Jodi Lew-Smith
Jodi Lew-Smith, 2014 winner

James River Writers is pleased to announce the winners of our inaugural Best Self-published Novel Contest, an award created to recognize the writing talents and entrepreneurial skills of indie authors. Contest chair Erica Orloff and head judge April Eberhardt selected a winner and two finalists from forty entries. Each entry was judged on writing quality, editing, layout, design, and formatting.

The two finalists identified were Connie Biewald for her book Digging to Indochina and Connie Lapallo for her book When the Moon Has No More Silver. Jodi Lew-Smith was the first place winner for her book The Clever Mill Horse.

April Eberhardt had this to say about the winner: “Jodi’s novel is a captivating work of historical fiction, well-structured, compellingly-paced, thoroughly researched and beautifully written. The author creates a vivid sense of place and era, and the characters she presents are complex, colorful and highly sympathetic. I particularly enjoyed Ella, the novel’s strong female protagonist, who was well ahead of her time in her ability to hold her own and succeed in a man’s world, and who presents a powerful role model for the YA readers who would enjoy this book, along with the primary adult market. I greatly look forward to reading the sequel!”

Thank you to all the contestants who entered for their effort, creativity, and keen interest in being part of the ever-changing world of publishing. We hope to hear from you again! This contest will be conducted in alternating years with the Best Unpublished Novel Contest, so the next time you may enter will be in 2016.

Head Judge 2014

april eberhardtApril Eberhardt Literary helps authors explore both traditional publishing and the emerging options for self-publishing, including agent-assisted independent publishing. The agency specializes in building long-term strategies with authors, which often include a blend of traditional and self-publishing. A self-described “literary change agent” and author advocate, April works with serious authors who recognize the need for professional support, and the importance of publishing in the highest-quality way. April represents a range of high-quality fiction authors, many published by the Big Six publishers, as well as those who have chosen the indie route.

After 25 years as a corporate strategist and consultant, April Eberhardt joined the literary world as head reader for Zoetrope: All-Story, a literary magazine, followed by five years as an agent with two San Francisco-based literary agencies. She founded her own agency in 2011 order to assist and advise authors as they navigate the increasingly complex world of publishing. April holds an MBA from Boston University in Marketing and Finance, a BA from Hamilton (Kirkland) College in Anthropology and French, and a CPLF degree from the University of Paris. She represents clients worldwide, and divides her time between San Francisco, New York and Paris. She currently is a reader for the Best American Short Stories series published annually by Houghton Mifflin each October.

Chair 2014

Erica OrloffErica Orloff, JRW board member, is chair of the inaugural Best Self-Published Novel Contest. She is co-owner of Editing for Authors, and the author of over 20 novels.



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