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Monday, November 17, 2008

Grateful for the Golden Heart

Personal Weather Report - Calm. Pressure Dropping.

Writing Activity - Working on new story. Currently at 7,200 words.

November 17, 2008 will be a day remembered by many not-yet-published romance writers. This was the deadline for the Romance Writers of America® 2009 Golden Heart® contest. With a trembling finger, many talented women in the U.S. and beyond have pressed "send" in recent weeks, zapping their entries through Cyberspace.

For many a romance writer, the Golden Heart is the contest upon which she pins her hopes and dreams. Why? Because it's the most prestigious. A final in the Golden Heart, the crowning jewel in the contest tiara, sets the finalist apart. With over 1,200 entries, the competition is intense. A finalist spot garners attention and gives each finalist a noteworthy accomplishment to include in query letters, signature blocks and on business cards.

In the fall of 2007, I entered the Golden Heart for the second time, never expecting to final. I'd entered one manuscript the year before. I allowed some talented writer a spot in the top half of the finalists, my score having placed me in the bottom. Last year I had four completed manuscripts, and I decided to enter them all. My goal? To see if one of them could earn a score that would place it in the top half.

When the phone on March 25th of this year and RWA board member Terri Reed told me two of my four entries were finalists, I had a hard time believing her. For several weeks after the call, the soles of my shoes saw no wear.

A final in the Golden Heart really can make a difference. I'm the self-appointed keeper of statistics for the 2008 Golden Heart finalists, keeping track of who has sold how many book to whom. The numbers are amazing. Of the 64 finalists, 16 have already sold. A whopping twenty-five percent! So, yes. It's true. The Golden Heart can be a "golden ticket" for some.

I'm not one of the 2008 finalists who has sold. (You'll hear me shouting when that day comes, let me assure you.) My two finaling manuscripts need major revision before they'll be ready for an agent or editor's eyes. How they even finaled is beyond me. But they did, and I'm grateful. Very grateful.

Why am I so happy with my finalist status? Isn't the ultimate goal publication? Yes. But I've gained so much as a result of being a Golden Heart finalist that my heart is full of gratitude. Here are just some of the gifts I've been given:

•I'm one of the 2008 Golden Heart finalists, the Pixie Chicks as we call ourselves, a group of some of the most talented, fun, generous, knowlegeable women I know. I'm blessed to know each and every one of them.

•I attended my first RWA® national conference, held in San Francisco this past summer, where the other finalists and I were treated like royalty.

•Before I finaled, I wrote in isolation. I prayed for writer friends. I now have more than I ever imagined possible. I've met them on the Internet, at RWA Nationals, through my local RWA chapter, and on my blog, others' blogs, Yahoo! loops, Facebook and Twitter. Finaling in the Golden Heart brought me out of my cave and into the company of many awesome folks.

•As a result of the connections I've made, I have three awesome critique partners: Anne Barton, CJ Redwine and Melanie Dickerson. I appreciate them and their helpful feedback so much. With their wise counsel, my writing will improve.

•Finaling in the Golden Heart gave me the confidence I needed to expand my computer skills. Before I finaled, I knew how to check my email. I'd visited one blog to see the tummy shot of a friend who was expecting. She had all of three posts, and yet I was very impressed. I had no idea how she'd set up her blog. It looked mighty complicated to me. I now have two blogs, this one, where I post personal reflections, and my professional one, Romance Writers on the Journey. In addition, I have a Web site I set up and manage on my own: www.keligwyn.com.

These are but five of many reasons I'm grateful for the Golden Heart and why I would encourage any unpublished romance writer to enter the contest.

Have you entered the Golden Heart? If so, what did you gain from the experience? Would you encourage others to enter? Why or why not?


10 comments:

Susan Gee Heino said...

I love your blogs, Keli. And I'm so completely impressed that you've just learned all this stuff in the course of a few months! Unbelievable. You're a total pro.

I concure with all you've said about what you've gained from the Golden Heart. It's been the same for me. When I made the decision to enter last year, I gained some needed discipline just in order to meed the entry deadline. Then when I finaled I gained all these great friends and some much needed confidence. It didn't hurt any to contact agents and editors and let them know that ms they'd been sitting on for months was suddenly a finalist!
Really, there were so many benefits just from finaling that I can honestly say the only additional thing I've gotten as an actual Golden Heart winner is the personal satisfaction of knowing I've met at least one of my life's "unattainable" goals. Oh, and I got a cool necklace.
But I'm especially thankful for meeting you, Keli. I have no doubt your own sale will be coming along soon. I'm so glad to hear your latest work is sailing along well for you! That's priceless.
Now, I don't think you mentioned in your blog. Did you or did you not enter the Golden Heart again this year? (Your answer will undoubtedly strike fear or come as releif to many!)
Susan Gee Heino

Keli Gwyn said...

Susan,

Thanks for all the lovely things you had to say about me and my blogs. I'm blushing.

To answer your question, no, I didn't enter anything in the Golden Heart this year. I haven't revised my earlier manuscripts and the new one is still in its infancy. Besides, the glow of 2008 hasn't faded for me yet. :-)

I had the privilege of judging several entries in a recent contest and know there are some awesome stories out there just waiting to be discovered. I hope the writers of them have entered the GH, because they are definite finalist material imho. I feel for the final judges who will have to choose between them. Won't be an easy task.

My time will come when God plans it, and I'll whoop, holler and scare my two fluffball felines to bits. Right now I'm content and am enjoying the journey and my new story.

Anne Barton said...

Keli, you make a great case for entering the GH. It's a gamble, but I think it's worth it.

I was soooo green when I finaled last year. But after I met you and all the other pixies, I felt like I was tapping into a brain trust of talent and industry knowledge. I'm still green, but tinged with yellow now. :)

And I agree with Susan--the GH gave me a much needed push to finish my manuscripts by November each year. Good motivation. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Anne,

The Pixies are indeed a "brain trust of talent and industry knowledge." What a great description. I marvel at all I've learned from my Pixie pals so far.

You say you were green when you finaled, but you certainly didn't strike me that way. I remember some savvy advice you gave me on my one sheet, a great article you wrote for The Seekers' blog and a Maggie win. I'd say you're sunny yellow.

Kris Kennedy said...

Hey Keli!
I had no idea you were feeling so isolated prior to the GH final! I just assumed you were as active and involved as you are now, esp. with your Writers/Journey blog.

Well, way to go on making so much happen in less than a year! Opportunity is all what one makes of it, isn't it? And you sure have made a lot of the GH opportunity!

I feel blessed to have got to know you, too, Keli, and all the other Pixie Chickies. :-)

When it's time, you'll write again, and then you'll sell. For sure.
:-)
Kris

C.J. Redwine said...

I agree completely with everything you said. :) I encourage everyone with a contest-ready manuscript to enter because the momentum, relationships, networking, and industry buzz you gain from the GH finalist status is priceless.

Especially the friendships!

Keli Gwyn said...

Kris,

Clueless. That was me back in March. I'd been limping along on impulse. I got the call from RWA, and life took off at warp speed.

I nearly got whiplash in the months between the call and Nationals. But with the love, support and guidance of my Pixie pals and other writing buddies, I not only survived, but I thrived. I'm zipping through Cyberspace now, feeling more confident than I ever dreamed of--and it's fun.

I've started a new book, and it's going well. I love the characters and their story.

Life is good.

Keli Gwyn said...

CJ,

The friendships are by far the best benefit I got out of my Golden Heart experience. And you're one of the gems in my friendship tiara.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Keli,

You are sure a shining light in Pixie land and we are so glad to have you in the group.

I was like you - a solitary writer having no idea if anything I wrote was any good. So finaling was like a miracle for me.

And today I have my entry for this year's GH on my backseat. Will stop at the post office on my way home from work and mail my baby out! The only one who has seen it is my critique partner, a lady from my Toronto group who lives in my town. She thought it was pretty good, so I'll be on pins and needles until March!!

Thanks to you and all the Pixies, I feel so much better about my love of writing.

Love & friendship, Sue

PS. Great critique partners!! You'll be a winner next year (2010) I'm sure.

Keli Gwyn said...

Sue,

So glad you're one of the Pixies--and my category pal.

All the best to you on your GH entry. I think you're going to do well and have a great chance of receiving a call from RWA in March telling you that you finaled again.

And, yes, I'm blessed with three AWESOME critique partners. They're great writers, and I love reading their work.