Search:
 
 

2010 Golden Heart: All Aboard the Runaway Train!

Later this week, a select group of writers will receive a phone call informing them that their manuscript has been named an RWA Golden Heart finalist. If you receive such a call, celebrate, squee, click your heels! Then pack your bags, put on your fiercest (or most comfortable) shoes, take a deep breath, and HANG ON TIGHT.

You’re about to embark on one of the most exhilarating whirlwind journeys you can possibly imagine.

I can’t believe a year has passed since last year’s finalists were named. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of that time riding a runaway train called “The Clueless Newbie”, with surprises happening left and right.

The GH call itself was, frankly, the first surprise. In late 2008/early 2009, I was a relatively new member of RWA, and had double-dog dared myself to enter my first Golden Heart contest with my first manuscript. Baby steps, right? Completely anonymous. Just a set of scores that would let me know where the manuscript stood in context with those of other aspiring romance writers. On the day finalists were being notified, I certainly wasn’t sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.

But then, just before noon, it … did.

I remember very little about the phone call itself – I honestly think I was in shock. I think (hope?) I stammered out a thank you, and then I received another surprise – a question I was completely unprepared for: Did I want to use my real name or a pseudonym at RWA’s Golden Heart Finalists website? I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud, because this was not a question I’d put the least amount of thought into.

Thankfully a follow-up email quickly arrived from RWA National, offering more congratulations, a checklist of things I’d already forgotten about, and a reminder about our first deliverable: an author photo to post at RWA’s Golden Heart website, in the Awards Ceremony program, and (gulp) to display 1000 times larger than life at the Awards Ceremony itself.

Surprise #3: The photographer who took my headshot informed me that he could “take care of those wee little age spots with Photoshop.” Um, thanks, Gil.

I researched agents, editors and publishing houses. I learned how to craft a query letter, wrote one, and started submitting.

Surprise #4: I discovered that my first choice of pseudonym belonged to an adult entertainer. (sigh) Back to the drawing board. After finally deciding on my pseudonym, I snagged the URL and started researching web designers, which excited me a great deal because, as a former software developer, I could finally do something I had some experience with.

More research. Email loops. Blogs. Websites. Most days, the “Clueless Newbie” felt like it had been buried under a digital avalanche. I realized that, though I was spending long hours at the keyboard both before and after my day job, I wasn’t writing a whole lot. Writers write, right? I started plotting my next book.

Responses to queries arrived. I received requests for partials, a couple of requests for fulls, and my first rejections. Surprise #5: though I have a pretty thick skin, several of these rejections stung more than I thought they would.

There were so many surprises along the way for this clueless newbie – most of them absolutely wonderful. But sometimes, I felt like a rube tourist who’d missed some of the best sights and side-trips of the journney because I couldn’t – or wouldn’t – get off the damn train.

Rubies, which aspects of your Golden Heart experience most surprised you? What sights and side-trips should the Golden Heart Class of 2010 just not miss?

Readers, what questions have you always wanted to ask someone who’s taken this trip before? Ask away! One lucky non-Ruby commenter will receive a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

My advice? If you happen to receive that coveted call later this week, congratulations! Strap in tight, expect the unexpected, enjoy the scenery, and take a lot of pictures.

Tammy

Tamara Hogan’s 2009 Golden Heart paranormal finalist, UNDERBELLY, will be published by Sourcebooks in Spring 2011.

96 responses to “2010 Golden Heart: All Aboard the Runaway Train!”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    I can’t believe this week is the week! WHOOOOO!

    I was a newbie just like you, so *everything* surprised me, including the pen-name question. I was the proverbial deer in the headlights for a long, long time. Eventually I figured out I needed to pull back, slow down, and give myself more time (and a new manuscript) before aggressively seeking publication.

    The ride has still been more than worth it: with all I’ve learned from traveling with the other finalists, I’ll be in a very different place this summer than I was last. In the meantime, it’s been an incredible thrill watching so many Rubies sell their books!! Go, Sisters!!

    0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Good morning, Elisa! It’s odd that you mentioned time. Time was the one thing I felt I didn’t have enough of last year (the backside of my manuscript had to be stitched back together again after a motivation shift for my villain), and in hindsight, this was an erroneous assumption. On one hand, I wanted to stroke while the iron was hot – but on the other? A couple of months more really wouldn’t have made a blip of difference. I was pushing so hard to capitalize upon what I thought was a limited window of opportunity that I about fried myself. Looking back on it, I wish I’d throttled back, relaxed, and asked my fellow travelers (my Rubies!) a lot more questions, much earlier on.

      0
  2. Hi, Tammy! I’m also finding it so hard believe it’s been a year already! Getting a head shot done was surprisingly harrowing for me too. All I could think about was that it would be projected onto giant screens at the ceremony. Eeek!

    The best part about this ride so far sharing it with my Ruby Sisters. Romance writers in my experience are lovely and amazing people, and my fellow 2009 batch of finalists are all that and more. I hope (know) the class of 2010 will bond over the GH experience. Enjoy every second, ladies…and gents? (Does anyone know of any male entrants in this year’s contest?)

    0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Hi Vanessa! Getting to know the other finalists, and sharing the experience, has been so valuable for me. Wouldn’t it absolutely ROCK to have a male romance writer final in the GH or RITA?

      0
      • As long as he doesn’t think he’s any better than any other finalist just because he’s got fleshy bits hanging between his legs! The last thing we need is another Nicholas Sparks on our hands. Pity the GH class with him in the ranks!

        0
    • Rita Henuber says:

      Wasn’t there a man -Ron I think- who commented a few time here when we first began? May have been another blog. geesh! Memory gone. but I was sure a guy someplace said he entered. I think it would be the hottest. What would possible names for the twenty ten’ers be?

      0
    • Elise Hayes says:

      Vanessa, I completely agree: the best part of finaling in 2009 was getting to be part of the Ruby Sisters. Sure, Nationals was fun, too. All the special attention on the awards night and getting to dress up was great. But the real, sustained joy has been getting to know the Sisters.

      0
      • Kim Law says:

        Definitely! One of the things I hoped to get out of finaling was getting to know more people. I never dreamed how close we would really become! Most of you I’ve never met in person, but I still feel like I’ve known forever!

        0
  3. Katrina says:

    Good luck, everyone! I have a few questions for the Rubies, and anyone else who’s been down this path before.

    1. Who are the people who do the calling? RWA Board members? Or others?

    2. Who are the final judges once finalists are chosen?

    3. When do we get our scores? Do non-finalists get them first, or do they (probably ‘we’) have to wait until the winners are announced at nationals? Do finalists get their initial scores before nationals?

    As you can see, I take comfort in details.

    Have a great week, everyone!

    0
    • Kim Law says:

      Hey, Katrina. Details are a good thing! Here’s my take on the answers.
      1) RWA Board Members make the calls. I don’t think anyone else gets involved, but maybe I just don’t know.
      2) You won’t get told who the final judges are, but they are typically agents and/or editors.
      3) Non-finalists will get their scores in 6-8 weeks (I beleive), and finalists will get theirs about that same amount of time after the conference.

      Good questions! Good luck!!!

      Kim

      0
      • Tamara Hogan says:

        Just the kind of questions I wish I had asked, Katrina! Kim’s answers reflect my understanding as well.

        On the issue of final round judges, you’ll never find out who they are – unless one of the final round judges asks to see a full manuscript AND wants to talk representation or acquisition. To this day, I don’t know who asked for my full and got a hot steaming mess instead. (The request for a full caught me in the middle of massive revisions.)

        0
  4. Kim Law says:

    Hey, Tammy! I just can’t imagine how insane this trip has been for you this last year. A total newbie, and now contracted for publication!!!! Just crazy!

    Let’s see…for me I was shocked by how many events I had on my schedule at the conference. Some were for other contests I had won or finaled in (with the same GH manuscript), but suddenly I found myself going from never being invited to the party to having far too many parties to ever be able to attend them all! And it was a blast! The conference is the thing I would say to do everything you could to make it to. As a finalist, you definitely feel like the queen of the ball all week long!

    0
  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    It’s felt pretty overwhelming at times. The learning curve is massive, and people who read my Writing Through Fear blog entry are aware of some of the other issues in play. πŸ˜‰

    Oh, yes, the schedule! Parties, dessert receptions, rehearsals, learning sessions. It was exciting, and sometimes exhausting. I was glad that I’d blocked out some relaxation and quiet time, too.

    0
    • But…don’t you remember after that Rita/GH party when the room emptied out and a couple of us looked at each other like, where’d all the cool kids go?

      0
      • Rita Henuber says:

        OMGosh yes. So work the crowd early.

        0
        • Yes! And talk to people.

          I figure we should do a “how to be a GH finalist at parties” post as Nationals approaches, but definitely, talk to people!

          I was frightened of Rita finalists whose books I hadn’t read — and sadly, that was most of them. I eventually got over it and just started saying outright, when I met someone, that I was sorry I hadn’t gotten the chance to read their work yet, but that I’d love to hear about it. I don’t think anyone was offended. I meant it honestly.

          0
  6. Rita Henuber says:

    A great deal of my conference plan went out the window. My main goal was networking and zowie that sure was met. But I missed a couple of workshops I wanted to attend going to GH things. Had to back out on some volunteer time. (Volunteer it is a way to say thanks to RWA) Got waylaid in the lobby by people asking questions. You get a GH ribbon to attach to your badge so everyone knows you were a finalist. The parties left me in a daze. Getting to smooz with the RITA nominees. Wow! What a thrill. All those favorite authors in one room drinking champagne together. Still gives me chills. Sitting at tables with agents laughing and having a grand time.
    Over all, I have to say, the best was being included in this group. I don’t know about other years but this group of ladies bonded. The Ruby Sisters are that -Sisters. Being in this group has been one of the best experiences of my life.
    This is all so exciting to be a part of the 2010 fun.

    0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      —–>>> Got waylaid in the lobby by people asking questions. You get a GH ribbon to attach to your badge so everyone knows you were a finalist.

      Good reminder, Rita, about the importance of developing a short-and-sweet elevator pitch. As a GH finalist, you’ll be asked “What’s your book about?” or “What do you write?” dozens of times.

      0
      • I started taking my badge off. I began to feel like I was asking for attention, and it made me feel uncomfortable. After a while, I just wanted to be an anonymous attendee!

        0
        • Tina Joyce says:

          I wish I’d thought to take off my badge from time to time, Jamie. It probably wouldn’t have been quite so stressful if I had. I was used to entering other contests and simply receiving a certificate or plaque in the mail if I finaled or won. The GH was a whole different animal. It would have been nice to be anonymous for a while.

          0
  7. Katrina says:

    Tamara, you’ve made me curious now what your first-choice pseudonym was…not that I’m overly familiar with adult entertainers, or anything.

    0
  8. Eden Glenn says:

    Fingers crossed that I’m given a ticket to get on the train instead of ending up under it.

    0
  9. Liz Talley says:

    Best part was getting to be part of this group. Hands down my favorite!

    I laughed at the thought of choosing a writing name. I randomly chose Liz Talley and didn’t bother googling it. Seems there is another Liz Talley who is a songwriter/artist. That’s cool though. I’ll gladly share my name with her. Or is it the other way around? Maybe she’s sharing with me.

    So definitely do a google on your name. And what was that name of the adult entertainer. I, too, am curious.

    0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Okay, I’ll own up – it was Sasha Grey. πŸ˜‰

      0
    • There’s a “Jamie Michele” who is a makeup artist in Las Vegas. She looks like a nice girl. I wish I’d gotten to the pure web address before she did, though!

      0
      • There’s a photographer who has my name. My husband asked me years ago if I wanted to reserve my domain name. I hadn’t started writing yet, and I couldn’t think of any reason why I’d ever want a web-site. At the time it sounded like a stupid question.

        0
        • I keep telling my friends that they need to buy their domain name! For $10 a year you can have peace of mind that no porn star will buy “your” .com and force you to come up with a pen name.

          I bought my nephew’s name .com when he was born. I figured that one day he might want it, and by then, I doubted it’d be available.

          0
    • Jeannie Lin says:

      Sasha Grey actually sounds like a cool name. Good thing you checked though!

      I snagged Jeannie Lin early on since my real name looks impossible to pronounce, is so often misspelled, and there’s a bunch of them to boot.

      There’s an actress named Jeannie Lin. A couple of her friends sent me e-mails after the Golden Heart win because they came across the announcements. She sent me a note saying that everyone at her work was jealous because they all googled their names she had the most interesting doppleganger.

      0
  10. Shea Berkley says:

    There are so many special things that finaling will give you. Confidence. A career jolt. But mostly meeting those who are in your year. The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood is a fantastic group of women. I’m constantly floored by the generousity and support given by my fellow finalists. I know from talking to other GHers that many finalist groups have all but disappeared. A group is only as good as any of us are willing to put into it, so my advise to upcoming GHers is to put in the effort and connect with your fellow finalists. You’ll be blessed by the relationships you build.

    0
    • Agreed. I love that we share more than just our writing ups and downs — we share our lives. And there doesn’t seem to be any pressure to “be” any particular thing. If you need to take a break from writing, you do. If you need to post a question every hour, you do. It’s the best group out there! I hope the 2010s become as bonded as we are.

      0
  11. The best part of being a GH finalist is always the wonderful friendships you form with the sisters you share the experience with.

    0
  12. This whole GH thing is crazy – I can’t believe at almost 40 it’s like getting asked to the prom all over again but darn it, it is. I can’t believe how nervous I have become. I keep dreaming about The Dress, forgetting of course that I’ve had two children and a lot of rice, bread and potatoes since the last awesome dress I bought.

    But here’s my real question: I’ve made extensive changes to the second half of the MS since I submitted the full with my GH entry. Is there a chance to re-submit a revised full before it goes to the final judge? Does the final judge even get a copy of your full? Am I correct to believe that judging is only off your partial and the full is merely submitted to show you meet the finished MS requirement?

    Thank you ladies!

    0
    • Elise Hayes says:

      Hi Anna! If one (or more!) of the final-round judges is interested in seeing the full manuscript, they’ll contact RWA. Someone at RWA (probably Carol Ritter, who is fabulous) will contact you to ask whether you would like to submit an updated version of the full manuscript, or whether she should go ahead and send the full manuscript that you originally entered.

      Unless things have changed from last year, you’ll then have 48 hours to send Carol Ritter the updated revisions, so that she can pass them on to the requesting judge.

      And judge requests can come at very different times. I think one person received a request as early as mid-April. My full manuscript was requested around June 1st.

      0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Hi Anna – great questions, and having done massive revisions on the back half of my ms after entering the GH, I was in this exact situation.

      Q: Am I correct to believe that judging is only off your partial and the full is merely submitted to show you meet the finished MS requirement? Yes, this is correct.

      Q: Is there a chance to re-submit a revised full before it goes to the final judge? Yes. But the kicker is that once you receive notification from the RWA office (usually by email) that a final round judge wants to read your full manuscript, you have a mere 48 hours – TWO DAYS – to email the revised manuscript back.

      Q; Does the final judge even get a copy of your full? Only if they explicitly request it. The final round judges can’t ask for full manuscripts until after they’re completely done judging the contest.

      OMG, shopping for The Dress is huge fun. There was a lot of chatter on our loop about what we were going to wear – long dresses, cocktail length? And as you can tell from the title of our blog, the Rubies are epic shoe hounds.

      0
    • Eden Glenn says:

      Good question. I’ve done so much more revision even since I sent it to the GH. IF I were so lucky to final I’d love to be able to send revised entry pages. Alas, that is not the way it goes.

      Yet, it’s good to know that IF i final and IF I were to get a request for a full I could send the latest edition.

      Thanks everyone.

      0
  13. Lizbeth Selvig says:

    Hi Tammy!
    Bet you didn’t know you were going to play “Dear Abby” this morning, but here goes πŸ™‚

    As a contest-but-never-a-GH-winner (finalist), I loved your post–it makes me long for and look forward to that someday when I get to board the runaway train. But that brings me to a confession. You said you never expected to final last year, and that has been me with the GH in the past. But this year, I have to admit that I’m obsessed with this contest. I want it. I’m sure I’ll be eating chocolate for days/weeks if I don’t final. And, I can’t tell you how shallow this feels. I’m convinced I’m writing for all the wrong reasons if the results on Thursday are meaning this much to me.

    In the past, I’ve ended in the top 25% of the GH and I won the only other contest I entered with this year’s entry. I’m not much of a a contest enterer in general, but the book gets good comments from readers. I’m (basically) intelligent enough to know that there’s an element of getting-the-judges-who-like-your-work luck in the GH and that crit partner comments are no indication of anything final anywhere-lol. I have been sending positive thoughts out from the beginning, but I don’t think I’m a pie-in-the-sky person.

    What I want to know is if anyone else awaits finalist announcement day as if it were the potential end of the world. I’m so proud of all my fellow writers who’ve shared the GH finalist honor. I want to celebrate for anyone who does final. Is this competitiveness just a normal reaction for those who realize what fun, and what an honor, being a GH finalist will be?

    Past finalists and winners: tell me I’m not alone or at least not a terrible person for obsessing πŸ™‚ Oh, and (deep breath) I wish all this year’s entrants the best of luck! I truly do.
    Thanks Tammy!

    0
    • Elise Hayes says:

      Oh, you are so not alone, Lizbeth!

      I’m actually not expecting to final this year–but that doesn’t take away the yearning for it. My head knows it’s highly unlikely to happen (I wrote this year’s GH entry in about a week; the heroine isn’t well developed in that version–although I do think the hero was fabulous, even in that early version; I end the entry with the highly controversial move of the hero hitting the heroine when she wakes him out of a PTSD nightmare).

      My heart doesn’t listen to my head. My heart says, “But I *want* it.” In some ways, I feel like I want to final more this year than any other year that I’ve entered, because I really, really believe in this manuscript (I think it’s “the one”). Plus, this time I know the strong support and community that can develop with a GH finalist cohort and I want to experience that again.

      I’m preparing to be depressed come Thursday–while at the same time continuing to hope. And, yes, I think “obsession” describes my feelings fairly accurately.

      Best of luck to you this year, Lizbeth!

      0
      • Lizbeth Selvig says:

        Thanks Elise!
        I’m so glad I’m in good company. I will hope that you AREN’T depressed come Thursday. If we are–I’ll raise my many glasses of hot chocolate laced with Hershey’s Symphony bars to you!

        Best of luck to you too, and thanks for the words of encouragement!

        0
        • Elise Hayes says:

          I actually have a “sour stomach” and can’t eat chocolate without some pretty serious stomach pain. I’m telling you, life just isn’t fair. I’ve been trying to think of a different comfort food to indulge in, but it’s mighty hard to think of a replacement for chocolate!!

          0
          • Lizbeth Selvig says:

            Man!! That just isn’t right. Fortunately for me–sugar in almost any form feeds the comfort beast. But, yes, chocolate is very hard to replace. So, for that alone I wish once again that you don’t need any come Thursday!!

            0
          • Elise Hayes says:

            There is, of course, always alcohol πŸ™‚ But my fingers are crossed that you won’t be reaching for chocolate (unless in celebration), and that I won’t be be reaching for the alcohol (unless in celebration).

            0
    • Elisa Beatty says:

      DEFINITELY not alone, Lizbeth!!

      It sounds like you have as good a chance as anyone! Of course, there is that huge, scary, random element of chance. GH scores can be ALL over the map–just amazing how differently different readers can respond to precisely the same entry.

      Breathe deep, try to do some fresh writing this week so you got forward-moving energy, remind yourself GH is a great boost, but NOT the only route to publication…not by a long shot.

      0
      • Elisa Beatty says:

        make that “you’ve got.”

        0
      • Lizbeth Selvig says:

        Hi Elisa,
        Wonderful words of advice. I am grateful to be working on another book–new writing is a good antidote to obsession–if you let it work for you! And, yes, those “other routes” are definitely roads I have to get better at exploring than I am at this point.
        Thanks!

        0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Hello, Liz! (Liz is the president of Midwest Fiction Writers, my local RWA chapter.) I look forward to hearing what some of the other Rubies say about wanting to final so bad you can taste it.

      0
    • Liz, I’m right there with you. My stomach is in knots. Realistically I know that if I don’t final this year it’s not going to be the end of my world. But, this new WIP means so much to me that I want it. Really bad.

      I didn’t get to go to conference last year and I really want another shot of having the opportunity to go to Nationals as a finalist. That’s another reason I want it really bad.

      And though I will be thrilled for all my friends who end up as finalists, there is that small part of me who will probably throw a pity party if I’m not in there with them.

      All of those feelings are natural. I don’t think I could make them go away if I tried. But, we’re strong writers. What we do is persevere, and GH finalist or no, we’ll keep reaching for our dream.

      0
      • Lizbeth Selvig says:

        Oh Cynthia–that’s JUST how I feel. I’m so glad I’m not a bad person – LOL. I am proud of this manuscript–it’s well-written, but what I long for is validation that it’s a good story as well. Thanks for the solidarity!

        0
    • Jeannie Lin says:

      I will admit I was a total nutcase. πŸ™‚
      It’s normal. But I get that way over all contest announcements, and when waiting on submissions, and pretty much for everything. The tingly feeling of anticipation keeps me going.

      0
  14. What surprised me the most?

    Two things:

    1. Doors previously closed to you WILL open. You can still choose to not walk through them, but they’ll be open for a good long time, should you change your mind.

    2. Your GH class will be there for you, if you let them be. Initial, almost unavoidable feelings of competitiveness among the classmates will fade over time, particularly after the winners are announced.

    At least, that’s how I’ve felt with my own feelings of competitiveness. I was always happy for any RSS who sold or agented up, but I admit that I was, at first, worried that there were only so many “slots” available to us, and that if I didn’t hurry, those slots would soon be filled, and no more would open.

    Now, I feel less rushed, and thus less competitive. I feel like I’m really competing with myself these days. Like, if I do my best, I’ll sell. If I don’t, I won’t. It has little to do with what any other writer does or doesn’t do.

    0
    • Lizbeth Selvig says:

      Thanks, Jamie, for addressing the competitiveness issue. I feel the competition to varying degrees all year long–and not just as it pertains to the Golden Heart. I realized a long time ago that I’m a bit of a jealous personality. Not because I don’t want others to be successful–but because I want to be good right away at whatever I do. I’m much more reasonable than I used to be–but it still takes discipline to focus on the big picture. I like the concept of learning to feel less rushed–your point about learning to compete with yourself. Perfect!

      0
    • Jealousy is a horrible thing. Our RWA chapter has three GH entrants, and I keep worrying that the other two will final and I won’t … I’d like to think I’ll be thrilled for them, but I’ll probably end up feeling bitter.

      I don’t do rejection well, in case you couldn’t tell! πŸ˜‰

      0
      • Lizbeth Selvig says:

        I am so glad you said that, Arlene. I remember once at a conference a featured writer-speaker told us, “Jealousy in this profession is an abomination.” Well, let me tell you, I’ve been quite the abomination in my head sometimes. Knowing I’m learning how to deal with this very human emotion at the same time other wonderful people are doing the same is a huge help!

        I knew I’d be glad I asked this question–you guys are just great!!

        0
    • Hope Ramsay says:

      After the ceremonies last year, a friend came over to me and gave me a hug and told me not to feel bad because I hadn’t won the contest. Her comment struck me as completely odd. I was having the time of my life, I wasn’t even remotely bummed out about not actually winning the darn thing.

      It never, ever, felt like a competition to me.

      And yet I was driven to final in the Golden Heart — maybe a little bit because friends were doing it, but mostly because I wanted it for the self-validation. It never really seemed like I needed to beat some other person to the finish line–especially since that person was usually a friend. It was more like we were all trying to climb up a hill together.

      I think you have it right when you say that the competition is with one’s self, to see if you can actually climb the hill. And if you look around, you’ll find that your friends (some of whom may be ahead of you on this climb) are there to help you if you lose faith or stumble or just get stuck.

      It’s not a competition. It’s a sisterhood.

      0
    • At one of the workshops last year in DC, a speaker said, “Rising water lifts all boats.”

      I love that expression. New imprints come and go. New publishing houses form. The “reading beast” needs to be fed, and sometimes it wants something fresh.

      0
  15. Tina Joyce says:

    I think the thing that surprised me the most was how much of a community the class of 2009 has become. Having a place to voice questions, as well as all those whispered fears and doubts was undoubtedly the highlight for me.

    A not-so-great surprise (for me) were the nerves. They hit as soon as the initial excitement faded and grew to monstrous proportions by the time of the National Convention. I went as far as swearing I’d never enter the GH again. Which, of course…I did.

    0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Tina, I had nerves about the learning curve; I felt like I was playing catch-up for months. But I wasn’t nervous at all about winning or losing. I’m about the least competitive person you’ll ever meet – I won’t even play cards or Scrabble with my family because they’re, like, bloodthirsty. I’m much happier just watching them.

      I honestly felt like it was such an honor to be named a Golden Heart finalist that winning would simply be the cherry on top of an already scrumptious cupcake.

      0
      • Tina Joyce says:

        I totally agree. I’m not competitive at all, either. The nerves came from all the peripheral stuff that went along with being a GH finalist: having to choose a pen name, the parties, having my picture flashed in front of a huge crowd of people, editor and agent appointments, having people I didn’t know stop and ask me about my book.
        I’m an introvert and being suddenly shoved into the spotlight was a very different (and at time, uncomfortable) experience. Despite it all, I do cherish having made it to the finals.

        0
  16. Hope Ramsay says:

    Gosh it is amazing that a year has passed. I wish these years would stop coming so fast.

    My experience is quite a bit different from yours, Tammy. I’ve been writing for decades — literally. I entered the Golden Heart year after year and I always scored somewhere in the bottom third in the judging.

    To make it worse, almost all of my critique partners have finaled in the Golden Heart at one point or another during the years. Many of them are now published authors.

    So for several years, I vicariously experienced the whole Golden Heart experience through the lives of these dear friends. I was so happy for them, while at the same time being a little dissapointed in myself. And dare I say it — a little jealous. I felt so lonely and left out when they went off to do all the Golden Heart activities that happen at RWA Nationals. And later when each of them sold, they suddenly had all kinds of business obligations, which I didn’t begrude in the least, it just made me feel a little lonely and left out. Like a kid without friends at recess time.

    And then last year, as I’ve posted elsewhere, I didn’t actually get the call from RWA because of a snafu with my phone number. So I thought I had, once again, not finaled. Until one of these friends, my good buddy Robin Kaye, called me up with the news that my name was on the RWA website.

    That was awesome. To know that Robin and my other writing buddies — most of whom have been wildly successful, were pulling for me the way I had pulled for them.

    And then there is the little golden heart pin.

    I know, it’s shallow, but let me say that litte golden heart means more to me than many fine pieces of jewelry I’ve purchased over the years. It represents validation and years and years of hard work and learning the craft. And, yes, it says I belong and with all the other ruby slippered sisters, not to mention other Golden Heart finalists through the years.

    So, I don’t feel so lonely and left out any more.

    0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Hope, thanks for sharing your story. What wonderful friends you have!

      —–> that little golden heart means more to me than many fine pieces of jewelry IÒ€ℒve purchased over the years. It represents validation and years and years of hard work and learning the craft.

      That gold pin IS pretty great, isn’t it?

      0
  17. Katrina Williams says:

    Hi Everybody! Thanks for making the effort in the last year to share your experiences. I’ve definitely learned a lot and really had a good time with the RSS, regardless of whether I final or not.

    My question is: Was finaling or winning the GH the path to your career dream? I know a lot of you mention that it opened doors, but was it like the sparkly door #3 with everything your heart desired? Or was it more like A Door and OK, now I have some choices but I’m still not exactly where I want to be?

    0
    • Hey, Katrina! I think you probably know my answer, but I’ll put it out here for everyone else. Finaling in the GH didn’t land me an agent or publishing contract. My finaling MS is kind of on the back burner for now. So, while I thought the GH would be my path to publication, it turned out not to be so. I’m still working towards that dream.

      What the GH did do for me was give me validation. For the first time in my years of writing, I actually believed that publication would happen for me–as long as I stuck with it and kept working hard. Before that it was always a “IF” I’m good enough. After the GH, it became “WHEN” the time is right. Being good enough was no longer a doubt.

      However, finaling in the GH is ONE path to your dream. Many people land fabulous agents and sell without ever finaling in a contest. It’s not the only road.

      0
    • rita says:

      The GH is not the be all end all. It is a hurdle completed. A validation you are headed in the right direction. It is just the beginning of many hurdles. So a sparkly door #3, I don’t think so. We all know where we want to be -published. Does the GH do it for you? It gets you attention but if the book past those 50 pages doesn’t have what it takes. WellÒ€¦.
      Plus in this crazy economy you have to be patient. Never give up. Query those agents. Write another book.

      0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      As I mentioned in my first Ruby blog entry, being named a Golden Heart finalist is fabulous validation, but it’s not necessarily a FastPass to the big-time.
      I think it… creates a window of heightened opportunity. For example, as a GH finalist, you get first crack at the agent and editor pitch appointment list at RWA National, giving you a 10 minute window with your dream agent, or an editor YOU SELECT. As a GH finalist, you get some great networking opportunities that others don’t get – like the RITA/GH Dessert Reception. As a GH finalist, the final round judge might be interested in seeing your full manuscript.

      Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity.

      0
    • Jeannie Lin says:

      For me, I felt the GH final made it all happen, but….

      First let me qualify that I had done a lot of work leading up to that. I had three completed manuscripts, I was querying like mad with Butterfly Swords, I had queried almost every agent on the RWA list that took historical romance and a bunch of agents not on the RWA list. I had polished my manuscript to the point where it started getting interest. I had about 6 or 7 fulls and partials out before the GH call. (and a gazillion rejections under my belt)

      When I got the call, agents started reading. I imagine (not sure about this) that they started thinking, maybe, just maybe this dark horse of a story has a chance. After getting agented, we still had a hard time with publishers. The publisher that actually offered was off of a request from the GH final judging round.

      It was a long shot for me, but the GH was a Cinderella story … or an ugly duckling story, more like. πŸ™‚

      I don’t think the GH is going to be a silver bullet or a golden ticket. Even though it helped me finally get agented and sell, I can’t forget that there was a lot of leg work getting there. For me, it was a shot of adrenaline for a horse that was already running as fast as it could and not quite able to reach the finish line.

      So yes. If you final on Thursday, dream big and aim high. Go for broke and nudge and query like mad. If you don’t final on Thursday, nothing’s stopping you from dreaming big and aiming high as well.

      0
    • Hope Ramsay says:

      For me it was a second chance.

      I already had an agent and had been, more or less, rejected by every editor in New York. Part of those rejections was a timing thing — I was writing small town stories when everyone wanted vampires — but once a book or series idea is rejected it’s hard to reopen those doors.

      So the GH was a chance to go back to everyone who might not been interested three years ago. I had already more or less moved on (and was writing fantasy) but when the GH deadline rolled around I decided to enter three books that were part of a series as a kind of a last hurrah for them and for me. I had decided to give up writing romance altogether and focus on SF and Fanatasy.

      The irony– the book that finaled is not the one that ultimately sold the series. That book was deeply flawed and has been shelved. The others in the series were the ones that made the sale.

      0
    • I finaled for the first time in 2005. About the same time, an article appeared in RWR that said “75% of GH finalists will be sold within 5 years.” The other two finalists from that year are both sold. I still keep in touch and vicariously enjoy their success.

      On March 25th, 2010, I will become part of the 25% who haven’t sold yet. And that doesn’t make me sad–’cause the process is so much fun. I keep making baby steps forward. I’m writing what I like; it’s not marketable right now–but maybe one day it will be. I have an agent with a lot of confidence in me. And my family loves the mom/wife they get because I’m doing something creative that may prove lucrative in the future.

      So, yeah, behind the door I picked, it’s all sparkly and appealing to me. It’s just not a contract. Yet.

      0
  18. Wow! Last year flew by! I really can’t believe it’s this time again.

    The best part of finaling in 2009 was, hands down, connecting with my Ruby Sisters. Since becoming a GH finalist I have been surrounded by love and a genuine sisterhood that keeps me going even during the toughest days.

    The worst part of finaling for me was that my MS had been ready for a long time and I’d been querying agents for months before the GH calls went out. So, my MS had been around the block a few times and I didn’t really get to make the most of the GH finalist label. I also missed out on Nationals, which sucked….big time.

    0
  19. Jeannie Lin says:

    For me, everything was a surprise. I was completely overwhelmed and wanted to be a part of everything. Some repetition here, but here are the “must dos”:

    If you final, definitely bond with your fellow finalists. There are people in that group that have a lot of valuable experience about conference and writing and in our case, fashion, and can hold your hand when you need it.

    Join the Golden Network. It’s a chapter consisting of past GH finalists. A lot of opportunity there that you don’t want to miss.

    Absolutely go to conference if you can. Apply for an RWA scholarship if you’re tight on funds. Pitching with a golden heart finalist ribbon is only part of the goodies. You probably won’t have time to go to a lot of workshops, but there’s all sorts of activities and free cupcakes and champagne. And the Golden Network agent/publisher panel last year was probably the best one I’ve been to in terms of learning what works in a query.

    Oh yeah, and desserts go fast at the Golden Network dessert reception. Grab one quickly before they disappear.

    Finally, if your manuscript is not ready for prime time, polish it up and send it out. Nudge and query like mad after the call. Do not be shy about it.

    0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      —-> And the Golden Network agent/publisher panel last year was probably the best one IÒ€ℒve been to in terms of learning what works in a query.

      It was a great learning session, wasn’t it? One thing that struck me during that session was how each agent or editor viewed the same query letter through the lens of their personal likes and dislikes. “I hate rock star heroes.” “I LOVE cowboys.” It was more subjective than I thought it would be.

      There seemed to be consensus, though, that most query letters they received were too long/wordy.

      0
  20. CJ Chase says:

    I have another writer friend who realized too late she chose a porn star’s name for her pen name. Fortunately, I think that book had a pretty limited distribution, so when she sold to one of the big houses, she switched names.

    Back in the dark ages, GH finalists weren’t give the choice of using a pen name, so I’ve stayed with my given name. There is a watercolor artist of the same name (who has the dot-com website), but I’ve checked her out, and there’s nothing offensive there. In fact, she does quite work, and if I ever sell, I just might have to buy one of her works.

    0
  21. Dara says:

    Someone may have asked this but how did you stay sane during the waiting game? And if took multiple years of GH entries, how did you console yourself?

    I haven’t entered but I am hoping come this November I might be able to. As I’m a bit of a worrier anyway, I’m wondering how I’d be able to focus on something else πŸ™‚

    0
    • Hope Ramsay says:

      The trick is to send in your entry and then forget about it. It’s not that hard if you focus yourself on the things you can control — like the amount of writing you do in a day or going to an RWA chapter meeting to learn more about plotting, or whatever.

      To be honest, last year was the first year I was even remotely aware that the GH was being announced. And the only reason was because I had friends who wouldn’t let me forget about it.

      It’s best to be blissfully ignorant. So enter it, and then try hard not to think about it.

      As for entering and not finalling year after year. Well, having a streak of stubborn determination is helpful. I just didn’t let it get to me. The truth is the judging is a crap shoot so you can’t take it that seriously. Every rejection just fed my determination. And I never took any of my low marks personally. I just worked on having faith in my writing and improving it. That’s the only thing, really that you can control in any of this.

      0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Focus on other things. Start writing your next book.

      0
  22. Anne Barton says:

    Tamara, ever since I saw the title of your post, I’ve been hearing “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum playing in my head. It’s a good song. And this is a great post! πŸ™‚

    0
    • Tamara Hogan says:

      I actually thought about that while I was writing this blog entry – I almost went with Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” instead. πŸ˜‰

      0
  23. Darynda Jones says:

    I can’t believe it’s been a year either! Wonderful post, Tammy!!! It got me so excited and I’m not even entered this year. lol
    ~D~

    0
  24. […] Tammy blogs on the 2010 Golden Heart Contest at The Ruby Slippered […]

    0
  25. Chiquita says:

    I see a lot of interesting articles on your website.

    You have to spend a lot of time writing, i know how to save you a lot of time,
    there is a tool that creates unique, SEO friendly posts in couple of minutes, just search in google – laranita’s free content source

    0

Subscribe to the Blog

The Latest Comments

  • Tamara Hogan: Heather, what gorgeous gowns! And bless you (and other authors) who represent our genre so wonderfully,...
  • Addison Fox: What a fun post!! I think conferences are one of my most favorite parts of being a writer –...
  • Elizabeth Chatsworth: What an interesting (and useful) article on preparing for readers’ events. Thank you for...
  • Cynthia Huscroft: Fabulous “dress-up” pictures. Have a fabulous time!
  • Autumn Jordon: I love seeing your dress-up pictures, Heather. Have an awesome time at the event and report back to us.

Archives