Winning the Claymore Award by Mary Bush

My road from a Claymore Award hopeful to being the 2021 Claymore Award winner is a little unusual in that it spans two years. I discovered the Claymore Award in the winter of 2020 and thought ‘what a fantastic contest’.  Not only did it give an unpublished book a chance at recognition, it helped give writers an opportunity to meet industry professionals at the Killer Nashville annual conference. Plus, they held a banquet at which the awards would be presented! It all sounded so exciting that I immediately entered the contest with my unpublished manuscript, entitled Crooked.

And then I waited because the twenty finalists weren’t being announced until the summer of 2020.

Finally, that day came day in July. I was at work and in a meeting with a colleague when my email chimed and a pop-up message flashed. My eyes locked on the pop-up, which was from Killer Nashville, and it was regarding the Claymore award finalists. Though I was dying to read the email, I couldn’t open it, not with a work colleague right next to me. Suddenly a second email flashed, again from Killer Nashville. This time I couldn’t resist and I opened both emails.

The first message stated that the finalists had been selected and a link was provided to see who they were. The second email said ‘Congratulations’ you are a Claymore Award Finalist! I turned towards my colleague and said, ‘Oh my god, I’m a Claymore Award finalist’! Now COVID was upon us and the Killer Nashville conference had been canceled. Yes, I was disappointed but it was best that everyone stayed safe.

The evening that the banquet was supposed to have occurred, the winners were announced via email. Alas, I was not one of them. But I was thrilled to have been a finalist. Wow, out of all of the submissions to be in the top 20 was amazing.

Fast forward to early Spring 2021. I received an email from Killer Nashville announcing that the Claymore Award was fast approaching its one-week deadline. Over the next few seconds I quickly thought, hmmm…..Crooked had been extensively edited, all but the first chapter had been torn apart and rewritten, and I wondered if I could resubmit a manuscript that was a finalist the previous year? I saw nothing on the website that said otherwise so I resubmitted my new version of Crooked and waited again.

Summer 2021, I was in another meeting at work when the email flashed from Killer Nashville and I anxiously waited, holding my breath, to see if a second would follow. This time though, there was only one message. Since my finalist status in 2020 came in the second email, I was not in a hurry to open the lone email lingering in my inbox. Once the meeting was over, I thought well let’s see who the finalists are. When I read the message, my jaw was on the ground…. I was a finalist again! I called my husband and said, “I have a do over! I can go to the banquet! I can go to the conference!” We wasted no time booking everything.

Then, tragedy struck. My 90-year-old mother became ill 2 weeks before we were to leave to go to the conference. Though she improved as the days passed, and she insisted that she was OK enough to take care of herself – the last thing she wanted was for me to miss going to the conference – she was not in any state that I could leave her. We canceled the trip.

I sent an email to Clay Stafford to let me know that I had to cancel. He replied stating that he would post the winners on social media in real time, and provided a link to view what would be occurring. I must admit that I went to bed the night of the awards. It was just too nerve-racking waiting, plus I thought winning was a long shot and I was more than happy to have been a finalist two years in a row. The next morning, after working up some courage, I opened my email from the night before and followed the link to the Facebook page that held the results, curious to see who had won. My eyes locked on the post that announced that I was the winner of the Claymore Award! Though it was pretty early, I woke up everyone in the house yelling, “I won the award! I won the Claymore Award!”

I would have loved to have been at the banquet in person to thank everyone for this great honor. I am beyond excited to have won this award. It’s given me the confidence to press on with Crooked. My message to everyone, edit, edit, and edit again. Never give up.

One last piece of my journey was receiving the award itself. Shortly after the conference, I came home to find a LARGE box labeled “fragile” sitting on my countertop, brought into the house by my husband. A bottle of champagne and three glasses were in front of it – I think he had an inkling of what was inside – and he was correct! My beautiful Claymore Award had arrived and we toasted with my mother, who had fully recovered. This truly is a gorgeous award. I can’t stop smiling when I think about it, let alone look at it!


Thank you to everyone at Killer Nashville. Let me tell you all that is wonderful opportunity and this is an awesome contest. Definitely enter it!