Schaumburg resident named semi-finalist in statewide writing competition

Updated 9/9/2019 8:03 AM

Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project announces semi-finalists; opens up vast new source of great reads for libraries

Twenty-five self-published Illinois authors of adult and young adult fiction just got a career boost.


Last month, the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project (STBF) proudly unveiled the list of semi-finalists for this year's competition. Now in its sixth year of discovering, recognizing, and promoting indie-published fiction by Illinois writers, STBF is happy to report that this year the contest has been expanded to include a young adult fiction category.

Here are our talented semi-finalists in order by author's last name:

For Adult Fiction:


Book Title

Home Library

Katie Andraski

The River Caught Sunlight

Kingston Public Library

Genevieve Ching

The Dragon of New Orleans

Bloomington Public Library

Keziah Frost

Getting Rid of Mabel

Downers Grove Public Library

Annie Hansen

Give Me Chocolate

Batavia Public Library District

Libby Hellmann

War, Spies and Bobby Sox

Northbrook Public Library

Karen Herkes

Controlled Descent

Mount Prospect Public Library

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Len Joy

American Past Time

Skokie Public Library

Emily Kaplan

Full Slab Dead

Woodstock Public Library

Ruth Kaufman

My Life as a Star

Chicago Public Library, Uptown Branch

Donna Malacina

Twisted Secrets

Lockport Public Library

Kim Praser

Unrequited Guilt

Indian Prairie Public Library District

Laura Quinn

Punk Charming

Barrington Area Library

Jean Rabe

The Bone Shroud

Tolono Public Library

Karen Sandrick

The Pear Tree

Harold Washington Library

Craig Wilson

Renegade Pawn

Chicago Public Library, West Loop Branch

For Young Adult Fiction:


Book Title

Home Library

Steve Bellinger

The Chronocar

Chicago Public Library

Allison Boot

Just the Way You Are

The Urbana Free Library


Deanna Cabinian

One Night

Grayslake Area Public Library

Leigh Hellman


Chicago Public Library

Keith Hoerner

Missing the Mark

Carbondale Public Library

Lauren Klump

The Remedy Files: Illusion

Normal Public Library

Margie Mack

Through The Woods

Schaumburg Township District Library

Linda Murphy

Just One Summer

Maryville Community Library District

Julie Oleszek

Just Like Ziggy

Batavia Public Library District

Julie Oleszek

The Fifth Floor

Batavia Public Library District

Entries included 57 works of adult fiction, and 25 books in the YA category. Project partner, Library Journal, narrowed the list down to 15 adult fiction and 10 young adult fiction semi-finalists. Volunteer judges from libraries across the state are hard at work reading and evaluating the semi-finalists, and winners in each category will be announced in late October. The winner will receive a cash prize, statewide recognition, increased exposure, and the opportunity to compete for a national prize along with winners from other states through the Indie Author Project[*].

More than a writing competition

But STBF and the contests in other participating states are much more than writing contests. They represent a new pathway for indie-published authors to connect with readers using the power of libraries.

The indie e-book market has exploded during the past few years creating a huge source of great reads, demand from readers[†], and a largely untapped treasure trove for libraries. But it's uncharted territory for both libraries and traditional publishers, and the rules of the game keep changing. Most recently, Macmillan Publishers announced a new, highly restrictive policy for library e-book purchases.

Unwilling to let Macmillan and the other "big five" publishers call the shots, librarians have proactively wielded their own power to advocate for their patrons.

Before STBF was established, many librarians had been hesitant to add self-published books to their collections despite their popularity with readers simply because they didn't have the capacity to adequately vet them. As one librarian from a branch of a small Midwestern city library commented, "We're not allowed to buy self-published books, but we're getting interlibrary loan requests for them. Maybe it's not the best policy."

The librarians who developed STBF tackled this problem by creating a process to identify and evaluate indie-published fiction, opening up this vast source of great reads. This is welcome news for libraries and readers especially now as traditional publishers are tightening library access to e-books.

While librarians continue to negotiate for less restrictive purchasing policies from the big five, through the Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project and its sister competitions across the nation and internationally, an exciting new source of great reads has been opened up.

The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project is the brainchild of library marketing professionals who were inspired after listening to a presentation by brand expert and NYU professor David Vinjamuri, who spoke at the American Library Association's 2013 annual conference about the importance of libraries in the era of e-books and self-publishing. He challenged libraries to wield their collective influence to lift a self-published author to success to create a measurable indicator of the power of libraries and librarians to affect books and reading. Currently, 32% of bestsellers on Amazon are self-published.

In the first year of the project, 103 self-published adult fiction titles were nominated and eighteen librarians across the state served as judges. After a series of eliminations, the top 3 authors were selected and were all present at the ILA headquarters for the announcement. Vinjamuri flew in from New York to introduce the authors and present the award to the winner. Librarian judges are now reading and evaluating the 25 semi-finalist works, preparing to name the sixth winner this fall.

For more information on the project, visit .

For more information about how the Illinois project inspired contests in thirteen other states and one Canadian province (so far!), visit .

[*] Using the Illinois project as a model, thirteen other states and one Canadian province have launched their own indie-author competitions, coordinating their efforts to name a national winner. The Indie Author Project ( is home base for the various state/province-wide competitions.

[†] According to Amazon January 2016 statistics, only 13% of Amazon best-selling e-books came from the "big five" publishers, while indie and single-author published e-books accounted for 39% of these sales.

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