October 5, 2010

Made It Moment: Sunny Frazier

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 12:23 pm

I know Sunny Frazier in a variety of capacities: as author, as marketing guru, as vocal advocate of writers everywhere. How would a writer like Sunny even pick a Moment to have Made It? Read on below…

Fools Rush InSunny Frazier

It’s easy to get lost in the writing end of things and not really know for sure if you’ve “Made It.” My epiphany came very unexpectedly and threw me into a panic.

I was working on my first novel, FOOLS RUSH IN. My Sisters in Crime chapter decided to run a short story contest based on the historical eatery where we held our meetings.

It was my first attempt at a mystery short story. I didn’t have a computer, so I wrote the story in one sitting at my desk at the sheriff’s department narc unit (don’t tell the sheriff!). At the very last minute I changed the generic title to “A Tale of Two Sittings.”

Not only did I win the Dead Bird award, but I submitted the story to another contest and won the Persie trophy. Then I submitted it to Murderous Intent Magazine and won first place and $100.

Pure luck. So, I wrote more stories. Each one seemed to pick up an award. I was not encouraged, and told instead to concentrate on my novel.

At some point, people wanted to read these stories. Two writing friends and I compiled them into an anthology and titled it “Valley Fever: Where Murder Is Contagious.” We only printed up 1,000 copies of this prize-winning collection. The book is now a collector’s item in the San Joaquin Valley of California.

Still, I thought it was a fluke. People said I couldn’t make money in the short story market. I was getting nearly $100 per story in contest winnings. I was invited to be on panels at conferences. I was dubbed “The Contest Queen” by the Short Mystery Fiction Society. I had too many trophies to display, free passes at conferences and a list of writing credits that went to five full pages. I developed Guerrilla Writing, or How To Win Short Story Contests. I dress in Army camouflage and pass out dog tags to people who pass inspection.

At a signing on the Pacific coast, a woman stopped at our table and said, “Do you know Sunny Frazier, the one who wins all the writing awards?” Embarrassed, I shyly raised my hand and said, “Uh, that would be me.” It did not earn brownie points with the co-authors of the anthology.

But for me, the real “Made It” moment was when I received an award in the mail from Writers’ Digest informing me that I’d won third place out of 19,000 contest entries. I didn’t care that I hadn’t won first or second place. I knew I’d fought the odds and scratched out the beginnings of a career in one of the toughest markets. The win confirmed what people were trying to tell me—that I had that unique “something” that makes a writer stand out from the pack.

Sunny Frazier is the author of the Christy Bristol mystery series, which combines Sunny’s experience in law enforcement, astrology, and more than one element of danger. She is also acquisitions editor and founder of several imprints for Oak Tree Press. Visit her and learn more at http://www.sunnyfrazier.com


  1. It is so nice to read that good things can happen! :)

    Comment by Judy — October 5, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

  2. Holy moly, that is fantastic! Congrats on all the hard-won success. Goes to show that entering contests can be worth the time (and entry fee). You said “It’s easy to get lost in the writing end of things and not really know for sure if you’ve ‘Made It’”–I wouldn’t know what it feels like to make it, but I am sure you are right!

    Comment by Savvy — October 5, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

  3. Hard work and persistence do pay off. You’re the proof, Sunny.

    Comment by Cindy Sample — October 5, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

  4. It is stories like this one that makes me want to keep being persistent and trying to get my name out there and book known. I can’t wait until I can tell spectacular stories such as your own.

    Comment by Elizabeth Kolodziej — October 5, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  5. I laughed when I read that you wrote that first story sitting at your desk in the sheriff’s department narc unit. It reminded me that William Faulkner used to work in the University of Mississippi post office, but that he eventually had to resign because all he did there was write, drink and lose mail. (At least you didn’t drink or lose mail. :)

    Comment by Jason Hunt — October 5, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

  6. I think what stands out most in this “made” it moment is how often it can slip by if we choose to define it by other peoples definition’s. I think whenever the moment comes, it’s most important to use the flush of feeling it gives you to propel you forward into the next best chapter of your writing career.

    Comment by Karyne — October 5, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

  7. I didn’t have to try to be an introvert, an alienated Vietnam vet, or a literary snob who’d bought into too much academia, and for whom Marketing was anathema. Eventually, Life cured me of most of that.
    Now I’m happy when I hear somebody named Sunny Frazier developed Guerrilla Writing and wore Army clothes at writer’s conferences. Fun is the best F word.
    Clark Lohr

    Comment by Clark Lohr — October 5, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

  8. I think what stands out loud and clear is Sunny didn’t stop to bask in the limelight of all the contest wins, but kept on writing and submitting more stories.

    Comment by J. R. Lindermuth — October 5, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  9. A great story about how “making it” can creep up on you. Others were noticing your success, but you needed a blow to the head from Writers’ Digest. What a gal!

    Comment by Lesley Diehl — October 5, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

  10. After reading this, I think you Made It before you even realized it. Your humility just didn’t let you see that. What a touching and encouraging story.

    Comment by Marja McGraw — October 5, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  11. Welcome to the new readers, and thanks to Sunny for luring you in ;) I hope you’ll all come back often, and consider writing Moments yourself!

    I agree–Sunny has Made It many times over–and it’s funny how we can miss those milestones in the push for more, more, more. Right now one reader (who isn’t my agent or my writing buddy or my friend) feels like it will be my MIM. With thanks to Sunny, I promise not to let that one get by!

    Comment by jenny — October 5, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

  12. LOL. I love that story about William Faulkner.

    Affirmation is a powerful tool. I haven’t had an actual paycheck yet, but somehow I think that’ll be pretty affirming, too.

    Comment by Peg Brantley — October 5, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

  13. Thanks for weighing in, Judy, Savvy, Peg, Karyne–and all the loyal Suspense readers! As you know, I love these Moments–and one day hope all ours are featured here, too!

    Comment by jenny — October 5, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

  14. Love that you started out writing in short stories. That makes me not only want to read the stories, but the books as well. Congratulations.

    Comment by Helen Ginger — October 7, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  15. Great “Made it” story. I suspect there are many of us who have written some of our best work while on the job. ;)

    Comment by Shelley Stout — October 8, 2010 @ 6:18 am

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