Monday, July 13, 2009
Ask Us: Golden Heart Final
While the Playfriends are away at conference this week, we decided to do a little Q&A with our readers. But I get to answer Monday’s questions all on my own: What is it like to be a Golden Heart ® finalist? Several people have asked me this, and of course, the Playfriends have had to put up with the goofy grin on my face for months. So today, I’ll try to give you a little glimpse of what being a GH finalist has been like.
Let me start off with a little explanation for those of you who aren’t immersed in the romance writing community like we are. The Golden Heart is a contest for unpublished authors, sponsored by Romance Writers of America. It, along with the published author RITA contest, has been described as the Oscars of the romance writing community. The winner of the awards are announced on the final night of National Conference (Saturday) during an awards ceremony, followed by a dessert reception. This is a really high honor in our field. In my case, I consider it an incredible achievement, as my category had over 80 entries, with only 8 finalists. I’m truly honored and excited.
The journey started with lots of excitement and disbelief. You can read my call story in the March 2009 archives. I was practically useless for a week, as I got to enjoy the fun of telling others, celebrating with my peeps, and meeting the other finalists online. The 2009 finalists have a yahoo group, and we’ve been steadily logging in the emails as conference approaches. It has been wonderful to get to know this group of women, whose perseverance, encouragement, and advice have boosted my own writing output and confidence throughout the last few months.
My local RWA chapter (north Alabama’s Heart of Dixie) celebrated along with me and the Playfriends went out to dinner, of course. We have a tradition in our chapter of giving silver charms when authors make their first sale. The Playfriends gifted me with a silver charm bracelet in honor of this momentous event, with a silver heart charm engraved with “2009 Golden Heart Finalist” and the name of my book. I can’t contain my smile every time I wear it. I know that one day, I’ll add that first sale charm to it.
After the initial rush of excitement, I finally had to face reality. Not only had I finalled in this contest, but my picture was about to be seen all over the world on the Romance Writers of America website and on the jumbotron at National Conference before at least 2000 people. Yikes! Luckily, I felt confident in handling this for myself. I gathered my mother-in-law and sister-in-law together and we trekked over to Maven LJ’s house for an informal studio session. We were able to get some pretty good shots, and I didn’t feel like I would completely disgrace myself when my picture flashed up on the screen.
Then came the flurry of decisions about conference appointments. You see, at National Conference, attendees can sign up for agent and editor appointments where they can pitch their books. This year, I’m pitching a single title for the first time, so I had to make choices about who to see. As a GH finalist, I got to sign up on the first day appointments came open. This is the first time I was able to actually sign up on a day that I didn’t have to worry about the server crashing. :)
But one decision leads to another… in this case, the most important decisions of all: what on earth am I going to wear? The dress for the big night was taken care of rather quickly. I’ll be wearing this goddess dress that Maven Linda Winstead Jones so graciously gave me. This isn’t a great picture of it, but I love the peach color. That’s the silver shawl I’ll wear with it. Isn’t it beautiful?
And though I know it sounds pretentious of me, I’ve been really uptight about what I’m wearing throughout the conference this year too. I’ve heard about all the attention GH finalists get and I know that I’ll feel more comfortable with people noticing me if I feel confident in how I look. So I bought some new dress pants, some skirts and cocktail shirts, shoes, and makeup. I even had my sister-in-law over the other day to help me with my eye shadow. I’m not very good with makeup, so she showed me what to put where. :)
Now, as amazing as it seems, I’m down to my last step in the obsessing process. I’m conference-bound (as of today!) and the nerves have kicked into high gear. I’ve spent weeks writing my pitches and my acceptance speech (I wasn’t trying to be presumptuous. I’d rather write it and not win, than win and stumble over myself like an idiot. And I would, trust me.). I have extra events to attend at conference: RWA’s reception for the GH & RITA finalists, the Golden Network (a chapter exclusively for GH finalists) retreat and their dessert reception, rehearsal, and the RITA awards ceremony on Saturday night.
I honestly don’t understand how one person can be so excited and nervous at the same time. I feel like I’ve been smiling for months, even through revisions, finishing my single title, and more revisions. Through writing pitches and angsting over submissions. Yet I can honestly say I feel happier than I ever have about my writing. I think that’s one of the greatest gifts of this unexpected award. It takes a high caliber of writing to become a Golden Heart finalist. And I did it. Me. Little old Angel. I’m amazed and humbled… and so very grateful. Whether I win or not, I’m grateful.
So there you have it, the roller coaster ride I’ve been on since March. It’s been wonderful, exciting, and at times scary, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I’ll be checking in with you next week about how conference went. If you have any questions for me today, please feel free to post them. I’ll be travelling, but I’ll be happy to answer them as I get the chance from my iPhone.
And before I go, let me say one last thing. Saying thank you in front of 2000 people at conference would be wonderful, and scarier than one of those inverted loops on a roller coaster. But the people that I want to say thank you to the most are the ones who have gone with me on the journey: YOU. Thank you all for being there. It means more than I can say.