In an effort to address the publishing industry’s lack of diversity, we launched the She Writes Press and SparkPress Toward Equality in Publishing (STEP) contest in 2018 to offer a publishing package (plus a 500-book print run) to two authors to publish on either She Writes Press or SparkPress.

It’s our second contest year, and after reading through 47 phenomenal manuscript submissions—double the contestants of last year!—we narrowed it down to five top contest finalists, and finally, two winners.

Meet our lovely winners below and show them some love on social!

Congratulations to our two winners: Veena Rao, author of Purple Lotus, and Robin Farmer, author of Angel Dressed in Black.

Veena Rao will publish on the She Writes Press Fall 2020 season with her winning book Purple Lotus, which centers on Tara Raj, an immigrant Indian woman in the American South, who finds the courage to walk out of an abusive arranged marriage and marry again for love, an act of self-determination that makes her an outcast in her patriarchal community. She must then face her lifelong fear of rejection to find her voice and defend her name. Purple Lotus takes a close, visceral look at a woman’s journey through heartbreak, obstacles and self-realization, while questioning misogynistic belief-systems.

More about Veena:

Veena Rao was born and raised in India but calls Atlanta home. A journalist by profession, she is the founding editor and publisher of NRI Pulse, a popular Indian-American newspaper. Although her day job involves news reports, interviews and meeting press deadlines, she devotes her spare time to creative writing and long walks in the woods. Purple Lotus is her debut novel.

Robin Farmer will publish on the SparkPress Spring 2021 season with her winning book Angel Dressed in Black, an exploration of the elusive truths in our personal and national narrative, based on the adolescent trauma of a black Catholic schoolgirl in Philadelphia. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young teen confronting racism and the hypocrisy that surrounds her, within her school, her family, her community, and the Oval Office as Watergate unfolds.

More about Robin: 

An award-winning journalist, Robin’s work has appeared in Publishers WeeklyThe Washington Post, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where she specialized in narrative nonfiction projects and was part of the Special Projects/Investigative team. Her national awards include a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and a first-place award for education reporting from the Education Writers Association. Robin’s fiction projects, which include screenplays, short stories and poems, focus on girls discovering their voices to advocate for social justice. Robin is a recipient of residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and is completing a debut novel for young adult readers. She is gobsmacked that she has lived in a suburb of Richmond longer than in her hometown of Philadelphia.

Congratulations to the other three finalists:  

Anne Liu Kellor, author of Heart Radical 

Odell Perry-Pittman, author of The In Between Space

Rashi Rohatgi, author of Where the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow