Dancing With My Dream is more than a manuscript title for Grovetown resident Dena Straughn.
She is living by those words.
Straughn is one of five finalists in the First Chapters Romance Writing competition sponsored by Simon & Schuster, Borders and Gather.com, an online writers' community.
"I was excited because there's a lot of really good entries, high-quality writing. So I'm still going, 'How did I make it in there?'" Straughn said.
The grand-prize winner, who will be announced Tuesday, will receive a $5,000 advance, a guaranteed publishing contract with the Pocket Books division of Simon & Schuster and distribution of the novel at Borders and other booksellers.
Straughn, whose work was selected from nearly 500 manuscripts submitted from across the country, will receive $500 as one of the five finalists.
Online voting was used to narrow the field to 25 competitors in August and to the top five earlier this month. A panel of four judges will select the grand prize winner.
Straughn, who stumbled on the contest when she went online to conduct research on submitting a manuscript for publication, wrote her romance novel this summer.
The mother of four found herself with time on her hands after an early retirement from her teaching career because of health problems and an empty nest at home. She said her ability to find romance in anything attracted her to the genre.
"There are so many things that are going on in the world today that are hard to deal with," Straughn said. "I like the idea of escaping to something that's a little bit more fun and light."
Even if she does not win the grand prize, Straughn said she will keep dancing with her dream of becoming a published author. She said she will make some changes to her manuscript based on the feedback she has received, and she will pursue publication with other publishers.
She also has started writing two more manuscripts.
"I'm definitely encouraged enough that I'm going to keep at it," she said.
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