Southern California Genealogical Society
SCGS PROJECTS - GENEii Writing Frequently Asked Questions

Writing Contest Rules | Writing Contest FAQs | Writing Contest Brochure | Writing Contest Sample Cover Letter | Overview

Is there a Printed Brochure I can download?
What Are the Categories?
Are "Fictionalized" Stories or Memoirs Acceptable?
How Do I Enter?
What Should I Put in the Cover Letter?
When Is the Deadline?
Where Should I Mail My Entry?
What Kind of Articles Do You Want?
What Kind of Articles Do You NOT Want?
How Can I Read Previous Winning Entries?
Does My Article Have to Relate to California?
Who May Enter?
What Will the Judges Look for?
How Many Finalists and Honorable Mentions Will There Be?
Where Should I Indicate the Word Length?
May I Resubmit an Article That I Sent to You Before?
Should I Include Photographs or Charts?
I’d Love to Get Some Feedback From the Judges. Can You Send Me Their Comments?
Will I Know My Score?
How Do I Know if I’m Citing Sources Correctly?
Should I Include Endnotes in the Word Count?
How Many Entries May I Send?
Is It OK to Send an E-mail Permission From the Previous Publisher?
When Will the Winners Be Announced?
Anything Else I Should Know?
How Will I Know If You Publish My Story?
What If I Want More Copies?
Will All the Finalists, Honorable Mentions, and Prize Winners Be Published?
Help! I have a question you didn’t answer.

* What Are the Categories?

Category 1 is for articles between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length. Category 2 is for articles under 1,000 words in length. Both categories are for family history or local-history stories, memoirs, or character sketches. Submissions may be either unpublished or previously published. If previously published, please include written permission from the publisher for permission to reprint—even if you retain the copyright.

* Are ‘Fictionalized’ Stories or Memoirs Acceptable?

Sorry, but no! All submissions must be factual, honest, and as accurate as possible. We regard family and local history articles as historical documents that will be consulted and relied upon by future researchers. Information may be included that is speculative or impossible to verify, but the writer should indicate that this information is unproven, either in the text itself or in endnotes.

* How Do I Enter?

Send entries as digital copies only. Each entry should be sent in its own email, with the submission attached as a Word, WordPerfect or PDF document with the cover letter contained in the body of the email. Do not include the submission as the body of the email itself.

The cover letter must contain the author’s name, address, phone number and e-mail, the title of the entry, and the category entered, and, if it has been previously published, the information about where and when it appeared.

* What Should I Put in the Cover Letter?

Here's a sample cover letter.

* When Is the Deadline?

Entries must be received between November 1 and December 31. Entries time stamped after 12:59 p.m. Pacific Time, December 31, will not be considered.

* Where Should I Email My Entry?

wiedy_genealogy@charter.net - indicate SCGS Writers Contest Entry in the subject line

The postal mail address and other contact information for SCGS is:
GENEii Family History Writing Contest
Southern California Genealogical Society
417 Irving Drive
Burbank, California 91504-2408
818-843-7247


* What Kind of Articles Do You Want?

The contest is for factual articles: either family history or local history, character sketches, or memoirs. The entries should capture a sense of a family’s experience(s), or the character of a locality, or reveal an individual’s character and personality. The best articles will help illuminate the human drama—and will also illuminate the era, and/or the historical or social context of the subject.

* What Kind of Articles Do You NOT Want?

Accounts of genealogical research procedures, “how-to articles,” advice, and/or general genealogical columns are not appropriate for this contest.

* How Can I Read Previous Winning Entries?

The anthology Celebrating Family History, is available for $25 plus shipping and handling through the SCGS Website. In November, 2005, Heritage Books, Inc. published an anthology of some of the most memorable entries to our contest in the contest's first five years. It is also available from heritagebooks.com.

Several winning entries have also been published in the SCGS quarterly, The Searcher. A limited number of past issues are available for $5 plus shipping and handling. Contact SCGS for more information. Many of the winning entries are posted online.

* Does My Article Have to Relate to California?

Not at all. We welcome stories that concern any aspect of family or local history from anywhere and from any era. We believe that, as family historians, we’re all in this together!

* Who May Enter?

The contest is open to the public, and to both amateur and professional writers. You need not be a member of the Southern California Genealogical Society to enter. (But we would love to have you join us! Here are the benefits of membership.)

* What Will the Judges Look for?

Entries will be judged on four criteria:

  1. Overall impact and interest, points: 0-15
    The judges will evaluate the article’s depth and insight, and the writer’s ability to capture the subject. This category also reflects the judge’s subjective response to the story.
  2. Accuracy & carefulness with facts, points: 0-10
    Do all the factual statements appear to be accurate? Are all the sources used in the article cited correctly? Does the writer seem to be writing honestly and with candor, (i.e., neither exaggerating nor evading issues raised by the story)?
  3. Language and "voice" points: 0-10
    This evaluates the originality (i.e., avoidance of cliches), freshness and effectiveness of the author's use of language and the aptness of the author's observations. The judges will also ask: Does the article flow smoothly? Are the details used appropriate and vivid?
  4. Writing mechanics, points: 0-10
    The judges will look at the clarity of the writing, grammar, syntax and well-organized thoughts. They will also look for clean self-editing (at a minimum, run your spell check!).
  5. Bonus points
    In addition to the four criteria just described, judges may award the following extra points:
    First place: 5 points
    Second place: 4 points
    Third place: 3 points
    Honorable mention: 2 points
    Finalist: 1 point

* How Many Finalists and Honorable Mentions Will There Be?

As many as the judges choose. There is no set number. Usually about 20% of the entries are selected as finalists, and about 20% of those are selected as honorable mentions, but the judges are not required to select any specific number.

* Where Should I Indicate the Word Length?

Please show the word length on the cover sheet (see the sample cover letter).

* May I Resubmit an Article That I Sent to You Before?

No, please submit only new stories.

* Should I Include Photographs or Charts?

It is all right to incorporate reproductions of photos into the body of your text. Because the judges will be considering only your writing, photos or charts will not be of value in the contest. However, if you are a winner, and we notify you that we would like to publish your article, it is appropriate to let us know at that time that you have illustrative materials available.

* I'd Love to Get Some Feedback From the Judges. Can You Send Me Their Comments?

We're sorry, but the judges do not write comments about any of the entries.

* Will I Know My Score?

No, "scores" are just a bookkeeping device to help the judges keep track of the entries.

* How Do I Know if I'm Citing Sources Correctly?

All research (or other) sources, including letters and diaries, must be supported by appropriate endnote citations. For a guide to citation style, see Evidence, Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian, by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Company).

* Should I Include Endnotes in the Word Count?

No. Endnotes are “free.”

* How Many Entries May I Send?

Writers may submit multiple entries in either and/or both categories. However, each entry must be submitted in a separate email. Each one of the entries must be accompanied by a cover letter, as described in, "How to Enter" COVER LETTER

* Is It Permissible to Send an E-mail Permission From the Previous Publisher?

Yes, including e-mail permission is quite acceptable.

* When Will the Winners Be Announced?

Finalists, honorable mentions, and prize-winners will be notified by e-mail about May 1st of each calendar year. The entire list of winners will be posted as soon as possible after May 1 on the SCGS website and published in the SCGS quarterly journal, The Searcher. Finalists, honorable mentions, and prize winners will also be notified via Post Office mail after May 1st of each calendar year.

* Anything Else I Should Know?

By entering this contest, you grant the Southern California Genealogical Society permission to print your entry 1) in its quarterly journal, and/or 2) in an anthology of the winners of this contest, and/or 3) on its website. If you submit an article that has been published elsewhere, you must indicate this on your cover letter and attach written permission from the previous publisher giving SCGS the right to reprint it if we choose to do so. This applies even if you retain the copyright to the article.

* How Will I Know If You Publish My Story?

We’ll notify you beforehand. We’ll also tell you when it will appear - and, if it appears in print, we'll mail you a free copy of the publication when it's available.

* What If I Want More Copies?

Let us know, and we’ll inform you of how and from whom to obtain them.

* Will All the Finalists, Honorable Mentions, and Prize Winners Be Published?

Probably not. Publication will depend on the space available, the format being used, and editorial decisions about the balance of subject matter and treatment.

* Help! I have a question you didn't answer.

For more information you can e-mail us at

Good luck, everybody !