Taylor Graduate Wins Simon & Schuster Novel Writing Contest

By Meredith Sell Published: Sep 25, 2014

Chandler Birch

Simon451, a new imprint of Simon & Schuster, announced Taylor University graduate Chandler Birch as the winner of its inaugural student novel writing contest.

Birch is a 2014 graduate of Taylor’s professional writing program. His book, Ashes, is a high-fantasy novel following an orphan as he discovers magic and fights to escape slums.

Ashes had some of the most detailed and consistent world-building, and showed an excellent understanding of the fantasy genre,” said Sophia Jiminez, Simon451’s editorial assistant on the project, in an email to the University. “The world of Ashes is a world that sticks with you.”

Birch was one of ten finalists selected in April after submitting a synopsis and the first 50 pages of their manuscripts. Finalists were asked to submit completed manuscripts of a minimum of 60,000 words by September 1.

Birch learned about the contest through a professional writing Facebook page and initially entered to practice finishing his work.

“I wanted to see if I could write 50 pages in 15 days,” Birch said. “Then I was a finalist, and I wanted to see if I could write a novel in three months. And I did that . . . but I was deeply surprised when I won.”

Birch began writing out his ideas for Ashes in summer 2011.

“It’s a story that I have been tinkering with for a long while, but I kept drafting and hitting reset,” Birch said. “This was another reset draft that shares almost no similarity to any of the previous versions.”

Birch will be the guest of honor at Simon451’s imprint launch at New York Comic Con on October 9. Ashes will be published as an e-book after revisions.

About Simon451: Simon451, named for Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, is a new imprint of Simon & Schuster specializing in speculative fiction. The imprint publishes in multiple electronic and printed formats, with a focus on digital-first publishing and e-book originals.

About Taylor University: Founded in 1846, Taylor University is an interdenominational liberal arts university of evangelical faith located in Upland, Ind. The 2015 U.S. News and World Report ranked Taylor the number one Midwest university in the category Best Regional Colleges. It marked Taylor’s eighth straight top ranking and 18th straight year to be ranked in the region’s top three.


Taylor University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).