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An Interview with Camille Di Maio

Camille di maio


We recently had the pleasure of talking to one of our SweekStars judges, published author Camille Di Maio, about her books and her writing process. We thought her words might prove inspirational for all you Sweekers looking to participate in the contest, or who are just interested in who your SweekStars judges are! Enjoy!




Q: What got you into writing?


A: I wanted to be a writer ever since I was twelve years old and spent recesses at school in the library. I made friends with Nancy Drew, Jane Eyre, Anne Shirley, and so many others. I was fascinated by authors and what it took to write a book. So I wanted to become one.


Q: When did you finish your first book? What were the biggest challenges you had to deal with in order to accomplish this and how did you overcome then?


A: I finished the first draft of my first book in 2009. I gave myself a nice pat on the back and started querying agents. Needless to say, I received a lot of rejections – it wasn’t ready yet! Not by a long shot. I spent the next few years (in between running a business and homeschooling my four children) working on it until it was ready to submit again.

This time, the responses from agents were much better! The biggest challenge was not taking rejection personally and letting it be fuel to make the manuscript better and better. I received an offer of representation from a great agent in 2014 and had a book deal a few months later.


Q: How do you balance your writing with the rest of your life?


A: This is a tricky one to figure out! We all have other life responsibilities, so carving out space for yourself is difficult. And it’s easy to feel like you’re being selfish by prioritizing it. But it’s essential if you want to make it as a writer. Since my husband works from home and my kids are home full-time, I get my best writing done when I go to the library or a coffee shop. But when my kids were little, I just used every spare moment between diapers and dinner to work on it. Someone once told me that you will never “find” the time to do what you want to do. You need to “make” the time. And, honestly, for many years, I carved writing time out of what would have been sleeping hours. I was young enough to do that then.


Q: What’s the hardest part of a book to write, according to you?


A: That dreaded middle. I don’t think any writer loves that part. You get so excited about your beginning and you have a good idea of how it will end. But keeping it interesting in the middle (to yourself and to your future readers) is hard work and rarely inspired. That’s when you need to sit down and just get it done. Then, looking back over your finished manuscript, you can see how to tied it all in even better during edits.


Q: Of the books you’ve published, which one is your favourite and why?


A: That’s like asking me which is my favorite child! I love all the books for different reasons. My first, THE MEMORY OF US, holds a special place in my heart because it’s the one I really learned on. And because it’s inspired by one of my favorite songs, Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles. I actually had a chance to give Paul McCartney a copy of it in person at a concert – I held up a sign saying that I’d written a book about that song and he called me up to the stage to give it to him! And then he proceeded to start reading it to the audience. One of the best moments of my life.

I love BEFORE THE RAIN FALLS because it’s about my home state of Texas. I had a new editor for that one and she was a taskmaster in the best way possible. I learned so so much about writing. It’s also quite different from a lot of books on the market, so I love that it’s not cookie-cutter.

THE WAY OF BEAUTY is set in my favorite city, New York, and really dug into the sacrifices made by suffragettes. The research on that one was my favorite. And, finally, I simply had the most fun writing THE BEAUTIFUL STRANGERS because it was inspired by a ghost story and movie stars.


Q: What’s your favourite place to write in?


A: A beach! A balcony overlooking the beach is definitely most inspirational place to me to write. I wish I could do it more often.


Q: Do you have any pre-writing rituals?


A: Embarrassingly, I waste precious time playing some games on apps on my phone before writing. It kind of clears my head to do something mindless before having to think so much. I especially enjoy word games and card games.


Q: What would be your advice for a writer aspiring to publish a book?


A: My advice would be to not compare your early drafts to finished books. A manuscript goes through many, many, many edits and many sets of eyes before hitting the shelves. First drafts are, by and large, not great. You have to be ok with them being mediocre. It is in the editing – first your own and later your publisher’s – where the greatness is really revealed.

Also – do not be too proud of genuine critiques. If you can’t handle beta readers giving you honest feedback, you will never survive readers giving you poor reviews. And every book, matter how amazing, has poor reviews online. Develop a strong backbone now.



camille di maio

Camille Di Maio

Camille Di Maio is the bestselling author of several works of historical fiction. She has lived all over the United States and currently calls Virginia home, along with her husband, four children, dog, and cat. Her travels inspire her writing and she is often planning her next trip. Weekends find her at farmers markets and the beach.  Her books include The Memory of Us, Before the Rain Falls, The Way of Beauty, and The Beautiful Strangers.


Our Biggest Writing Contest Ever!

Sweekers – the time has finally come!

Last year, we held our most successful writing contest ever – SweekStars. With over 9000 entries in more than 9 different languages, SweekStars pushed the limits of the technical skills and creativity of the Sweek community. Now, we think it’s time to do so again.

The idea is simple. Everything that hasn’t already won a previous writing contest on Sweek is eligible for entry. Old or new, poetry or prose, micro fiction or full-blown novel – we want it all. This is the contest that decides the best of the best work on Sweek, so pull out all the stops! There’ll be four categories to compete in: Micro, Short Story, Novel, and Poetry. You can submit an old story, write a brand new one, or both – there are no limits to the number of entries per person.

That’s the short version, anyway. Read through this post to get a full overview of the rules, prizes and the duration of the contest. This is going to be big, ladies, gentlemen, and non-binaries – we hope you’re ready.



Launch date: 18th of October
Closing date: 21 January
Judging period: 22nd January – 25 February
Announcement of the winners: 18 March





Poetry  (10 finalists)

Micro-fiction –  250 words max (10 finalists)

Short story – 5000 words max (10 finalists)

Novel – over 10,000 words (10 finalists)

1 popularity prize

Honorific mentions will be awarded to the most original, most inspiring and most addictive stories.


Red Hen Press


Red Hen Press

We’re extremely proud to introduce our sponsor for SweekStars 2018 – Red Hen Press. Based in Pasadena, California, Red Hen Press is committed to publishing works of literary excellence, supporting diversity, and promoting literacy in local schools. They endeavour to keep the fundamentally human practice of creative literature alive, and are actively pursuing this goal through their writing schools, various publishing series, and writing contests. They’re an extraordinary organization that you should definitely check out!

Also, if you participated in our #SweekPride contest, you might be interested in their imprint, Arktoi Books – which publishes fiction and poetry by lesbian authors – or their publishing series Quill, dedicated to queer authors.

the writer magazine logo

The Writer instructs, informs, and inspires writers, providing practical coverage of the craft of writing and of the publishing industry. Founded in 1887, it is one of the oldest continuously published magazines in the United States and is the preeminent publication on the craft of writing.

Subscribe to The Writer and visit writermag.com for:

  • Writing prompts for inspiration
  • Tips on getting published from industry professionals
  • Interviews with both emerging and established authors
  • Writing contests
  • MFA program preparation
  • Book recommendations

You can also subscribe to their weekly newsletter to get curated content from The Writer delivered right to your inbox.

Don’t delay – join their community today!




What follows are the prizes which will be awarded to the winner of each category, generously provided by our fantastic sponsors, Red Hen Press and The Writer Magazine:


1. A written manuscript evaluation

2. A genre-relevant book bundle

3. Publication online through The Los Angeles Review*

4. A year-long subscription to the digital edition of The Writer Magazine

Flash fiction 

1. A written manuscript evaluation

2. A genre-relevant book bundle

3. Publication online through The Los Angeles Review*

4. A year-long subscription to the digital edition of The Writer Magazine

Short story

1. A written manuscript evaluation

2. A genre-relevant book bundle

3. Publication online through The Los Angeles Review*

4. A year-long subscription to the digital edition of The Writer Magazine


1. A written manuscript evaluation

2. A genre-relevant book bundle

3. Publication pack, provided by Sweek**

4. A year-long subscription to the digital edition of The Writer Magazine

In addition, all finalists of each category will receive a SweekStars Finalist Badge, to place on their story covers and promote their work.

*To be published, the winning entry must be an individual piece. Hence, if an entry is e.g. an anthology, a single entry will be selected for publication.

**A publication pack will include an ISBN, cover, promotion of the work via Sweek channels, and assisstance with formatting the script.



Video tutorial:


Step by step:

Step 1: Download the Sweek app or use our website:

Website: https://sweek.com/

Android app: http://bit.ly/SweekforAndroid

iOS app: http://bit.ly/SweekforiOS

Step 2: Create an account or log in

Step 3: Upload your story by going to ‘My stories’ and ‘Start a new story’

Step 4: Publish your story with one of the hashtags listed below (depending on which category you’re competing in)  in either the title, description or the tags section of the Story Details screen:






Promoting your story

Once entered, you can promote your story on Sweek or in the fan group on Facebook. Also, remember that an interesting cover attracts more readers! You can learn more about designing a cover for your Sweek story by checking out this blog post we wrote a while back.


Rules for SweekStars Contest


  • Read these rules carefully before joining SweekStars 2018!
  • You need to be 13 years or older to participate. Younger participants need their parents’ permission.
  • There is no limitation by country of residence or nationality.
  • You must tag your story with #SweekStars2018novel, #SweekStars2018shortstory, #SweekStars2018micro or #SweekStars2018poetry in story details.
  • Only stories submitted before January 21th 23:59 CET will be eligible for participation.
  • No topic restrictions.
  • The story doesn’t have to be new or exclusive. So, Sweekers, you are very welcome to join with your already existing work!
  • Stories that have won previous Sweek contests are ineligible for entry into the contest (other contests outside of Sweek are fine).
  • The story meets Sweek community guidelines.
  • You must be the author of the work that you’re submitting. In case you’re writing with a friend, please keep in mind that you’re going to have to share the prize with each other. It’s just one prize per story.
  • You can participate with multiple entries, as long as they all meet our guidelines.
  • You can edit your entry until the submission deadline. After the deadline, you can no longer modify anything in your story.
  • You can win only one cash prize, but you can win multiple other prizes.
  • The popularity prize is determined by the number of likes it manages to gain by the 25th of February, 23:59 CET.
    Falsification of likes will lead to disqualification. The most popular story needs to meet quality requirements determined by the Sweek team. You can only win one popularity prize as a writer.
  • To participate in the Popularity Prize you have to have submit your story after the 18th of October.
  • Spamming on Sweek or falsification of your followers will lead to disqualification of your story with a prior warning
  • By entering in this competition, the author gives Sweek the right to publish your story in a book. In case the author does not agree, he/she must state in the short description that Sweek cannot publish the story in print.
  • By participating in this contest the user acknowledges that he/she is aware of and accepts the rules of SweekStars 2018.

SweekStars Jury

We wouldn’t be able to make this contest happen without our amazingly talented and wonderfully dedicated jury. Meet the people that are going to be evaluating your work!

camille di maioCamille Di Maio
Camille Di Maio is the bestselling author of several works of historical fiction. She has lived all over the United States and currently calls Virginia home, along with her husband, four children, dog, and cat. Her travels inspire her writing and she is often planning her next trip. Weekends find her at farmers markets and the beach.  Her books include The Memory of Us, Before the Rain Falls, The Way of Beauty, and The Beautiful Strangers.



Mike Jansen
 Mike Jansen writes and publishes Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror stories since 1991. He won the King Kong Award in 1992, Fantastels in 2012 and the ‘Baarn literary prize in 2012. He’s the founder of the EdgeZero Award. His stories, in both Dutch and English, have been published in various literary magazines.



Woman sitting on ground writing competitionMica Scotti Kole
Mica is a developmental editor and the curator of Free Writing Events, a website calendar and Twitter account dedicated to promoting free writing and poetry contests, agent pitching events, conferences, and more. In 2018, Mica won third place in Writers of the Future, and second place in both the True North and Sapiens Plurum story contests, all for science fiction. Mica also writes YA novels in the fantasy genre.



Woman with flowersResh Susan

Resh Susan eats words and creates stories. When she isn’t reading, writing, editing or clicking pictures, she advocates her love for food to anyone who crosses her path. She is usually in a world of her own, engrossed in creative pursuits where she tries to find the magic in the ordinary. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter. She blogs at The Book Satchel.



Young woman with coffee and book judging writing contestNicole (Woolfswhistle)

Nicole is a 20-something lover of magical, romantic and adventurous books. She believes that skillful storytelling is the best way to make yourself be heard. When she’s not reading she’s crafting fantasy worlds, filming videos for her youtube channel or enjoying a candlelit dinner with her cat.



blond woman judging writing competitionCat Friesen

Cat is a writer of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction living in the rain forest that is British Columbia. When she’s not writing, she can be found drinking coffee, baking cakes, reading books, or getting lost in the forest.



Smiling girl with glassesAbbie Walker

Abbie is a modern foreign languages graduate from the North-east of England, and is currently writing for a lifestyle magazine. In her spare time she’s a voracious reader, and documents her reading journey over on her Instagram page, @ab_reads. She’s always up for discovering new authors, and some of her favourites include Margaret Atwood, Stephen King and Zadie Smith!






You do not get a confirmation email when publishing your story. As long as your story is tagged correctly, it is participating. If you go to your reading screen and see the tag in the tags section, you’re all good!


The last step before publishing a story is filling in your story details (category, rating, etc.) You need to put the tag #sweekstars2018X (where X is the category your story is participating in) in the ‘tags’ section (don’t forget to press Enter!). If it is already a published story, you need to go the 3-dot menu in your story dashboard, select story details and add #sweekstars2018X in the tags section. You can also add the appropriate hashtag in the title or description of your story.


No it doesn’t – if you want to enter a previously published story, all you have to do is add the appropriate version of the #SweekStar2018 hashtag (see the “Hashtags”-section above).


Yes, sure! That’s no problem.


The jury members are going to judge all of the participating stories, and as such, previous interaction on the story is not taken into consideration – only the quality of your work.


Yes. Your story should be complete.


Yes, you can, but if you win, you have to split the prize amongst yourselves.


You can edit your story any time until the submission deadline, but after the deadline you can no longer make any changes to your story (this also includes the description, details, etc.)


The Sweek editorial team as well as other external juries with expertise in various genres will be judging your stories. During the contest, we will be revealing the jury members!


You can share your story in two ways: 1) In your story dashboard there is an option ‘Share my story’ in the 3-dot menu. 2) On the reading screen of your story, there is a Share button via which you can share your story on all different social media channels.


You can promote your story via your own network, different reading and writing groups and also within the Sweek community. Be sure not to put the link on other writers’ stories, but on the ‘promote your SweekStars story’ story on Sweek. If you follow other writers on Sweek or leave valuable feedback on their story – they might return the favor!

You can also share your story in Sweek Facebook group.


Yes, definitely 🙂


Yes, you are very welcome to join! However, please be aware that you cannot enter a story which has already won a contest on Sweek.


We will create a special edition book which includes the stories of all the winners and finalists of the contest (both as a paper book and e-book). Depending on the length of the stories, there will be multiple editions per language. We’ll inform all participants once the book is available. The book will be published via Sweek self-publishing. Contact us at support@sweek.com if you would like to know more about publishing your work yourself!


We’re going to announce the winners on social media, on our website and via email. Do you want to be the first to find out? Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

Head over to Sweek to get started!




The winners and finalists of the SweekStars international writing contest

We are proud to announce the winners of the very first edition of our biggest annual writing contest #SweekStars! With over 8.500 published entries submitted in 9 languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Polish, Turkish, Hindi and Russian), we are delighted to present 29 prize winners and more than 500 finalists in 15 different categories. All the winners and finalists will be bundled in the special SweekStars 2017 edition and will be offered to publish their work via publish.sweek.com.

Sweek editorial team as well as over 70 jury members, comprised of writers, poets, journalists and were working day and night to ensure the best stories are chosen in their respective categories. Up to 5 finalists have been chosen in different genres, as well as in the following categories: Most Addictive Story, Most Original Story, Most Powerful Story, Best Short Story and Best Serial.

We were thrilled to see that both ‘old’ Sweekers as well as new users took on a challenge to become one of the stars of storytelling! These excellent storytellers (both previously published and aspiring authors) captured the judges’ attention for weeks. From powerful poetry and page-turner sci-fi to nerve-wracking thrillers and microstories – we promise these will be reads to remember. Combined, these stories have already been read over 170.000 times and got over 67.000 followers on Sweek!

Go to sweek.com/sweekstars to see the full list of winners per language and celebrate these stars of storytelling by reading and sharing their Sweek stories!