The International Thriller Writers sent a notice for their BIPOC Middle Grade crime novel contest. The prize? A scholarship to ThrillerFest 2022 with a $1000 stipend.

Had I ever written a middle grade thriller? No, but last year, I won the ITW contest for best first sentence, as selected by NYT and USA Today bestselling author Allison Brennan:

My mom told me I could do whatever I wanted for the whole summer I was fourteen, so I decided to find the Red Rock serial killer.

Melissa yi

Why not write a middle grade novel to go with that sentence?

Well, COVID, for one. Our hospital exploded with cases, sidelining nurses, housekeeping, pharmacy, secretaries, and finally the doctors. Can you work? Can you work more? became the constant refrain.

For another, I planned to attend the Canadian Women in Medicine conference in Victoria, BC, June 2-4, 2022. Gin*Eco*Logic artisan distiller and gynaecologist Nathalie Gamache had created a gin in honour of my protagonist, Dr. Hope Sze. We planned a gourmet speakeasy June 1st to launch her gin and my latest thriller, both named White Lightning. The Playwrights Guild of Canada sponsored a play reading for me at Carr House June 2nd. Hooray!

Plus I’m already wrestling with my latest Hope Sze novel and the play Terminally Ill. I don’t need another project.

But what the heck. Chances were, I’d lose, and then I’d take a wonderful trip to BC and celebrate with Nathalie plus a hilarious ER physician; some of my wonderful workout partners at Fifty Shades of Slay; a beloved local surgeon and palliative physician; a radiologist who outbid everyone at the silent auction for the Hope Sze novels to raise money for Elena Fric’s children; and more marvellous humans. I’d get to visit Leah, one of my best friends from undergrad. I could almost smell the Pacific Ocean.

Except two days ago, I received an email from Kimberley Howe, the leader of the International Thriller Writers. I won, I won, I won! Eden Sze vs. The Red Rock Serial Killer won me a free ticket to ThrillerFest, CraftFest, and PitchFest.

“R.L. Stine was one of the judges and if you can make it to ThrillerFest, he would love to do a meet and greet with you.”

R.L. Stine? As my friend Michael said, ”That’s so cool, it gives me … Goosebumps!”

On one hand, I’d promised to celebrate with my crew of wonderful women and the Playwrights Guild of Canada and Carr House.

On the other hand, ITW had handed me a golden ticket.

Although I’ve tried to prioritize writing ruthlessly, I can’t always. See pandemic above. My children need me. But NYC beckons.
Nathalie, the ginecologist, gave her blessing.

”Melissa!!!!!!! 
Congrats!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You go girl!!!!! This is not an occasion you can miss!!!”

I can’t explain my gratitude for my friends, who tell me to go for it even when it messes up their plans.

Thank you. I‘ll miss you, Victoria. I hope to meet you another time.

In the meantime, New York and ITW and R.L. Stine? See you May 31st.