • Self- or Indie-published
  • In an Adult Fiction or Young Adult Fiction genre
  • Written by a Illinois resident
  • Available in either ePUB or PDF file

The winners of this contest will receive:

  • Statewide recognition by Illinois libraries as the top indie-published books in adult and young adult genres
  • $500 prize each for our two winners, one in each genre
  • Opportunities to promote your book(s) at Illinois libraries
  • Inclusion in a full-page print spread in Library Journal
  • Print book sales to Illinois’ public libraries
  • Inclusion in Popup Picks, a mobile media curation service offered by Reaching Across Illinois Library System, for three months
  • Opportunity to compete with other Indie Author Project contest winners for the Indie Author of the Year award
  • Honors at the Public Library Association Conference 2020 reception in Nashville

    Submit your work here.

2019 Manuscript Finalists Announced

The Soon to Be Famous committee announces the three finalists for our first annual Soon to Be Famous Illinois Manuscript Project contest. Congratulations to these authors (in alphabetical order by book title):

  • Imprudent Love by Diane Maciejewski
  • The Color of Trauma by Hollie Smurthwaite
  • Veritas by Annemarie Mannion

Our volunteer Illinois librarian judges will now select the final winner from these three. Who will take home the top prize? We will announce the winner on April 16 at 2:30 p.m. from the Harold Washington Public Library in downtown Chicago and via a live YouTube video. More details about the ceremony are forthcoming.