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RPLA Update

IMG_9360-FWA 2015 Conf-photo by Karen Lieb (31)-2015 FWA RPLA Unpublis...
Micki Browning with her 2015 trophy for Unpublished Book of the Year.

We’re rounding the bend with RPLA—you know, the Royal Palm Literary Awards. It’s FWA’s flagship writing competition, where entries are accepted in 26 genre-categories for adults and 15 for youth. Where published and unpublished works are judged separately. Where semifinalists, finalists, and winners earn electronic badges. Where the trophies are beyond cool, and for every entry, the feedback is priceless. More so every year.

For the 2016 competition, we’re definitely approaching some milestones.

If you’re familiar with RPLA, you may be surprised at some of this year’s changes. These include the expansion of the rubric-coordinator process, whereby every rubric gets a thorough review. Other changes include the institution of discrepancy judging for every entry and the institution of a new scoring scale, where the rubrics are scored on a basis of 100 possible points instead of 50.

So where are we now? We’re three-quarters into the submission window, which opened January 15. There will be a fee hike April 30, and the competition closes May 15. As of our submission deadline April 15, we have had 237 entries. Youth entries tend to come in later, but already we’ve had our first.

We’re also approaching the time to begin rolling announcements of semifinalists—rolling being the operative word because these designations are announced as they are determined, based on score thresholds.

The RPLA guidelines [link to https://floridawriters.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Adult-guidelines-2016-01-11.pdf] outline the process. Currently we’re in the initial-judging phase, where three judges score and comment on every entry, and the two closest scores are kept, with the third dropped. The sum of the two “kept” scores determines whether an entry is a semifinalist. With the new 100-point rubric scale, RPLA introduced new precision into the scoring, which underscores the need for a threshold adjustment. The announced threshold of 170 has been adjusted to 160, and this cutoff applies to all entries, in all genres, regardless of date of submission.

Now what? All entrants will be notified whether or not their entry is a semifinalist. Those entries that qualify will be sent to a final judge, whose score will count double, or 200 points maximum. For book-length entries, the final judge reads the entire book. Like semifinalist status, finalist status will be determined from the total score, whereas the ultimate winners (first, second, and third place) will be determined by comparing entries in each genre-category relative to one another. After the competition, ALL entrants will receive their rubrics in their email inboxes.

There’s plenty of excitement ahead, but the big news now is the start of the semifinalist announcements beginning Monday, April 18, and continuing into June, overlapping the announcements of finalists, which also is rolling. The announcement of the winners, though—shhh!—that remains secret until the awards banquet October 22 during the annual conference in Altamonte Springs.

The entire RPLA team thanks you for your confidence in our contest. Don’t miss your chance to compete.

So how ‘bout it? Have you submitted your work yet? Hurry before the entry fee goes up April 30. RPLA excitement is just a click [link to https://floridawriters.net/competitions-awards/royal-palm-literary-award/] away.


RPLA is a prestigious FWA writing competition, now in its 15th year. Its mission is to recognize excellence in members’ published and unpublished works while providing objective and constructive written assessments for all entrants. Entries are accepted in 26 categories for adults, 15 for youth, with published and unpublished entries judged separately. Submission window closes May 15. Details here.

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Chris Coward is the chairperson for the 2017 Royal Palm Literary Awards competition, a member of the FWA Board of Directors, past FWA president, and co-leader for FWA’s Oxford Writers critique group. She has ghostwritten for presidential appointees and CEOs, headed corporate marketing departments, edited national magazines, and taught college English. She has an MA in English (concentration in professional writing and editing) from George Mason University and a BA in philosophy from the College of William and Mary. Stone Perfect, her debut novel about two nerds, a girl, and a sexy sociopath who square off in a perpendicular universe, is a 2012 first-place RPLA winner, science fiction.

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