What’s next for the Golden Heart?

In November, RWA released the new schedule for the 2017 RWA Nationals Conference in Orlando. The biggest and most-talked-about change is the separation of the Awards ceremony into two events. The Golden Heart Awards ceremony will be held on Thursday (July 26) during the luncheon, with the RITA Awards ceremony being held that evening.

There has been a lot of discussion around cyberspace since the news released. The Rubies have talked about it too, and since we’re the GH class of 2009, we have plenty of thoughts about this change–positive, negative, and curious.


It’s been almosgh-2009t two weeks since the new schedule was announced. Now that we’ve had time to reflect on what’s been said, let’s revisit what it means to move the Golden Heart ceremony to the Thursday luncheon.

I’ll start off the discussion with my reaction, which is optimistic. I love the idea that we’ve moved the Literacy Signing to Saturday so that we’ll conclude the conference by meeting our readers. That’s a big positive.


And we won’t lose the factors that I value most about being a GH finalist. Those benefits include:

  1. Meeting the other finalists. Seven-plus years after meeting the Rubies, we remain friends and the very best kind of support network.
  2. Finding the courage to put our book(s) out there. Whether “out there” means agents, editors, or readers, finaling in a prestigious competition reminds you that your peers have judged your book among the best. It’s a big boost to your confidence.
  3. Feeling like royalty at RWA conferences. The Golden Heart pin is recognizable. You can be in the elevator, in the hallways, in a workshop, or at a meal–and you will be congratulated!

The negative most frequently mentioned is the possibility that the Golden Heart will become less special. I hope that doesn’t prove to be true. I hope the RWA community won’t allow it to be true.

Join the Rubies today as we discuss the new schedule and the separation of the GH and RITA ceremonies. Leave a comment and let us know what you think.


28 responses to “What’s next for the Golden Heart?”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    I do like the idea of having the literacy signing on a Saturday to get more readers there (though it’s always so crowded, I’m not sure how many more could fit)! And I liked the “tracked” programs they’re planning on the first day.

    But I’m definitely sad about the Golden Heart changes. I know the Board is trying hard to make the Golden Heart *more* special, but separating out the ceremony for a luncheon instead of keeping it as part of the big, sparkly, everybody-in-ballgowns night-time awards event does make it seem second-class to me. And having the winners announced early in the conference will take some of the shine off finalists who don’t win. (Of course they’re still finalists, and that’s an impressive achievement, forever after. But spending the conference with an air of breathless anticipation around them was a plus for the whole group.)

    There aren’t any perfect solutions, I guess.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      This may be one of those reasons that can be both good and bad for different people. I’d be so nervous worrying about the ceremony and whether I’d have to get on stage in front of 1000s that it made the conference harder for me to enjoy. Thankfully, I never had to give a speech, but if I’d known that earlier in the week, I could’ve relaxed more.

  2. Beth Trissel says:

    As a 2008 GH finalist, I was thrilled to be a part of their fabulous evening do with all the big names. A fun luncheon does seem a let down.

    • Definitely — buying the dress, the excitement, the feeling of being Somebody! I hope RWA can find a way to give finalists that same feeling somewhere…but then again, maybe some new benefits will make up for it?

  3. I’m excited about the new schedule for several reasons.

    1) The winners of the Golden Heart and Rita will be able to basked in the light a little longer. I can only imagine putting the necklace on as you packed and headed to the airport didn’t feel all that special.
    2) I don’t believe anyone who is a Golden Heart or Rita finalist is a loser. Contests are subjective. We all know that. Agents and editors will still pursue you.
    3) The separation of the events adds a luster shine to the Rita and let’s admit it, winning an award for a published novel is the ultimate prize for an author.
    4) As far as dressing up, I’m a sneaker Ruby. I’ll remember the words you say during an acceptance speech, before I’ll remember what you wore. I think editors and agents will too. And Golden Hearts, anyone in fact, can still get dolled up on Thursday night if they desire. I understand RWA still is going to recognize all the GH finalist on stage on Thursday night.
    5)IMHO I think more readers will attend a Saturday afternoon signing than they will a week night.

    I’m anxious to hear what others think.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      I’m with you about the sneakers. I know that lots of finalists love the part about finding the perfect dress and getting to wear it to the ceremony, but that wasn’t fun for me.

  4. One big bonus: each ceremony will be shorter! That was my first thought.

    Second thought was that moving the literary book-signing to Saturday could only benefit everyone.

    And with the Big Events being over before the end of the night on Saturday, some attendees could potentially fly home that night, saving themselves a hotel stay.

    Conversely, I think there are more events on Wednesday now, which will pull more people in for Tuesday night.

    It’s certainly going to be tricky for specialty chapters who have certain traditional events in place. I’m on the Golden Network board, and yeah, we’ve got some thinking to do! But also I think of a couple of specialty chapters’ award ceremonies, which are going to run up against the Ritas now.

    It’s just a new puzzle this year — RWA put in their pieces, and now we have to put in ours.

  5. So glad the Rubies are taking this one on!

    As a former event planner I learned early on that ending your conference on a high note–like a massive literacy signing–sells your event for the next year. And there is nothing more important in our industry than readers. So on many levels I’m a huge fan of the shift to a Saturday book signing.

    As a five-time GH finalist, I think moving the GH ceremony to a luncheon–a solid business venue great for networking–is brilliant. Personally, I entered the GH all those years with a singular goal to sell a manuscript to NY.

    I also believe separating the GH from the Ritas is a good move as the spotlight is solely on some of the finest authors and stories in romance. Well deserved!

    Well done, RWA!

    • Agreed — having the GH finalists get to have a conversation-friendly luncheon for their awards ceremony (if that’s what’s planned?) will benefit them IF they’re seated with a healthy mix of industry pros and Rita finalists.

      I hope RWA retains the idea of priority seating at the luncheon and Rita awards to ensure GH finalists plenty of networking opportunities.

      I did hear something on a loop about RWA trying to get GH finalists invites to publisher parties. It wouldn’t work for smaller publishers, like mine, but it could work for something like Harlequin, which I gather is a pretty big event each year.

  6. Do we know if the GH finalists will get priority seating at the Ritas? That would be nice to retain that benefit. Not only is it great to be able to glide to the front, but you get to sit (and often eat dinner and chat) with Rita finalists!!

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      I think the answer is yes. In the discussion on the PAN forum, it sounded as if the plan is to have all GH finalists sitting in the VIP section at the RITAs, and the GH winners would have their names announced.

      • Maybe they’ll call out the winners to the stage as a big group? That wouldn’t take too much time and would be pretty great. Of course, the remaining finalists would feel pretty shitty right about then. I think calling the whole crew out might be too much? I don’t know! I am glad they’re trying new things, though.

  7. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I’m one of the people who would fly home on Saturdays, primarily because Nationals is always held around my daughter’s birthday and I wanted to be home for her. But I’ll also admit to being introverted, so I found the ceremony to be overwhelming. With a luncheon, I’m more likely to attend.

    • Honestly, me too. I mean, about being introverted. I cover it well. πŸ™‚ I have come to really dislike conferences because of the tremendous amount of social anxiety it brings upon me.

      • Tamara Hogan says:

        I hear ya, Jamie. By the Saturday of RWA National, I’m totally drained, and hanging on by the skin of my teeth. The sensory overload of a Saturday Literacy Signing would be a non-starter for me. I’d leave the conference Saturday afternoon, saving a night of hotel fees.

        That’s one of the risks I see with the proposed schedule: how many authors will choose to leave the conference before the Literacy Signing starts? On the other hand, fewer authors might resolve the perpetual crowding problem. Win/Win?

        Kudos to the board for mixing it up, and for their efforts to provide more visibility, and professional networking opportunities, to GH finalists.

        • Elizabeth Langston says:

          You’re right about the flocking away on Saturday. I’ve never participated in the literacy signing and I doubt I will this year. So I will likely go home on Saturday. But it’s true that it may streamline the event, and that could be a good thing. Last year, I was part of a team (of RomVets) who boxed up the leftover books to ship to military members. And there were 1000s of books to box up.

          • Oh, me too! I’ve never done a group signing, and I only attend the Literacy Autographing because I usually don’t know what else to do, and I can at least lose myself in the crowd. But yeah, I’m generally terrified all the time at Nationals.

  8. Rita Henuber says:

    I believe the Literacy Signing on Saturday makes sense. I don’t have a crystal ball or the sight to see into the future but think separating the awards will work out. Having the awards earlier in the week allows the winners to justifiably bask in the glow of winning with their peers. Old scenario was go to award dinner, win, go back to the room and pack, next day go home and try to explain to friends and family how important the GH and Rita awards are. I like what Shelley said about the GH luncheon being a great networking opportunity. I hope publishers and agents see it that way and attend the luncheon in force. That GH finalist pin does get attention at smaller gatherings and in the bar. It is a clear sign the wearer has studied their craft, persisted and are in top form with their writing.

  9. Kate Parker says:

    I think splitting the awards ceremonies is a good idea. Was I the only one who was aware of how many in the audience tuned out the GH announcements in their breathless anticipation of the Rita announcements? I think with only the GH awards handed out, all eyes will be on the winners and nominees. (No pressure there, 2017 GH nominees!) This is particularly true of the editors and agents who have their appts. after the ceremony.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      I hadn’t thought about that, Kate, but you’re right. It’s an event 100% devoted to GH.

  10. Liz Talley says:

    At first I was doubtful the GH awards would be as special. And maybe they won’t. But I guess the question is – should the unpublished awards get the same fanfare as the RITAs? I’m not sure, but I know that this could be a way to elevate the status of the RITA award a bit more outside of RWA.

    I like the idea of a more business lunch with a focus on the beginning of a writing career. I think it speaks to all writers to celebrate the successes of those who are starting out in the business. I think a smart suit (maybe even a pantsuit?) would be awesome and just as wonderful in its own way as a sparkly dress and the glitz of the evening awards.

    I don’t think the GH will lose value with industry, and, in fact, this might put a bigger spotlight on the nominees and allow them opportunities to speak to industry who may be interested in their manuscripts as opposed to the mad dash to pack after the Saturday night awards.

    I think we have to give it a chance to work. My biggest drawback is the Saturday signing. I’m not real thrilled with that being the last event, but maybe it will bring in more money. We’ll see.

    Thanks for the discussion. I’m going back to read what others thought πŸ™‚

  11. I appreciate the Rubies broaching this topic and opening your forum for opinion/idea/thought sharing on the conference changes.

    As a four-time GH finalist, I truly understand how important this contest can be for our unpublished members. And what a difference being a finalist can make in someone’s life– both professionally and personally.

    My hope is that by having a separate GH Awards ceremony with the focus solely on those finalists, it’ll highlight this group of unpublished authors who are striving to push their writing career to the next level– publication. Whether it’s indie pub or traditionally.

    I’m a girly-girl, so I get the excitement of dressing up. And sure, as a finalist who never had the pleasure of winning, I’d love that moment on the stage.

    More importantly, I have to remind myself that my goal has been to publish, to get my books out to readers who hopefully love my characters as much as I do.

    Shelley’s comment about a networking luncheon, putting the focus back on the business of writing, is spot on.

    As for the signing moving to Saturday, many have already hit on what I see as a positive– the potential to bring more readers for our members. My debut novel won’t be out until next October, so I’ll have to wait until 2018 to participate. But, I see this as a new addition to what I already get out of the conference.

    I’ll still have great workshops to learn from, opportunities to catch up with old friends and make some new ones, time to cheer on the members whose work is being lauded in the GH and RITA ceremonies, make those industry network connections that are important AND I’ll have the potential to gain a few new readers who find it easier to get to a Saturday event.

    Maybe that’s a little too rose-colored glasses of me. Still, I’m excited to see how things come together in Orlando.

    I’m looking forward to seeing everyone who’s able to make it! πŸ˜€

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I hadn’t really thought about the networking value of a luncheon. Will the organizers be sure to seat GH finalists at tables with editors and agents???? (After all, at the RITA ceremony, those folks are likely to be with their big name authors.)

      Having some luncheon time before the awards begin so that networking could take place could definitely be a benefit.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Priscilla, and for serving on the Board!!!

      • Elizabeth Langston says:

        Maybe they can still hold the GH reception afterwards, and invite editors and agents to attend.

        There is a task force (I think) for coming up with a GH preparation program, sponsored by RWA, to “train” GH finalists before Nationals to get the most out of the week. Perhaps they could include more networking information in that program.

      • Elisa, I don’t know that there’ll be a “seating chart” for the luncheon, but I can definitely pass along your idea to the awards ceremony planning committee if you’re okay with that. Shoot me an email or FB message if you don’t mind me sharing your suggestion.

        As for the GH Task Force subcommittee working on ideas to help prepare new GH finalists…Yes, that’s being put together as we speak. πŸ™‚ Our goal will be to provide a resource or two that could be of help to our finalists.

        Thanks again to the Rubies for starting this discussion and to all who have shared their thoughts/ideas!

  12. jbrayweber says:

    I am excited by the new changes. I love the idea of the tracks on Wednesday and the signing on Saturday. And I’m kinda liking the idea of Thursday being the glitzy night for the Ritas. I find that I am too exhausted to fully enjoy the evening when I have to pack after the ceremony and get up early the next morning to catch a flight home.

    As for the GH, well, I’m torn. At first, I was bummed. I see the GH and Ritas as the Emmys and Oscars of romance writing. Though the Emmys are television, it is no less spectacular than the silver-screen Oscars. I can understand the disappointment by many to see the GH “demoted”. And then feeling anticlimactic for the rest of the week. But that can be simply a manner of perception.

    Separating the Ritas really does set it apart, making it more valuable beyond RWA. Being a GH finalist will still be a magnificent honor. Authors can still say they are Golden Hearted Nominated. Making the GH more business related makes sense. And those who win the GH will still be recognized at the Ritas. Though I am not sure of the specifics, it is my understanding they would be presented on stage, fancy gowns and all.

    I appreciate the hard work and many hours RWA board members had put into this, especially knowing the polarized reaction they were sure to be met with. I’m all for giving these changes a try.


  13. When they held the awards on the last night, finalists were ALL possibly WINNERS all week. It’s kind of like Schrodinger’s Cat being both dead and alive until the box is opened. It may be better for the actual winner to have the announcement made early in the week, but it will definitely diminish the attention the rest of the finalists will get.

    I liked the anticipation factor of our old schedule.

    The thing I LIKE about the new schedule is I’ll be able to schedule an early evening flight home on Saturday night and not have to stay another night at the hotel (A BIG SAVINGS)! Or, at the very least, I can stay someplace more affordable that night than the conference hotel. Previously, getting dressed up on the last night and partying until midnight made that impossible.

  14. I will be curious to see how it plays out this year. I love the idea of two separate ceremonies, but I hope the Golden Heart finalists still get that Cinderella feeling with a luncheon.

    As someone who finds signings exhausting and loves an excuse to get dolled up, I personally preferred having the signing first and the ceremonies last, but I understand the reasoning behind the change. It’s going to be an interesting year. Always fun to shake things up a bit.

    And, as always, huge kudos to the Board Members who work so hard to try to make RWA better.


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