2019 The Sheila Contest


Participation is open to ALL romance writers who are unpublished, self-published, and traditionally published. The entry must be the author’s original work, unpublished in any format (including author’s website, self-publication, ebook, mass market, etc.) and not under contract when submitted to the contest. You do not have to be a member of RWA to enter The Sheila.


The Sheila Contest opens March 3, 2019 at 12:00 am EST (Eastern Standard Time) for registration.  All submissions must be received electronically by 11:59 p.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time), April 13, 2019.  Entries received after the deadline will be returned and the entry fee will be forfeited.

NOTE: If fewer than 10 entries are received for a category, VFRW reserves the right to eliminate the category. If a category is cancelled, the author will be given the choice of switching the entry to another category or having the entry and fees returned.


$25 for all VFRW Chapter members / $30 for all non-VFRW members. 

Electronic payment (via PayPal) only

All entry fees must be received by VFRW by 11:55pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time), on April 13, 2019, or the entry will be disqualified and the fee forfeited.

All entry fees are non-refundable except in the case of category cancellation, as stated above.


The FIRST 20 pages of the manuscript and a synopsis no longer than 5 pages in length. The synopsis is REQUIRED, but not judged.

Previous category and Best of the Best winners may not re-enter their winning entry, even in edited format. They may, however, enter another work.

Enter as many different manuscripts as you wish, but each entry must be entered and submitted separately. 

The same manuscript may not be entered in more than one category. Choose the best category for any single work.

Any entries received after the deadline will be returned, and the entry fee forfeited. 


One Microsoft Word .doc formatted document emailed to the category coordinator (the email address will be provided in the registration confirmation email) including the beginning of the manuscript (first 20 pages), followed by the synopsis (up to 5 pages). The manuscript and synopsis may not exceed 25 total pages. 

Entries must be presented in standard manuscript format: double-spaced with one inch margins using Times New Roman font, 12-point. Chapters must begin 1/3 of the way down the page. All entries must be in U.S. page sizing and standard formatting. (A4 will not be accepted.)  Both synopsis and manuscript pages must be no more than 25 lines per page.

Manuscript headers should include the title of the entry and category in the upper left corner and the page number in the upper right corner only. The author's name may not appear anywhere on the entry.

Entrants who do not comply with the above rules will be contacted and given until the contest deadline to correct the infraction. Failure to comply by the deadline will disqualify the entrant. The entry fee will be forfeited. 


Entrants will receive a detailed score sheet from three qualified judges. Judges will be encouraged to comment on the score sheet, but VFRW cannot guarantee that all judges will comply with this suggestion. The lowest score will be dropped unless in the event of a tie, at which point the lowest score will be included to break the tie. To review the score sheet, please click HERE.

The top five entries in each category will advance to the finals. Scores will be returned to all entrants on or about the week of August 5th.

No entry from a Valley Forge Romance Writers member shall be judged by any other member. All member entries will be judged by non-member judges to ensure fairness to all entrants.

All decisions of the judges are final.


Three (3) qualified, trained judges, including General, PRO and PAN members. We strive to have each entry judged by at least one (1) PAN member. 


Contemporary – Rhonda Penders, Wild Rose Press
Fantasy/Futuristic/Paranormal – Lori Polito, Soul Mate Publishing
Historical  Claudia Fallon, Wild Rose Press
Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance – Scott Eagen, Grey Haus Agency
Romantic Suspense – Meghan Farrell, Tule Publishing
Young Adult  Tara Gelsomino, One Track Literary Agency

All heat levels are welcome in all categories.


Top scores from the final round will move on to the Best of the Best round, judged by best-selling authors:

  • Xio Axelrod, USA Today Bestselling Author
  • Pintip Dunn, New York Times Bestselling Author and RITA® Winne
  • Priscilla Oliveras, USA Today Bestselling Author
  • Angela Quarles, USA Today Bestselling Author and RITA® Winner
  • Laura Trentham, Multiple Golden Heart® Finalist 
  • Rebecca Zanetti, New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author 


VFRW expects to announce finalists and winners on or about the following dates:

   Category finalists will be announced the week of June 17th.
   Category winners will be announced the week of August 5th.
   Best of the Best winner will be announced the week of September 9th.


Grand Prize for Best of the Best:  $100

Top Prizes:  Certificates, web badges, and the 1st through 4th place winners will be printed in RWR Magazine, published by Romance Writers of America® 

For the first time, Category winners and the Best of the Best will also receive pins.


The 2019 Sheila Contest is closed to entries


Contact The Sheila Contest Chairpersons 

* * *

"Because of the Sheila I have an opportunity to put my work in front of a wonderful editor, and I’m am beyond grateful! Thank you!!" ~Meta Carroll, 2017 Best of the Best winner.

"The Sheila Contest is on my MUST enter list. The feedback was helpful and professional. My manuscript, WORTH THE FIGHT, benefited from the constructive advice. I'm thrilled to say it sold to a publisher, too!"  Michele Mannon 

"The Sheila was the contest that launched my career. The final judge was Leah Hultenschmidt of Sourcebooks who requested the full when I won. Two days after I sent it, she rang to say she wanted to buy THE DEVIL OF WHITECHAPEL, which is now KISS OF STEEL. Fast forward two years and I am happy to say that I wouldn't be where I am without the Sheila Contest." ~ Bec McMaster

"I highly recommend the Sheila Contest. It's not only highly regarded, but I love that I had the opportunity to make changes based on the first round judges before it went to the editor for final judging. I went on to sell my entry THE SWEET SPOT, in a three book deal to Grand Central!" Laura Drake

"The judges feedback was wonderful and very helpful to me when doing revisions. My contest experience with the Sheila has been amazing, thank you to the Valley Forge chapter—and especially thank you to you for all your help and hard work (I was a contest coordinator until recently, I know how much work is involved!)." ~Raewyn Bright 

"Enter the Sheila! This contest led directly to my three-book sale to St. Martin's Press. My book, SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT, was published in 2013! Thanks Valley Forge Romance Writers and the Sheila Contest!" ~ Valerie Bowman

"Not only was the feedback from the Sheila judges helpful, but I was given a chance to apply their suggestions to my finalist entry before submission to the final judge. I still think of those judges every time I apply what I learned to my writing. I guess it worked because I won the category and sold my manuscript! CAT ON A HOT STEEL FLIGHT DECK sold in a four-book deal, along with the first book in my 'Love in the Fleet' series, and Books #3 and 4! CAT- newly entitled FORGET ME NOT - will be released in hard copy by Henery Press in December 2013. (Book #1 came out in July 2013)" Heather Ashby

"In 2013, I entered my manuscript, DARE TO LOVE, in The Shelia Contest. It received good ratings, but the judges suggested my hero was too unlikeable. While I didn't fully agree, I decided to integrate their recommendations. Six months later, I sold my book to Lyrical Press. The judges thoughtful feedback was critical to my success." Alleigh Burrows   

"The Sheila Contest is fantastic! Thanks to the input I received from the contest judges I was able to improve my manuscript and sell it." Jacki Kelly, The Sweet Road Home (Release Date - 11/17/12)

"Participating in the 2012 Sheila was a great experience! I'm excited to say my finaling historical manuscript, TEMPTING BELLA, sold to Entangled Scandalous in a two-book deal. Critiques from the first-round judges were detailed and very helpful, with excellent suggestions. Final-round judge Elizabeth Poteet from St. Martin's Press also put her comments directly on the entries themselves!" ~ Diana Quincy

"The Sheila Contest has been a wonderful experience, and I'm not disappointed that my entry was not selected for the "Best of the Best" award. My feedback from the judges was helpful and encouraging, and I received an editor request, so what do I have to complain about? Thank you for the opportunity and I hope to participate in future Sheila contests. This is my second first place win in the Sheila historical category (I won several years ago with my debut novel "Fire at Midnight" that went on to be published by Medallion Press in 2009)." ~ Lisa Wilkinson