June 29, 2009

Made It Moment: Stefanie Pintoff

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:35 am

Stefanie Pintoff -- In the Shadow of Gotham

I discovered Stefanie’s novel In the Shadow of Gotham via this mystery listserv I’m part of. The listserv is always leading me to real treasures, and Stefanie’s was one of the biggest and brightest. It is a moody, atmospheric story of old New York. Stefanie manages to weave elements as disparate as feminism, mathematics, and murder into one spellbinding tale. This novel is literally a winner, as she is about to tell you…

When I was outside the business looking in – with no agent, no editor, no publishing contract, only a dream that I’d like to write a book – I thought that making it as a writer meant one thing.


After all, to be published was the ultimate validation of one’s work.

Then I was lucky.  I took the Cinderella route to publication when I won the inaugural Mystery Writers of America / St. Martin’s Minotaur Best First Crime Novel Contest.  Given how hard it is for a new writer to get the attention of first an agent, then an editor, the contest offered an amazing opportunity for an unpublished writer.  When I got the phone call letting me know I’d won, I spent one glorious day basking in my success:  I was going to be published by a leading mystery imprint; my editor was terrific, at the top of her field; and the contest win put me in the company of very talented writers who’d won similar St. Martin’s-sponsored contests, including Steve Hamilton and Michael Koryta, Donna Andrews and Julia Spencer-Fleming.

The next day, reality hit.  I was going to be a published writer.  And that suddenly meant something very different than it had only a day before.  I had a tremendous amount of work ahead of me as I confronted new issues large and small.  I learned what my publishing house and editor expected; how to promote; and how to create realistic goals to move my career forward.  I also learned how much was beyond my control as I embarked on the beginning of this new career.

Now my book sits on bookshelves across the country, and I still sometimes pinch myself to make sure it’s real.  I’ve passed one major hurdle, but there are plenty of challenges ahead.  To “make it,” I’ll need more of the luck – and hard work – that got my writing published in the first place.

Still, I’m reminded every day why I do this.

The blank page before me – though it’s unknown and mysterious, sometimes terrifying – is also reassuring.  It holds out the promise of what I crave most:  unlimited possibility.

Stefanie was thrilled to have her book launch at the wonderful Partners & Crime in New York, and sent along a picture of the occasion:


  1. What a great story! Congrats, Stefanie!

    Comment by Judy — June 29, 2009 @ 8:47 am

  2. What a fantastic story! What a great success. And good for you, Jenny, helping writers out and publicizing their successes!

    Comment by Savvy — June 29, 2009 @ 9:43 am

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Savvy and Judy. Stefanie’s story makes me wonder…how many other debut-ers might have got their chance via a literary contest? I wonder whether it effects the course of things, changes anything “in the end”?

    Comment by jenny — June 29, 2009 @ 8:09 pm

  4. Perfect timing, Jenny! Thanks for sending me over here when you saw I reviewed In the Shadow of Gotham on my blog. It’s always nice to see another push for an author and book I liked. Stefanie is definitely someone to watch for. And, thank you for the picture from her book launch!


    Comment by Lesa Holstine — June 30, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

  5. Thanks to everyone who chimed in with good wishes and congratulations – and especially to Jenny for inviting me on.

    Jenny, your question is a good one that brings to mind another of my favorite authors who got her start through a contest: Louise Penny. In her case, the contest was the CWA Debut Dagger, for which she was shortlisted. She writes about it on her website here: http://www.louisepenny.com/getpublished.htm (scroll down to near the end).


    Comment by Stefanie — July 1, 2009 @ 10:09 am

  6. Wow, Louise has another great story! Her website also looks full of useful information for writers. I’m excited to go over it in more detail…

    I have heard of Amazon sponsored contests, Writers Digest ones, all with publication as the prize. I don’t think these are any “easier” than winning an agent and then an editor’s interest–possibly much harder since there are only a handful of people who can benefit from a contest and there are hundreds of agents and dozens of editors out there. But insofar as getting pubbed is finding that one strand of spaghetti that will stick to the wall…a contest gives us a few more strands.

    Comment by jenny — July 1, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

  7. Stephanie can’t say this–but I can–that she’s not only smart as they come, but she’s also a darling young woman with a smile that can light up a room. There’s nothing but success ahead for her.

    Comment by Joanna Campbell Slan — December 30, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  8. You’re an inspiration, Stefanie. Can’t wait for the sequel.

    Comment by M.J. McKenzie — January 31, 2010 @ 10:04 am

  9. Stefanie, would you mind expounding on this?

    “I learned what my publishing house and editor expected; how to promote; and how to create realistic goals to move my career forward. I also learned how much was beyond my control…”

    I’d love to hear more!

    Comment by Savvy — April 30, 2010 @ 8:38 am

  10. [...] does! We’ve had international bestseller Sophie Hannah appear in this column, Edgar winner Stefanie Pintoff, and Edgar nominee Tim Hallinan–and none of them seem quite sure of the [...]

    Pingback by Suspense Your Disbelief » Made It Moment: C.J. West — September 30, 2011 @ 8:30 am

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