* I’m not implying my underpants are on fire. Read on.
You might say the RITA and Golden Heart contests are the equivalent to the Academy or Oscar Awards for the romance fiction industry – which grossed $1.4 billion in sales in 2010. The RITA Award is for published romance and the Golden Heart Award is for unpublished.
Even USA Today Books and Publisher’s Weekly ran articles announcing winners. I’m partial to The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. I found approx. 17,000 Google search results and almost as many Twitter posts about the 2012 announcement.
According to the RWA (Romance Writers of America) website, 1,200 manuscripts are entered in 10 Golden Heart categories. The general RWA membership judges the first 50 pages of the entries, and the 8 top-scoring manuscripts in each category are finalists.
The competition is fierce. The manuscripts chosen receive perfect or near-perfect scores from all five judges, or so I’m told. Many deserving stories are passed up; the process is as fair as possible, but it’s still subjective.
Occasionally I’ve entered the GH contest and a few others because that’s what you do if you’re an unpublished romance writer with even an ounce of hope. When the judges send feedback, it’s helpful, though often painful. And if you can manage to win, the exposure might help you land the agent or editor of your dreams. I’d never won or placed in a contest, ever, and never expected to.
I missed a call from Texas early Monday morning on March 26th. At first I thought it was my friend in Houston, and I’d forgotten the Golden Heart finalists would be announced that day. Imagine my surprise when I called back to hear Julia London on the other end.
Me: “Julia London? Do you mean THE Julia London?”
Ms. Julia London: (laughs) “Yes, this is the Julia London…”
Me: (unflattering squeal) “Uh, sorry. I don’t mean to act star-struck, but I’m a big fan!”
She was very gracious, and she had good news for me. After I got over the shock, I tried not to act like an orangutan on caffeine. My kids, who hadn’t yet left for the bus, came running to see what was on fire. What they understood: Mommy just won the Best Writer in the Whole World Award. I wasn’t in the mood to correct the assumption.
GH finalists have “secret clubs,” which I like to troll and occasionally post on. We’re supposed to come up with a fabulous group name and badge pin, and probably a secret handshake and bird call. There’s even talk about Official Flaming Underpants. (I’m not joking.) We might be quite, ah, distinctive at this year’s convention. Bring it on.
These writers are brilliant and energized and so savvy it’s intimidating. They’re also super friendly and helpful. Supposedly I’m competing against the other finalists in my category, but it doesn’t feel that way. Frankly, I’m so pleased to be a finalist, I’m not really thinking about the award ceremony in July at the RWA national conference in Anaheim; I feel like I already have my prize. I expect to cheer whole-heartedly for the winners.
Congratulations to the 2012 Golden Heart Finalists! Good luck, and see ya’ll in Anaheim, with or without Flaming Underpants.
Contemporary Series Romance
A Perfect Wife by Caro LaFever
Bachelor: Baited, Hooked and Bedded by Lexi Greene
Second-Chance Bride by Ami Weaver
Tell Me Something Good by Jamie Wesley
Contemporary Single Title
You Had Me At Habari by Maggie McConnell
Love in the Music Room by Moriah Densley ← Yay! This is me!
Love’s Advocate by Karen Fleming
Novel with Strong Romantic Elements
A Tangled Season by Natalie Meg Evans
Beulah Land and the Happy Hour Choir by Sally Kirkpatrick
Faking It by Nikki Figueiredo
Mere Mortals by Catherine Villalobos
Song without Words by Lisa Laing
Taking Wall Street by Disguise by Terri Bolyard
Regency Historical Romance
King of Swords by Anne Kenney
The Last Light of Dusk by Joanne Lockyer
The Perfect Heiress by Kimberly Ohara
Chemical Attraction by Mary Oldham
Edge of Deception by Elizabeth Bemis
Young Adult Romance
Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn
Wired by Romily Bernard
For more information about the RITA and Golden Heart Awards, visit RWA.org.