Welcome 2019 Golden Heart and RITA Finalists!


You’ve made it through the eye of the needle: RWA judges are among the most demanding in the reading world, and nobody gets these nominations without having written an AMAZING book!

(I have to say, my packet of Golden Heart entries were REALLY strong, so strong I had to remind myself I wasn’t reading RITA entries, and I still can’t quite get my mind around the fact that none of them made the cut. So…wow!! The finalists must be fantastic!!) 

New Golden Heart finalists: we hope you’ve got your seatbelts fastened, because you’re being launched onto a serious thrill ride. And you’ll need good friends to make it through the experience in one piece. So, if you haven’t done so yet, your first order of business is to join the email / Facebook loops for the class of 2019 so you can meet all your new Golden Heart family. Your 2019 Sisters will be an unbelievable support in every way, and if past experience holds true–as it certainly does for the Rubies–they’ll become some of your dearest friends for life!  (If a commenter can share the info on how to contact the Facebook group organizer, we’ll post it up here!)

We have a tradition here at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood of asking  finalists to share their stories about getting that life-changing, thrilling call. So SPILL THE DETAILS in the comments below, and we’ll set off a whole new round of squealing and cheering for you.

Today, the 2009 Golden Heart finalists, the Ruby-Slippered Sisters, will be stop in with congratulations, advice, and tales from their own Golden Heart adventures. And we invite all our friends and readers to add cheers and whoops of their own.

We’ll also be issuing an invitation (via a member of your email or Facebook loop) for as many of you as we can possibly fit into the schedule to guest blog with the Rubies or be interviewed on the blog sometime between now and Nationals. We love getting to know the new Golden Heart cohort each year and helping you make yourself better known to the Romance writing world. Be on the lookout for the details!!

On Monday, for everyone who didn’t get that coveted call, we’ll be back with our annual Consolation Day party, with heaps of support (you can bawl your eyes out if you need to, and we’ll be here with the hugs and the virtual tissues and calorie-free brownies), plus prize giveaways to help pick you right back up: lots of chocolate and sweet gift cards!!

Of course, after we celebrate, every single one of us—whether finalist, non-finalist, newbie or multi-published author—has the very same task to do: sit down at that keyboard and KEEP WRITING!

But for now: It’s your day, Finalists!! Congratulations!!!! We can’t wait to hear from you!!

59 responses to “Welcome 2019 Golden Heart and RITA Finalists!”

  1. Elizabeth King says:

    Looks like I’m first up – probably because it’s 6.30pm on the 22nd in my time zone already! And, funnily enough, my time zone is also the reason I never really got a call.
    I woke up early this morning to find that Damon Suede had left a message on my phone just after midnight my time. I called him back at 6am but sadly couldn’t reach him so left him a message this time. I must admit I had a pretty good idea why he’d called – I mean why else would he be calling??!!
    We never managed to touch base on the phone but at 8am my time the final list went up on the RWA website and my name was there!! An email from Carol Ritter confirmed it, so I figured it must be real. A finalist in the Historical category.
    Congratulations to all the other finalists and I look forward to getting to know everyone – and to a really great party in New York!!

  2. Sammi says:

    As I was showering and listening to Rachel Hollis’s new audiobook, I got a phone call. Minorly annoyed for the interruption (to a chapter about going after your goals, ironically), I finished showering, only to get a call from the same number as I stepped out. When I answered, the woman new my nickname, not my full name like telemarketers usually use so I immediately scanned my brain for who it might be. Once she said, “from RWA” it all clicked! 🙂 I half-listened as she explained I was a finalist and gave the details. I kept mouthing to my smiling four-month-old “OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH!”

    What exciting news! Congrats to all the finalists!

  3. Heather McCollum says:

    Huge congratulations, everyone! I remember my GH call. It ranks right up there with seeing that the pregnancy test was positive for the first time! You feel like you are floating on a happy bubble that no one can pop. Crap at work could blow up, my kids could be fighting, dinner could burn, and I still smiled. Float on that happy bubble for as long as you can. Enjoy!

  4. My story is really an “unstory.” I had lots of appointments scheduled yesterday, trying to get real life wrapped up before the end of Spring break (*sniff*sniff*). I’d made it through a nail appointment and was heading to the doctor when I finally let myself marinate in the fact that the call hadn’t come and at this point (almost 1pm Eastern time) it wasn’t going to. I kept driving, giving myself a pep talk, it’s okay that you didn’t final, you’re still a winner, you’ve already accomplished more than most who start this journey, blah-blah. Thankfully, I checked my email as I was waiting for the doctor and found an email with “Disconnected #” in the subject line. Evidently the number they had didn’t work (still not sure how that happened since I’ve had the same number for 20+ years) and they needed a number so they could call and give me “some good news.” Um…YES! So I shot off an email and headed in to see my doctor. Needless to say, when Kelley called I was unavailable to talk, so she just left a message instead (poor thing, I didn’t make it easy on her). Silver lining to that story is I now have a voicemail message I can listen to over and over again when that little voice attached to imposter syndrome kicks in. *yay* So to all the finalists, congratulations! And to all those who didn’t final, take note from that pep talk I gave myself while speeding down I-71, “Putting yourself out there makes you a winner. Finishing that manuscript makes you a winner. Writing a manuscript you’re proud of is the prize.” Keep writing, my friends!

    • Rita Henuber says:

      LOVE. You can keep that VM forever.

    • Definitely save that voice mail. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve listened to my Maggie one, where the contest coordinator & I played phone tag, when things were tough on the writing/querying homefront.

      • Tamara Hogan says:

        Janet, my husband scared the crap out of the poor person who called to let me know I’d finaled in the published Maggie a number of years ago. I was having a wee problem with crank/stalker-y phone calls, and when the phone rang with an Unknown number, he picked it up and snapped, “Who is this?” He listened for a couple of seconds, then handed the phone to me. “Something or someone named Maggie?” I couldn’t apologize quickly enough. Not a call I’d want to listen to again. 🙂

        Congrats on your final!

    • Absolutely, Alicia. And what great advice for all. Congrats on your final!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Sweet!! Having a voice mail would be wonderful!!

  5. Tracy Brody says:

    The first life changing GH call came in 2015. Yesterday, I got up a little early and showered despite the awesome stories from others of jumping out of the shower to take the call naked. I cleaned the shower and folded laundry like all glamorous success writers, had breakfast and was going to turn on the computer to see what friends had gotten the call already.

    Nervousness had started about 8:30 and it was now 9:43 when my cell rang. The display said it was Denny Bryce — since we’ve been GH sisters, I have her # so I greeted her by name. I knew why she was calling 😉 but let her do the official spiel but didn’t scream in her ear or anything noteworthy. That’s why I write fiction – it’s more exciting than my real life.

  6. Courtney Maguire says:

    This year was my first time entering and I just couldn’t believe it when the call came. I was at work and had actually kind of forgotten that yesterday was the day until I saw announcements coming through my twitter feed. Minutes later my cell phone rang. I jumped up from my desk and ran outside to answer. Wouldn’t you know, a train was passing and making all sorts of racket just as I picked up lol! As soon as the caller said they were from RWA, my hands started shaking. I didn’t scream, but I’m sure she could hear the shake in my voice. The whole rest of the day, I was absolutely buzzing. I got no work done.

  7. I missed the call! But I knew there was only one reason an RWA board member would be calling me yesterday so I squealed. Thank goodness no one was around to hear me. It was exciting and a dream come true. Congratulations to all the RITA and Golden Heart noms. I was a 2014 GH finalist and I’m so sad this is the last year for the GH. The GH is near and dear to my heart because that’s how I got published. So I’m thrilled to be a RITA finalist this year so I can celebrate with the last GH class!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      So so wonderful to see you make the leap from Golden Heart to RITA!!! Yay, Shelly!!

      And, yes, it’s just heartbreaking that this is the last for the Golden Heart. It’s still not at all clear to me why…but that’s a discussion for another day.

  8. I was watching the announcements go up on Twitter while reading scholarship applications and finally gave up. This is my first novel, and I thought, “There’s no way I’ll be a finalist.” I tucked my phone in my pocket and and walked down the hall to the restroom, which is, of course, when the phone rang with an out of state area code. I hustled out of the bathroom and Nan Dixon introduced herself. Luckily, that conversation was without the background music of auto-flushers. It took everything I had to play it cool as I walked back to my office with a grin on my face the size of a mack truck.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    So happy for all the great news! Enjoy this moment.

  10. I had just spent an hour and a half asking (okay, fine, screaming) at four children to get ready for school.

    I’d forgotten the 21st was announcement day until around 9 a.m. and hopped on the Twitter feed. I saw a lot of finalists had been announced already and thought, Well, not this year.

    So, I drove to the grocery store. I was just pulling in when my phone rang with an out-of-state number. The woman said her name and that she was with the RWA.

    I then replied, “Oh, my gosh.”

    “Well, I guess you know why I’m calling.”

    “Really? No way! Really?” (You should hear about the time my husband proposed. A very similar reaction.)

    She laughed and told me I was a finalist in the mainstream fiction category.

    I wish I could remember her name or anything else she said to me.

    I do remember hanging up and screaming in my car in the grocery store parking lot for five straight minutes, then calmly walking into the store and buying cucumbers and cereal. Oh, and calling my husband and agent.

    This is my first book and my first entry. I’m so honored to be a finalist. Can’t wait to get to know everyone. I’m hoping to make it to NYC but have to finagle the budget a bit.

    • Carl Peterson says:

      I am so proud of my you Sharon. You deserve all the accolades your get. you worked so hard. Never give up. I love you. You are the best.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Congrats, Sharon!! And, wow, another first book finalist!! What a group!

      Honestly, I wish all these calls were recorded…not only do most of us totally forget anything that got said, the screaming would be hilarious to hear.

  11. I tried very hard to forget it was the 21st. I purposely set my alarm for after 8am because I figured in California that would be the time it all started and I didn’t want to be anxiously waiting to NOT hear (because I’ve been there too). I really just wanted the day to be over so I could get my brain busy onto something else. I knew this was my last chance.

    So when the call came I was asleep LOLOL. It woke me and I tried very hard not to sound like a croaking frog. I told the wonderful news giver (I wish my mind had been more present to remember her name)that this was the best way to wake up. She actually laughed a little and apologized. Apologized? Oh my word! I said no problem I am in complete shock, can you repeat those instructions please. Then she called right back to remind me of the pictures.

    My husband didn’t know. He walked in the room. I quietly said, “I did it” he said “what?” “The Golden Heart” and then I burst into tears.

    My husband literally screamed over and over LOLOL. I’m sure the neighbors could hear him. He’s been my biggest shoulder to cry on and my biggest cheerleader.

    I’m so honored to be a part of this. It’s history and has been a long longtime dream.

    😀 Shannon Gallagher
    Historical Category <3

    • Tracy Brody says:

      That’s awesome!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Awww…this just made me cry!! I love that your husband screamed for you.

      Honestly, this just makes me heartbroken all over again that this is the last year for Golden Heart. This has been such a special, meaningful contest, and has launched so many careers. Sigh.

      I’m so glad you’re all getting to dance the last dance!

  12. I seem to have this ability to enter a contest on a whim, totally forget, I entered, then find out I’m a finalist. It happened in WFWA in 2017 and then again yesterday. I think I entered because it was the perfect storm. I’d just finished my WIP and then read it was the last year of the GH, so I though what the hell. Promptly forgot. Then I did see an email alert that the finalists would be announced the 21st but WHOOSH sort of over the top my head. So yesterday, I’m driving to work (yes, hands-free) and phone rings. Woman says she’s from RWA and hopes she’s about to make my day. Brain is taking a moment to engage plus I’m in traffic on 285 in Atlanta which is also the 7th ring of hell. I mean, stunned doesn’t even begin to describe it. I hope to make it to NYC! I’m not published but I do have an agent and I hope this bit of news makes her happy. It DID make my day!!. Thanks everyone. You’re a great, supportive group and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this great ride.

  13. Anna Collins says:

    This is my first year entering GH and expectations were way low. LOL! To be honest, I tried not to think about it at all after I submitted my entry (mainstream category). I’d heard so many wonderful things from friends who finaled last year that I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

    I missed the first call since I was driving kids to school, and since there was no voice mail I assumed it was spam. Fast forward 40 min or so, and I was actually at my desk for once, working on my WIP before 9 am like a good writer, when the same number called again. Dun, dun, dun… Needless to say, I’m very happy I picked up! Getting more and more excited by the hour. 😀

  14. I’ve been dreaming about being a Golden Heart finalist since my first RWA conference. Although I didn’t feel ready to compete in a contest of this size and significance, not sure I ever will, I entered because this was my last chance to make it happen.

    Unlike some of my fellow finalists that were blissfully-unaware of the date, I’d been counting down since March 1st. By the time I arrived at work that morning I was a nervous, sick mess. I told my team that I was waiting for a very important call and I might have to excuse myself from a meeting to take it.

    Not ten minutes later my cell phone rang so I ran into an empty office. I don’t think the poor girl got her name out before the tears were flowing. Shea was so sweet and patient (for the life of me, I cannot remember her name). I probably should have explained I was waiting for a good phone call because, by the time I had composed myself and exited the office, my team and the HR director were waiting to make sure I was okay. But I was better than okay. I was a Golden Heart finalist.

    I explained they were happy tears, and they helped me celebrate. I really hope RWA is planning on putting the awards online again this year because the HR director wants to log-in so they can watch (no pressure).

  15. Rosie Danan says:

    Hi there,

    My call story is pretty silly. I get a ton of telemarketer calls so I usually ignore numbers I don’t know but because it was GH day I started answering my phone around 8am. By 9am I’d had three people try to sell me stuff. So when I got a call from another mystery number I was mostly annoyed. That is until the caller introduced herself as being from the RWA at which point I started crying. Just an overwhelmingly positive experience. This is my first manuscript ever and I’m over the moon. This is a dream come true.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      LOL…those danged telemarketers always know when it’s Golden Heart day.

      So glad the Good Call came!!

      And, wow, yet another first manuscript finalist!! That’s impressive!! Go, you!!

  16. Kellie (Parker) VanHorn says:

    We’re on a spring break vacation, so I was doing my best to ignore the fact it was the 21st. When I unplugged my phone from its charger at 8:45 AM, I glanced at my notifications. I had an email from Shirley Jump titled “Tried Calling You.” When I saw she’d addressed me by name, I figured it wasn’t spam. 🙂 And when I read it, and saw she was on the RWA board, I had a pretty good idea what that meant! I was so thrilled, I could barely escape my family long enough to call her back and get the official good news. The rest of the day was a blur!!

  17. Sara Whitney says:

    Hi, Ruby Slippers and friends!

    Third time was the charm for me this year! I was crushed when I didn’t final in contemporary romance in 2017, disappointed in 2018, and mildly annoyed on Wednesday to see a tweet reminding me that calls were going out the next day. Until then, I’d forgotten and would have been blissfully unaware as my phone wasn’t ringing, like usual.

    Then at 8:40 on Thursday, I missed a call from a random number that didn’t leave a voicemail. (I couldn’t pick up because I’d gone thundering downstairs to separate the combatants in a literal cat fight.) Thankfully, the lovely Jamie Beck called right back, at which point I floated up out of my body in joy and babbled some excited nonsense at her.

    I cried, of course.

    So that’s my phone call story. I’m so excited to get to know all of you kind, generous authors over the upcoming months and years!

  18. I am so blessed to be among the 2019 finalists… and completely overwhelmed. I entered because it was the last year for Golden Heart and I wanted to say I had at least tried. When the call came I was working on my newest project, finally getting into a groove. Then the fateful call shattered my concentration and I’ve yet to come back down and wrap my head around the truth of it. I was pretty reserved on the call, but afterwards I screamed and jumped up and down. This is an amazing blessing and such an honor. I am truly humbled by it because I know there are so many wonderful authors who submitted. Congratulations to all, and to those who are disappointed, keep writing. Contests are subjective and not being a finalist doesn’t mean you are any less of a talented writer. God bless, and keep writing.

  19. Elisa Beatty says:

    I love hearing all these call stories!!!

    Keep them coming!!!

    Congrats again to the Class of 2019!!

  20. Jilly Wood says:

    I live in London, so I’d been awake for hours, trying to write but really just watching the clock tick around. Then I saw the finalists start scrolling up on Twitter, but my phone did not ring. After about an hour and a half I decided it wasn’t going to happen for me. I gave myself the usual pep talk, but I was feeling crushed because I knew I wouldn’t get another opportunity. That’s when I saw the email from Damon Suede saying he’d been trying to call me but couldn’t get through. My fingers were shaking, but I called him back SO fast…

  21. Hi, Ruby Slippered Sisterhood!

    GH finalist for romantic suspense here, and I still can’t believe I got the call! I wish I could say I was oh-so-chill about the whole finalist announcements, but nope. I had created a notification in my calendar (“GOLDEN HEART FINALISTS ANNOUNCED”), so was anxiously checking Twitter while waiting in an exam room at my doctor’s office that morning. I was literally staring at my phone and giving myself a pep talk about how I probably wasn’t going to final and that’s okay and it was a long shot anyway when a No Caller ID call popped up. I answered on the first ring.

    It was Donna Alward from RWA with the news. After babbling “oh my gosh oh my gosh” and trying very hard not to scream, all I could think about was how glad I was that the nurse had already taken my blood pressure and pulse/ox or else I’m pretty sure she would have thought I was having a coronary. My doctor came in a few minutes later while I was blubbering on the phone to my husband.

    This was the third year I entered this manuscript, and I couldn’t be more pleased and honored to be a finalist. Huge congrats to all the other finalists, and I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone in this lovely community!


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