Wednesday, March 29, 2006

So Ya Had a Bad Day

Kelly Clarkson. Reuben Studdard. Fantasia Barino. Carrie Underwood.

You may recognize those names. They’re the winners of the first four American Idol competitions. There’s a new season of AI going on now and last night the remaining ten contestants performed songs from the 21st century. Tonight another contestant will be sent home with his orher dreams tattered and smashed.

Clay Aiken. Josh Gracin. Jennifer Hudson. Bo Bice.

Remember them? Clay and Bo were runners-up. Clay’s music has outsold the contestant he beat and Bo has achieved a tremendous level of success. Josh Gracin finished out his stint in the Marine Corps after his ouster from AI2 and then headed for Nashville where he recorded an album that includes a number one single. Jennifer Hudson was eliminated halfway through the third season of AI, but last fall she landed a plum role in the movie version of the hit Broadway show “Dreamgirls” opposite megastars Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Beyonce Knowles. As a matter of fact, she beat out AI3 winner Fantasia Barrino for the role.

And who can forget William “I have no professional training” Hung? I’m pretty sure he’s had more CDs released than any AI winner to date. Go figure.

What’s the point of this little stroll down American Idol memory lane?

Last Friday the finalists for the RITA and Golden Heart awards were announced. All around the world, RWA members were waiting to see if they would receive that special phone call informing them of their status as a nominee. This year the RITA has 94 finalists in 13 categories. To be precise, it has 94 books or novellas nominated. There are less than 94 authors represented because some have two or more nominations. As best I can tell, Australian author Bronwyn Jameson has made RITA history by being nominated three times in a single category for books that are linked as a series.

On the pre-published side of the fence, the Golden Heart contest has 71 manuscripts nominated in 10 categories, with several multiple nominees as well.

In both contests combined, 2000 books, novellas and manuscripts were entered. 165 were nominated. There will be 23 winners on July 29 at RWA’s annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Obviously those who win RITA awards have already sold a book. Those who win the Golden Heart… well, that’s the point of this little stroll.

Plenty of Golden Heart winners have gone on to sell their winning manuscripts. Many of them haven’t. The majority of books bought by publishing houses this year will be written by the Bo Bices and Clay Aikens and Jennifer Hudsons of the writing world. And a couple may even be written by the William Hungs. *g*

And the reason for this is that Bo and Clay and Jennifer followed the advice given by Winston Churchill in a 1941 speech at Harrow School where he told the students “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty…”

During the first two months of this year, the Writing Playground interviewed two authors whose debut books were released in 2005. Kelley St. John and Janice Lynn were both Golden Heart finalists. Neither won, but both sold. Sherrilyn Kenyon has sold over 20 books and enjoyed huge success, but as far as I can tell, she’s never even finaled in the Golden Heart contest.

Several of the Playfriends were among those waiting for calls. One of the Playfriends emailed our loop and said Well, since it's 1pm and no one (other than one of the Playfriends and some folks from work) have called me, I'm assuming I didn't make the final cut. Oh, well. Editor X likes my book, and that's all that matters, right? :-)

Damn skippy!!

Another of the Playfriends was on spring break vacation last week. After she got home on Saturday, she posted Anyway, the first thing I did was check the mail because Astrology zone said I'd have good news on a foreign business deal and I was hoping I'd have an envelope from Editor Y. Didn't have one. Was a little bummed. That is until I went to listen to my messages. She called me. I was so surprised to hear her!!!! She said she read the proposal. Loved it. And aside from making a minor change to the date scene when they first meet face to face she said she wants to see the full. Her words were, "really, really good." I'm still floating :-)

Float away, baby!

There is a point to this tale.

So you had a bad day last Friday because you didn’t get a call from an RWA board member. It hurts when you slice open that vein and bleed a story onto the pages and I’m truly sorry that you hurt. But you showed up for the party and as Woody Allen said “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.”

And you know what? In my estimation you’re heroes. Why? Erma Bombeck wrote, “It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, ‘How good or how bad am I?’ That's where courage comes in.”

So in honor of your bravery, I’m awarding you all a Medal of Courage.

Wear it proudly. Keep it polished. And never, never, never give in.

At the end of every American Idol results show, they’ve played Daniel Powter’s song “Bad Day” while showing a montage of the eliminated contestant’s days on the show. You can hear the song here (right click to open in a new window and wait for the song to start) and then sing along with the partial lyrics below (full lyrics can be found by searching Google).

Where is the moment we needed the most
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue skies fade to grey
They tell me your passion's gone away
And I don't need no carryin' on

You stand in the line just to hit a new low
You're faking a smile with the coffee to go
You tell me your life's been way off line
You're falling to pieces every time
And I don't need no carryin' on

Cause you had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

So ya had a bad day?

The sun'll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun.

In the meantime, would you like to vent? To share your disappointment or your story?

Here’s your chance. The phone lines… uh… comment section is open and you can even comment anonymously if you like. Get it off your chest, clear the air and let’s all start anew.

What was YOUR bad day?

There's a guest blogger in the house. She's come to add a few words of wisdom. She also said I should include a disclaimer that I have no control over whether her words were wise or not, but based on experience I believe they will be.

Here's Kristi Gold.

When Marilyn invited me to come out and play by sharing my Golden Heart thoughts, I was more than happy to do it. I believe it illustrates both the good and not so good aspects of entering such a notable contest.

First of all, keep in mind that my GH accomplishments began—and ended—back in 1996. Two years prior, I'd had some moderate success with an all-genre contest—one honorable mention and one 2nd place in the romance category—so when I joined RWA five months before the entry deadline, I took the advice of my newfound chapter mates and tossed my hat into the GH ring. I had no expectations whatsoever, and I certainly didn't expect to final in two categories: Single Title and Long Contemporary (with a book that was actually a single title, yet back then we weren't allowed to enter two manuscripts in the same category). Although I was blissfully ignorant, it did not take me long to realize, and appreciate, the notoriety the GH brought. It also did not take me long to realize that having two finalists did not guarantee a win, or a sale, because neither won and neither sold. And the following year, I learned a painful lesson on putting too much stock in a contest. I decided to re-enter both finalists manuscripts with a few revisions and didn't final with any. For three days I mourned and basically quit writing altogether. But with the help of a dear friend, and a contest win three days later that paid my way to the RWA national conference, I got over it and got on with the program. After that, I realized that I would suffer debilitating disappointment only if I allowed it to happen, which I didn't. At least not too much.:)

Did I enter the GH again? You bet I did, but not with either former GH finalist. By that time, I'd turned my focus to series romance and chose to enter several new projects over the next two years. You guessed it—none of them finaled. In fact, one of my personal favorites, Rope the Moon, ended up in the lower quadrant—twice. It had no success in other contests aside from one honorable mention, and I had several judges tell me it wasn't appropriate for short contemporary, period. Funny thing is, it went on to be my first sale to Silhouette Desire in 1999, was eventually titled Cowboy For Keeps, and subsequently became a RITA finalist the following year for Best First Book. Go figure.

For anyone opting to enter any contest, including the GH, it's important to keep in mind that contests have advantages and disadvantages. If you final, the glory is wonderful, the boost to the ego grand—and temporary. The damage that might be done can sometimes be devastating, if you let it. Contests can single out stellar writing, perhaps open a door to publications, but they can also exclude marketable and equally good manuscripts that will get noticed through the standard submission process, i.e., pitches and queries. However, on a rarely considered note, contests do prepare you for that publishing enigma known as 'the review,' but then that's another story altogether.

I will now leave everyone with one of my favorite quotes from Calvin Coolidge, and sent to me by talented author, Virginia Kantra, very early in my career. I believe it says it all.

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Kristi Gold

House of Midnight Fantasies
Silhouette Desire, May 2006
Romantic Times BookClub Top Pick, 4 ½ star review


1996 Romance Writers of America® Double Golden Heart Finalist
2001 RITA Nominee, Cowboy for Keeps, Best First Book
Ten-time Romantic Times BookClub Top Pick Designation
Romantic Times W.I.S.H. Award
2004 National Reader's Choice Winner, Best Short Contemporary Series
Romantic Times BookClub Reviewer's Choice Winner, 2003 and 2004
2004 Romantic Times BookClub Lifetime Achievement Award Nominee,
Series Storyteller of the Year
2005 Romantic Times BookClub Reviewer's Choice Nominee
Seven #1 Waldenbook Series Best-sellers

The Playground now returns to its regularly scheduled programming and you can rant away!


Angel said...

Awesome post, PM! Very inspirational.

And thank you, Kristi, for visiting us to share your experiences. It's great to see how winning can affect you, and not always for the better.

I think a lot of our disappointment comes from the expectations we have about what MAY happen if we final/win a contest. But finaling, even with a great book, isn't a guarantee, because it can be so subjective. And it is an expensive way to get your manuscript in front of that final editor. Contest fees can add up so quickly!

I try to enter with no expectations and be pleasantly surprised if I final. I was doing okay when it came to the GH until the participants on the RWA loops started getting hyped up about the coming announcements. Remind me to go no mail next year! Usually I don't remember when finalists are supposed to be announced, but it seemed like no one would let you forget about the GH/RITA calls. I'd rather be oblivious. :)

No, I didn't final. And I'm not going to pretend that it wouldn't have been wonderful. But in the end the only thing that will sell a book is getting my butt in the chair and writing a good one.

Thanks again, Kristi. Come back and visit anytime!


Problem Child said...

Contests are a crap shoot--you never know who's going to be reading your entry and what their bias is. I've had entries that got perfect scores from one judge and bottom of the barrell scores from another.

I choose to believe that the judge who scored me low was an illiterate anyway...

But you never know. Plenty of books sell every year that contest judges hated. And there are plenty of folks sitting on top of their contest wins/finals but no interest from editors.

Contests can do a lot of thigs for you. Especially if you're just starting out, the feedback can be really helpful. (After all, ONE judge may be illiterate, but five? Maybe you should give that comment some thought.) At the same time, judges are normally unpubbed and are going by the "rules."

Remember this: First round contest judges cannot buy your book. Save the stressing for the comments from the people who CAN.


Instigator said...

Welcome Kristi. It's great to see you on the playground. I love your books!!

Okay, now that I got the gushing out of my system :-) It is hard not to get caught up in the contest hype - especially the GH/Rita. Heck, I didn't even have a book entered and couldn't help but be disappointed. I know, makes no sense...

And I'll be the first to admit that success on the contest circuit does not amount to a hill of beans. I have a book that continually finaled and even won contests when I was sending it out. It is currently hording dust bunnies under my bed and likely to stay there indefintely. It was great practice. And I most certainly have those credits on my website, in my bio, and under my email signature. But other than to make me feel warm and fuzzy whenever I see the reminder, they didn't do much for me.

One thing I think contests did help me with was building a tough skin. For every person who loved what I submitted there was also one that didn't.

Instigator - who is currently fighting a battle with my contest addiction. I will not enter the TARA. I will not enter the TARA.

My Daily Laundry said...

Thanks so much for the lyrics and information on the "goodbye" song they always play at the end of American Idol! LOL
My four year old loves singing it and now maybe we can track it down...

My Daily Laundry said...

I didn't quite know whether to respond on my blog or yours (is there a protocol I should follow? haha)
I hope your son and his family will be blessed with their move. Hopefully your daughter-in-law will be glad to be back "home".
Smooth sailing to everyone!