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Where Are They Now – 2008, 2006 & 2004

Welcome to another installment of our eight week series: The Golden Heart Finalists, Where Are They Now? We’ve visited with some of the early Golden Heart finalists and some from more recent years, but now we’re going back to the middle – the even years of 2008, 2006 and 2004!

As our Golden Heart series has progressed, we’ve seen some themes emerge, but every Golden Heart experience is unique and this collection of award-winning authors is no different.  From the moment they got the call to now, a lot has happened…

(All of the information was voluntarily provided by the finalists themselves – and if you are a finalist from 2008, 2006, or 2004 and you missed our call to arms, please post your own update in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!)

The Classes of 2008, 2006 & 2004, Where Are They Now…

2004:

Laurie Kellogg finaled twice in 2004, once in 2006, then again in 2007, 2009, 2010, & 2011.  Now a full-time indie author, she says of the Golden Heart, “It gave me credibility as an accomplished author.” She still writes in the subgenre in which she finaled and plans “To continue making a living doing something I love.”  She went on to say, “The best thing I got from being a Golden Heart finalist 7 times (and winning twice) was the numerous friends and connections I made.”

2006:

Anna Sugden finaled in 2006, 2007, and 2011 and remains active with her Golden Heart classes as a hybrid author.  On the Golden Heart, she had a list of reactions: “One – it gave my writing the credibility to get editor and agent attention; Two- it gave me the connection with my fellow Romance Bandits (2006 finalists) which to this day is one of the most important groups in my writing life.” Adding, “There is a special fellowship and connection amongst those in a GH class that remains long after the groups have disbanded or moved on.”  Anna still writes in the subgenre in which she finaled, though she also writes in other subgenres now.  She says, “With the recent closure of the Harlequin SuperRomance line, I’m exploring other options and am working on numerous proposals, as well as my indie stories.”

Anthea Lawson (also writing as Anthea Sharp) is not active with her GH classes, but is a USA Today best-selling hybrid author.  She explained, “Finaling in the Golden Heart (with my first book – coauthored with my husband!) gave me the courage and confidence that I could *do* this writing thing.I think the final helped land an agent which led to sales of my first two books to Kensington. The GH finalist also was a RITA finalist, so, again, another big boost to confidence. I needed that, as right before Nationals that year, I found out my contract with Kensington wasn’t going to be renewed. I’ve since gone indie, hit the USA Today list on both pen names, and make my living as a full-time writer. I have one regret, which is that I let my participation in the Romance Bandits lapse early on – that group of ’06 finalists were really there for each other, and I wish I’d been able to participate more fully with my cohorts.” She now plans “To continue writing YA fantasy and historical romance and make my living as an author. I love it!”  And she had this advice for up-and-coming writers, “This career has so many ups and downs! Hang in there, reach a hand out if you see someone struggling, and celebrate *every* success, no matter how small.”

2008:

The 2008 was also a mix in terms of whether they’d remained active as a group. 

Traditionally published author Elizabeth Heiter said, “I think being able to list Golden Heart finalist on my query letters helped me stand out – in fact, in the airport on the way home from the 2008 RWA conference, I had a call from my agent with an offer of representation.” And she’s come far since then: “Currently, I have 10 books published in suspense with romantic elements (my Profiler series with MIRA) and romantic suspense (my Lawmen and Lawmen: Bullets and Brawn series with Harlequin Intrigue). Currently, I’m working on a standalone thriller; after that, I’ll be starting another romantic suspense. In the meantime, I’m part of two anthologies releasing in the next few months.”

Traditional published author, Susan Anne Mason said the Golden Heart impacted her career “Hugely! It was my first validation that just maybe I could make it as an author!” She plans to  “Continue writing Historicals for Bethany House. Perhaps Indie publish one day.”

Three-time finalist Rachel Grant (2008, 2011, 2012) said, “My writing friends/support group came to me thanks to Golden Heart finals. Even if it’s an author who I didn’t final with or meet through the GH, I met them through a friend who was a GH finalist connection. I met my agent because of my 2011 Double GH final – she contacted me after checking out my website after finalists were announced.”  Now a full time indie author, she plans to  “Keep writing. Keep publishing. I publish 2 books per year, but my goal is three per year.”

Constance Gillam, now an indie author, said of Golden Heart, “I met some wonderful women who motivated and supported me.” Her goal? “I’d like to be a hybrid author, so I’m thinking about a project I can write and pitch to an agent.”

Hybrid Susan Gee Heino (also writing as Serena Gilley) said, “I feel the GH got me a lot more attention than I otherwise would have had. I know it helped get a higher advance on my first contract. I had already been in contact with the agent I ended up signing with as well as the publisher I ended up contracting with, but I feel winning/finalling in the GH lit a fire under them and encouraged them to act faster to “snag” me than they would have otherwise done.”  Her goals? “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, plus I have some ideas to branch out in other romance sub-genres. Maybe even some not-romance genres!” She added, “I’m very thankful for the Golden Heart, for the career opportunities it provided me and especially for the wonderful friends it introduced me to. They are the REAL benefit of being a GH finalist.”

Bestselling, full-time hybrid author Darcy Burke agreed, “I can’t possibly overstate the impact and value finaling in the GH had on me professionally and personally. I met close friends, co-workers, and established a network that simply wasn’t possible in any other way.” She added,  “While our GH group isn’t terribly active, there is a small subset of NW Pixies that stay in close touch, and we still have annual writing retreats. This is one of my favorite weekends of the year. It allows me to recharge and connect with the women who’ve shared this journey together. I can’t imagine being where I am today without them.”  And she has lots of plans: “I have lots of books in the hopper! I’ve been so fortunate to see my career take off and be able to support my family doing something I adore. I hope to keep challenging myself and continue writing stories my readers love.” 

Two time finalist and traditionally published bestseller Kristina McMorris (2007, 2008) explained, “The amount of knowledge and support I gained from my fellow GH finalists was invaluable. As friends who understood the challenges of the industry firsthand, they truly helped with encouragement to keep pursuing a career as a writer.”  She says of her plans: “I currently have two books on contract, so my immediate goal is to finish writing then promoting those titles (and keep my sanity while I’m at it). From there, I’m just hoping for the opportunity to share more stories with readers!”

T.R. Ragan (also writing as Theresa Ragan) finaled in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, and was a double finalist in 2008.  A full-time bestselling author who publishes with Amazon’s Mystery and Thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer, she said the Golden Heart, “Helped keep me motivated to keep writing and never give up.” She went on to say, “Self-publishing allowed me to get my foot in the door. In 2011, after almost 20 years of writing, I self-published my time travel romance novels and sold thousands within months. I parted ways with my agent and self-published my first thriller, and that book garnered the attention of the big publishers in NY and Amazon Publishing. I have now written 11 thrillers for Thomas & Mercer, signed with Amy Tannenbaum at the Jane Rotrosen Agency, and I am living the publishing dream!”  As for her future plans… “I will never stop writing. I love it. I plan to write two books a year for as long as that schedule works for me. Although I started out writing romance, I plan to continue writing mystery/thrillers.

Bestselling hybrid author Denise Devine also found motivation in the Golden Heart: “I knew that even if I didn’t win, being a finalist was just the beginning of a new journey for me. I kept studying my craft and writing and trying new things. One of those things was taking part in a new promo group being formed called Sweet Romance Reads. Being in that group has been very beneficial to my career.” She plans to “Continue to write, publish and take part in projects with other writers.” She went on to say. “I wish my group had stayed active. I would enjoy a reunion at the next RWA conference. As a matter of fact, I wish RWA would have a Golden Heart reunion party at the national conference every 5-10 years.”

And can I just say I love that idea?  A Golden Heart reunion would be amazing!  But in the mean time, be sure to:

Check Out These Golden Heart Finalist Books!

Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey! And remember, if you’re a finalist in 2008, 2006 or 2004, we’d love to hear more about where you are now in the comments today!

12 responses to “Where Are They Now – 2008, 2006 & 2004”

  1. Waving hi to my fellow 2008 Pixie sisters! It’s so wonderful to read “how are you doing” write-ups all together! Congrats and hugs across the miles to you!

    Thanks again to the Rubies for the “family reunions”! This was a great idea and it’s been wonderful to see what GH finalists over the years are up to and how well they’re doing.

    To all those considering entering the GH this year, I hope you go for it!

    Pris 😀

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  2. Wonderful to read about your successes ladies. You’re an inspiration to our readers. Thanks for sharing your stories.

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  3. ELIZABETH LANGSTON says:

    Thanks for sharing your stories! And I agree; a GH reunion could be fun.

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  4. Welcome Golden Heart finalists and thank you for sharing your stories with us. I would love to have a GH reunion/mixer. Any excuse to meet more fabulous authors. 🙂

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  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    It’s so awesome to read what everyone’s up to! All these paths to publication… 🙂

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  6. Hope Ramsay says:

    This series is so much fun. Congratulations to all of you on your successes. (And those pretty book covers, too)

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  7. It’s great to catch up with what everyone is doing!

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  8. It’s so great to see the successes of our Golden Heart sisters! Congrats to all! Here’s so climbing even higher!

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  9. Elisa Beatty says:

    Wonderful as always to hear all these stories!! Such a talented group of writers!

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  10. Kate Parker says:

    I can’t believe I was as starry-eyed as I was in San Francisco in 2008. I got to meet my fellow pixie chicks and I love hearing what they’re doing now. That final in 2008 gave me motivation to keep trying and eventually, I was published, too. Book 8 comes out in the next month or two, but the beginning of making the dream a reality was with the GH in 2008.

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  11. Jeanine Englert says:

    Congrats on these wonderful books and beautiful covers! I wish you all much success! 🙂

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  12. Tracy Brody says:

    I’m behind but loving reading these updates as I know some of the ladies through TGN or hearing their names from other GH finalists. Thankful that my experience as a ’15 Dragonfly was so exceptional due to the way the group came together. Interesting to see how connection in the GH classes vary but want to say the relationships are the secret perk beyond the obvious credibility and help with querying agents and editors. If you’re considering entering the Golden Heart, I say do it! And if you final, jump in and get to know the other ladies as friends, not competitors, and you’re sure to come out a winner.

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