Many writers swear that contest wins do nothing to help them fight their way down the road to publication. I beg to differ. I do believe they need to be the RIGHT contests, but contest wins can do a lot for an aspiring author.
I've won four contests in the last two years, all of which helped in one way or another by gaining me exposure to other writers, placing my work in front of editors at major publishers, or sending me to awesome conferences. This latest win (see link above) is sending me to Dragon Con!
The essay I submitted http://pyrsf.blogspot.com/2010/07/grand-prize-winning-essay-by-lisa.html followed a chain of major events throughout my life, each of which was touched in some way by fantasy or science fiction. It amazes me, even now, how much influence these genres have had over the paths I've chosen, and I'm certain they will continue to do so as I seek publication of my own work and an opportunity to touch the lives of others.
So, I'm off to Atlanta, Georgia, in September to Dragon Con. I'm the guest of honor at a banquet being thrown by PYR publishing. I think I need to go clothes shopping!