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AWARD CATEGORY DESCRIPTIONS AND JUDGING GUIDELINES

 

I.    FICTION ANTHOLOGIES/COLLECTIONS

FICTION ANTHOLOGIES

Definition: This category includes multi-author anthologies containing fictional works that share a theme, purpose, style, approach, and/or source (e.g., related works from a single publisher, authors from a certain geographic locale, works about a specific vocation or pastime). All entries must be fictional works chosen by the compiler(s)—a single editor or publisher, a group of editors, a group of authors, etc. Anthologies must have a minimum of three individual pieces and a total of at least 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: These anthologies must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women. Individual pieces in the anthology should be self-contained yet contribute to the book’s overall quality. For GCLS purposes, anthologies devoted to poetry should not be entered in this category but in the appropriate poetry category.

 

FICTION COLLECTIONS

 

Definition: This category includes single-author collections containing fictional works that share a theme, purpose, style, and/or approach. All entries must be fictional works chosen by the compiler(s)—a single author, editor or publisher, a group of editors, etc. Collections must have a minimum of three individual pieces and a total of at least 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: These collections must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women. Individual pieces in the collection should be self-contained yet contribute to the book’s overall quality. For GCLS purposes, collections devoted to poetry should not be entered in this category but in the appropriate poetry category.

 

 

II.   FICTION NOVELS

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: SHORT NOVELS

 

Definition: Contemporary Romance is a modern (set within the past 25 years) love story in which the main characters overcome differences or challenges to achieve and/or sustain a romantic relationship. The love story must be the main focus of the novel, and it must have a happy or hopeful ending. This category is distinguished by novels whose main plot focuses on the obstacles a new couple faces to get together or the threats an existing couple must overcome to stay together. Sequels, series, and standalone novels in which the main plot centers on issues such as children, illness, career upheavals, etc., are eligible only when these issues significantly threaten the romantic relationship (i.e., sufficient to consider it the main plot). Entries in this category should be between 40,000 and 70,000 words in length.

 

Judging Guideline: This category includes novels in which the main characters fall in love, as well as other romantic plots in which characters already may have fallen in love (e.g., a sequel or series based on a story in which the characters fell in love in an earlier book; a standalone story of an established couple experiencing difficulties in their romantic relationship). These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: MID-LENGTH NOVELS

 

Definition: Contemporary Romance is a modern (set within the past 25 years) love story in which the main characters overcome differences or challenges to achieve and/or sustain a romantic relationship. The love story must be the main focus of the novel, and it must have a happy or hopeful ending. This category is distinguished by novels whose main plot focuses on the obstacles a new couple faces to get together or the threats an existing couple must overcome to stay together. Sequels, series, and standalone novels in which the main plot centers on issues such as children, illness, career upheavals, etc., are eligible only when these issues significantly threaten the romantic relationship (i.e., sufficient to consider it the main plot). Entries in this category should be between 70,001 and 85,000 words in length.

 

Judging Guideline: This category includes novels in which the main characters fall in love, as well as other romantic plots in which characters already may have fallen in love (e.g., a sequel or series based on a story in which the characters fell in love in an earlier book; a standalone story of an established couple experiencing difficulties in their romantic relationship). These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: LONG NOVELS

 

Definition: Contemporary Romance is a modern (set within the past 25 years) love story in which the main characters overcome differences or challenges to achieve and/or sustain a romantic relationship. The love story must be the main focus of the novel, and it must have a happy or hopeful ending. This category is distinguished by novels whose main plot focuses on the obstacles a new couple faces to get together or the threats an existing couple must overcome to stay together. Sequels, series, and standalone novels in which the main plot centers on issues such as children, illness, career upheavals, etc., are eligible only when these issues significantly threaten the romantic relationship (i.e., sufficient to consider it the main plot). Entries in this category should be 85,001+ words in length.

 

Judging Guideline: This category includes novels in which the main characters fall in love, as well as other romantic plots in which characters already may have fallen in love (e.g., a sequel or series based on a story in which the characters fell in love in an earlier book; a standalone story of an established couple experiencing difficulties in their romantic relationship). These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

EROTIC NOVELS

 

Definition: This category includes novels that contain a high level of sexual content, especially stories about erotic sexual interaction. The sex must be such an inherent part of the plot, setting, narrative, characterization, etc., that it could not be removed without damaging the storyline. Entries must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: In this category, sexual interactions are central to the work, though stories may contain elements of other genres (romance, paranormal, historical, etc.). Sexual relationships must be a driving force, with intensely erotic scenes that flow naturally from the overall story or premise. For GCLS purposes, all physical and/or sexual encounters in erotic novels must reflect mutual consent. These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

GENERAL FICTION

 

Definition: General Fiction novels may address any subject or theme. Careful use of language, style, and technique may be as important as subject matter, and character development may or may not take precedence over plot. Books in this category can break traditional fiction-writing conventions—endings may be upsetting or ambiguous, plot exposition may not be primary to the story, the author may employ new twists in dialogue or structure, etc. General fiction books can be a combination of any number of genres of fiction that cause them to lie outside the limits and rules of those specific genres. For GCLS purposes, examples include a dramatic story for which a romance is not the primary arc, a love story that does not have a happy or hopeful ending, character studies, or fresh genres not included in other categories. Entries must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women. In this category, judges may encounter styles that do not adhere to traditional genre-writing norms and expectations.

 

HISTORICAL FICTION

 

Definition: These novels are comprised of narratives that take place at least 25 years in the past and provide a realistic reconstruction of life in the historical time period in which they are based. The story must be predominantly set in a historical period, even if some of the scenes take place in the present. Historical novels should come as close to reflecting historical reality as possible. Entries must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: In this category, the historical elements must be part of the main plot/theme of the book. There can be romantic elements, but they are not necessarily the main focus. These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

HUMOROUS NOVELS

 

Definition: Humor ranges from light and bubbly, to dark and warped, and includes comic situations, wry observations, satirical setups, or all of these and more. This category includes any novel that tells the story primarily through humorous devices—absurdity, hyperbole/exaggeration, incongruity, sarcasm, slapstick, surprise, irony, puns, etc. Entrees must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: In this category, humorous elements must be part of the main plot/theme of the novel. There can be romantic elements, but they are not necessarily the main focus. These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

MYSTERY/THRILLER/CRIME

Definition: This category includes novels in which a mystery, puzzle, chase, or search, particularly in the realm of crime, is central to the main plot. In mystery novels, a crime typically is committed early on, and the story focuses on discovering who committed the crime and why. Subgenres include cozy and hard-boiled mysteries; police procedurals; medical, scientific or forensic mysteries; and legal or courtroom dramas. In thrillers, the focus often is on stopping a crime or event beforehand, capturing the villain(s), solving/resolving the issue, and/or preventing another, potentially more devastating crime or event from occurring. Subgenres include political thrillers (set against the backdrop of a political power struggle); epic thrillers (perhaps threatening an entire community, city, or country); and psychological thrillers (in which the threat is more contained—for example, to the protagonist, her partner, and/or other family members). In crime novels, the focus typically is on the contest of wills between protagonist and villain. Subgenres include certain types of police procedurals, “noir” books with a morally compromised hero, and perhaps even a mystery/thriller blend. Entries must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: In this category, the major focus is on catching criminals, saving the day, and solving crimes. All entries must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women. For GCLS purposes, no love story or personal issues for the main character(s) should ever constitute the main plot (though minor subplots of romance or personal issues may exist). If the novel includes two interwoven plot lines – a significant romance and a complex storyline involving elements of suspense, intrigue, adventure, and/or dramatic events—the book belongs in Romantic Blend. Supernatural thrillers should not be entered in this category but in Science Fiction/Fantasy or Paranormal/Occult/Horror.

 

NEW ADULT FICTION

 

Definition: This category includes novels written primarily for, and targeted to, readers aged 18 to 29. In New Adult Fiction, at least one main character must be aged 18 to 29 and dealing with one or more life “firsts”—e.g., first job, first apartment, first serious relationship—and/or with adult situations for the first time. New Adult Fiction focuses on life after legal age, and how one deals with the beginnings of adulthood. Entries must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: In this category, new adult themes must be the focus. These novels can be romance, science fiction, or any other genre, but must focus on the 18 to 29 age group. Events do not necessarily have to take place in the present. These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

PARANORMAL/OCCULT/HORROR

 

Definition: This category includes novels with familiar or recognizable settings in which the occult (vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, zombies, witches, warlocks, etc.) or paranormal (ghosts, spirits, psychics, etc.) constitute a major part of the plot, as well as novels in which events of horror cause overwhelming feelings of fear, dread, or shock. Entries must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: In this category, paranormal, occult, or horror elements are essential to the story. Though subplots of romance and/or drama may exist, the major focus does not have to be on love and romance. These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women. Typically, paranormal novels are set in our current world as we know it—as opposed to an entirely new world—but with a paranormal/occult/horror twist. Novels with an alternative or futuristic setting should not be entered in this GCLS category but in Science Fiction/Fantasy.

 

ROMANTIC BLEND

 

Definition: Novels in this category include two interwoven plot lines—a significant romance and a complex storyline involving elements of suspense, intrigue, adventure, and/or dramatic events. For GCLS purposes, romance is defined as a love story in which the main characters overcome differences or challenges to achieve and/or sustain a romantic relationship. Suspense often includes a mystery, crime, chase, or search with imminent personal and/or social peril. Intrigue often includes puzzles, covert identities, and/or corporate or geopolitical spy craft with both immediate and long-term consequences. Adventure often focuses on an unexpected physical trial where nature is the antagonist, or a purposeful quest for achievement where failure holds physical or psychological consequences for the protagonist(s). Dramatic events often are central to stories of activism and protests; legal, medical, or courtroom dramas; power struggles between opposing political, family or corporate players; and/or other externally inspired plots. Focus may shift throughout the novel from the romance to elements of suspense, intrigue, adventure, and/or dramatic events and back again. Culmination of storylines in these novels must achieve an emotionally satisfying romance and resolve issues of suspense, intrigue, adventure, and/or dramatic events. More than one of these elements may combine as they blend with the romantic arc. Entries must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: Judging in this category should not give undue weight to either the romance or the suspense/intrigue/adventure/dramatic events but consider both storylines together. The romance must have a happy or hopeful ending. These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women. This category is not to be confused with Mystery/Thriller/Crime (where a mystery, thriller, and/or crime constitutes the novel’s main plot line) or General Fiction (where romance with a happy or hopeful ending does not constitute a significant plot line).

 

SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY

 

Definition: This category includes novels in which a significant portion or aspect of the story is set in a fantastical, future, or parallel world. Generally, these alternative settings include resources not currently available to humanity (magical abilities, alien experiences, yet-to-be invented technologies, etc.). Entries must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: In this category, futuristic and/or fantastical events are essential to the story. Though subplots of romance and/or drama may exist, the major focus does not have to be on love and romance. These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women. However, the gender norms and social mores of the futuristic or fantastical setting may differ substantially from those of the “real” world. Typically, science fiction stories are set in a futuristic setting, while fantasy novels take place in an alternative, entirely new world. Novels set in our current world as we know it, but with a paranormal/occult/horror twist, should not be entered in this GCLS category but in Paranormal/Occult/Horror.

 

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

 

Definition: This category includes novels written primarily for, and targeted to, readers aged 12 to 18. Young adult books can be romances, historical fiction, science fiction, or any other genre, but they must focus on themes, characters, situations, and/or issues of interest and importance to 12-to-18-year-olds. Language must be readily accessible to young people in the targeted age group. Entries must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: These novels must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

 

III.  NONFICTION

NONFICTION ANTHOLOGIES/COLLECTIONS

 

Definition: This category includes multi-author anthologies and/or single-author collections of nonfictional works dealing with or offering opinions or conjectures about facts and reality. Topics may include, but are not limited to, humor, commentary, travel writing, historical accounts, personal narrative, memoirs, and biography. All entries must be nonfictional works chosen by the compiler(s)—a single author, single editor, group of authors and/or editors, etc. Anthologies/collections must have a minimum of three individual pieces and a total of at least 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: These anthologies/collections must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women. Individual pieces in the anthology/collection should be self-contained yet contribute to the book’s overall quality. For GCLS purposes, anthologies/collections devoted to poetry should not be entered in this category but in the appropriate poetry category.

 

GENERAL NONFICTION

 

Definition: This branch of literature comprises works of narrative prose dealing with or offering opinions or conjectures about facts and reality. General Nonfiction includes, but is not limited to, such topics as humor, commentary, travel writing, historical accounts, personal narrative, memoirs, and biography. Entries must have a minimum of 40,000 words to qualify for judging.

 

Judging Guideline: Entries in General Nonfiction must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

 

IV. POETRY

POETRY ANTHOLOGIES

 

Definition: This category includes multi-author anthologies of poetry. Entries will be combined with Poetry Poems/Collections if either category has fewer than six entries. To qualify for judging, entrees must be at least 48 pages long, and at least 50 percent of poems must be new, meaning not previously published. Previously published poems include those that have appeared in print in any format (book, journal, anthology, magazine, etc.) or anywhere publicly online (including the nominee's blog or Facebook page but excluding critique groups).

 

Judging Guideline: Poems must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

POETRY POEMS/COLLECTIONS

 

Definition: This category includes single-author poems or single-author collections of poetry. Entries will be combined with Poetry Anthologies if either category has fewer than six entries. To qualify for judging, entrees must be at least 48 pages long, and at least 50 percent of poems must be new, meaning not previously published. Previously published poems include those that have appeared in print in any format (book, journal, anthology, magazine, etc.) or anywhere publicly online (including the nominee's blog or Facebook page but excluding critique groups).

 

Judging Guideline: Poems must include significant themes, characters, situations, and/or other lesbian-oriented content—i.e., literary works about women who love women.

 

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