Writer’s Digest Book Awards Review

As a first time author, I was hesitant to submit my book for consideration in the 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

Although I did not receive a award, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a 5 star review in all categories.

Please read on for the judge’s evaluation and comments about my book.


Entry Title: Alone in the Darkness, In Search of Hope

Author: Valerie Dziengiel

Judge Number: 28

Entry Category: Inspirational

  • Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.


Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary*:

Very nice opening, as author self-introduces and provides connection for the reader by taking on, in conversational and engaging tone, some mighty questions. Reader is engaged from the start, considering the question of whether or not our life’s trials are predetermined as our soul’s map of learning. We’re in for an illuminating experience in this book, we know, so we’re fully engaged.  I would have loved to see more scenes handled with dialogue and interactions, such as page 3 event when author observes all of the girls in the car grant a man kisses just because he asks for them.  It’s a gripping scenario the author has used here, structuring this book with such eyebrow-raising moments.

Pace is stellar, and where dialogue occurs, we get good characterization, a sense of setting, movement, gesture and transitions between speaking characters. Very well done. <…>

Good pace with the section of her husband knowing his life is nearly over. Moments around that extend for just the right amount of time, no rushing, no cliché, no need for drama. It’s a pure and simple narrative, a winding down that embraces our hearts. I loved the portion of Thanksgiving, as she and the family try to decide how to make a new normal for their traditions, the presence of the empty chair looming so large, a family trying to heal together.

Author crafts such emotion in family interactions, giving characters their own voices, and deepening our feelings. We’re inspired by how they each cope, alone and together, and especially how the author honors her own grief process along the way.

A very experiential book with a lovely writing voice by the author. I felt this book deeply. Nice work.

Citation:  Judge, 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.”  (Response is unique to Judge’s individual perspective.)


  • Irene Connell

    From the moment I picked up the book, I was drawn into reading it from page one to the end. The author, Valerie’s descriptions of events are remarkable. I could envision her meetings with her husbands soul after he passed away. They were close in their everyday life and it extended into one’s passing. Beautiful love story! One will believe in the after life after reading this book.

    • Valerie Dziengiel

      There is no greater joy than one’s ability to help another. In my circumstances, it heals the giver as well as the receiver. Thank you for taking the time to post your gracious remarks.

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