My Golden Heart® Story

My series contemporary and fantasy romance stories have won several Romance Writers of America® chapter contests over the years, so in 2006 I started entering the RWA's own Golden Heart® contest. The first three years, my entries finished in the top 25%, but in 2009 my entry tanked, so I wasn’t sure about entering for 2010. I finally took the plunge, however, and quickly forgot about the whole thing in the rush of everyday life. When I thought about the GH at all, I fully expected to mark the passing of the notification date with a few minutes of mild regret before going on with my life, as I had the previous four years.

Then a 2009 Golden Heart® finalist from my chapter told us about the countdown to the GH announcement day that the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood was doing on their blog. Reading what she and her sisters had to say there, I began to remember all the good things about my story. Worse, I began to think I maybe had a chance, which led to a totally unexpected run of nearly sleepless nights. I’d been through this before – why had the contest suddenly taken over my life?

Flash forward to the big announcement day -- March 25, 2010. Everything the Ruby Slipper website said indicated that, if you were home and near a phone, you’d probably get "the call" fairly early in the morning. By the time I sat down at the computer, it was well after 9 a.m., so I had my usual moment of regret and started work on the day’s writing goal. I was about two-thirds of the way done with that when the phone rang. Hoping it was my critique partner telling me she was a GH finalist, since she’d confessed to really caring about the outcome, I sat down in a comfortable chair to answer it.

Good thing. It was a lovely lady with a Texas accent whose name I’m afraid I can’t remember telling me that "Games Without Rules" was a finalist in the series contemporary category of the Golden Heart®!

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I emailed everyone I could and delurked from the eharlequin forums with the news, made myself a cup of the expensive coffee we save for weekends, then sat down and somehow finished my writing goal. My memory of the celebratory dinner with my husband is even blurrier, probably due to the celebratory margaritas.

Since then, I’ve found myself with about 60 new friends in the other 2010 finalists, and about 100 emails a day from the loop one of them set up immediately. I’ve also stressed over a picture for the jumbotron (no, really, it’s huge) at the RWA® Awards Ceremony in Orlando, blown almost all my frequent flyer miles on tickets to the conference, and found the perfect dress. And I’ve been able to share the experience with one of my critique partners, who is also a finalist, and put up this fabulous website with the expert help of my other one. All in less than two months!

From everything I hear, it will continue to be a wild ride right through to the evening of July 31, and beyond. I’ll keep you posted on all the fun along the way.

The Princess Diaries, RWA®-Style

This year's meeting of the Romance Writers of America® was held in Orlando, Florida, after the floods last spring made the original site in Nashville, Tennessee, unavailable. I hadn't planned to attend, but once my entry had finaled in the Golden Heart® contest, I just couldn't not go. Everyone will treat you like a princess, people told me. Everyone will ask you what your GH story is about. You'll have a fabulous time.

Of those three promises, only the last was strictly true. I did have a fabulous time, and wouldn't have missed a minute of it. Treated like a princess, not so much. Maybe it was because I spent most of my time with just two groups of friends. One group was the other GH finalists, who were princesses (and one prince) themselves. The other was my chapter-mates from MFW who know me too well to treat me like anyone special. And, of course, there were four GH finalists from MFW in Orlando (and one who couldn't be there), so relatively speaking, I wasn't all that special.

As to everyone asking what my GH story was about, except for the agent and the editor I had scheduled appointments with, only one or two people did. Which was a relief, actually, since pitching a story on the fly isn't exactly my favorite indoor sport. On the other hand, it would have been nice if the two top-flight agents I shared elevator rides with had asked, instead of forcing me to make inane conversation to fill the silence.

At least my scheduled pitches went well enough that both the agent and the editor asked me to see my story, which is really the goal of the whole thing anyway. At a reception GH finalists, I also talked casually to another editor about another story, and she asked to see a partial of that, too, once I make the revisions on it that I know need to be made. So, being a GH finalist (but, alas, not a winner) and the trip to Orlando did pay off.

Much more important, however, were the connections I made with my fellow finalists, my sisters from MFW (miniature golf, anyone?), and even a few people--writers, agents, editors--whom I'd never met before. The RWA® is a community of vibrant, hard-working professionals, who also luckily know how to have a good time. If you ever have a chance to attend one of their annual meetings, GH finalist or not, just go. And enjoy.