Milford writer’s novel wins online award
MILFORD – Sarah Chappell was listening to the song "Black Roses" from the "Nashville" television show soundtrack in her car when she thought: "Oh, I’ve got a good story for that."
Her story, a fictional paranormal romance, eventually became one of the top stories this year on a popular writing website.
Chappell’s novel, which she began posting online about 13 months ago, is a 2016 winner in the HQ Love Award category of Wattpad, a global, multiplatform entertainment company for original stories.
The website’s largest annual writing competition, "The Wattys," honors the top writers in 10 categories. This year, the contest drew nearly 140,000 entries.
Chappell’s novel, "Blind Spot," is one of 12 titles featured as an HQ Love category winner on the website. According to Wattpad, winners in the category were chosen by staff.
"It feels like a really nice pat on the back," said Chappell, a Milford resident who found out about her award about a month ago.
According to Wattpad, it has a readership community of 45 million people who spend a total of 15 billion minutes engaged with its content each month. It is available in various languages, and users can post fan fiction, poems, articles and stories through its website or mobile app.
"The nice thing about Wattpad is that there are a lot of young readers and there are a lot of older readers. It’s a really nice mix," said Chappell, who uses the pen name Jenni M Rose. "I think there’s something for everyone on Wattpad, and there are some truly fantastic writers on there."
Wattpad’s leaders tout the online community as a vehicle for transforming how the world discovers, creates and engages with stories. They say The Wattys is the world’s largest online writing competition.
As an award winner, "Blind Spot" will receive premium exposure to Wattpad’s readers.
"The Wattys is a writing contest like no other," Marc Shewchun, the website’s Head of Community, said in a press release announcing Chappell’s award. "It’s a chance for storytellers of all levels to get recognition from a global audience."
Chappell discovered Wattpad one day when she was "mom policing" her son Cooper’s tablet. She saw what Cooper, 13, at the time, was writing, reading and commenting as a member of the website.
"He was writing some pretty good stuff," she said.
Chappell explored the website further and decided she could be a contributor, too.
"It kind of snowballed from there," she said.
Over time, Chappell posted 47 chapters of "Blind Spot," typically one chapter a week – just enough, the website encourages its writers, to engage their readers without overwhelming them.
Her book, about 155,000 words total, has attracted more than 72,000 reads. She has also posted an alternate ending to the story.
Like other contributors, Chappell’s work isn’t edited by the website, and she receives no pay for her submissions.
"It’s nice to have people read what you write," said Chappell, whose book cover was created by a German writer she befriended through the website. "It’s nice to put it out there and have people like it. It’s nice to get feedback, especially from other writers or avid readers. You can give people creative feedback, and for the most part they’re happy to get it."
Chappell graduated in 1996 from Milford High School, where she worked on the school newspaper and yearbook, and earned a degree in English from Keene State College in 2001. The stay-home mother of three, an avid reader of romance novels, and her husband, Dean, run a sealcoat business.
"That’s where my love of romance novels came – because you need to have something to do during nap time," she said with a laugh.
"Blind Spot" isn’t the only story that Chappell has shared with readers on Wattpad, which is based in Toronto. She has another title, a contemporary romance called "Forgiving History," that is the first in a series of stories and is loosely based on Milford.
"I write because I have to," Chappell said. "I’m sure it’s like musicians having to play music or artists having to paint. Just like other people who have a hobby or a passion they have to do. If I don’t write, I can’t sleep at night."