Monday, March 26th did not begin like any other day.
Oh sure, there was the usual mad dash to get the kids ready for school and loaded onto the bus. There were dogs to feed, teeth to be brushed, and copious amounts of coffee to be consumed. That was all the same. But behind all the mindless actions of my average suburban morning, was an awareness in the back of my mind, like virus scanning software. You know it’s running behind the scenes but you don’t really pay attention.
You see, I knew that very soon RWA® Board members would begin calling the Golden Heart finalists. For those of you not familiar with the RWA and the Golden Heart (and if you are not, how on earth did you find your way to my blog?) it is the international Romance Writers of America contest for unpublished writers. The RITA is for published writers. Being a finalist in either of these prestigious contests is a boon for anyone with an eye toward publication. Each year, the GH receives roughly 1,200 entries across ten genres. The top eight from each genre become finalists. I was fortunate last year to final in the Novel with Romantic Elements category and I cannot underestimate how advantageous that has been to my career.
This year I entered the Historical category with HIGHLAND PROMISE, a story I’ve carried around in my heart and my head for more years than I care to admit and I was ten times more nervous to hear the results. Perhaps because I felt I had more to prove. Or perhaps it’s that I love these characters so much I felt I owed them more. Either way, I faced that morning with cautious optimism. And a fifth of vodka in case I didn’t get
the call I wanted.
Around 9:30am, I hunkered down in front of my computer to instant chat with my critique partners. I kept my coffee close, my cell phone closer. I knew I needed to occupy the next half an hour because the calls typically don’t start until about 10:00am. So when my phone
rang at 9:38am, I thought….what the…???
It was a Texas call. I don’t know anyone from Texas except Rick Perry and I can guarantee that he and I have nothing to talk about. I sounded quite suspicious as I said, “Hello?” The voice on the other end was lovely and gracious and bless her heart, she told me I was a finalist. But I had not even had time to stew and fret and bemoan yet! She called too early! (Not that I’m complaining, mind you!) I babbled for a while and then asked for her name. She’d said it at the start of the conversation but I couldn’t hear it over the sound of my chest imploding.
“Julia London,” she said.
I paused just long enough for my brain to reboot.
“Julia London as in JULIA LONDON?”
Then began my fan-girl gushing. I can only hope she was flattered, although I suspect she may now have a restraining order out on me. I don’t recall what I said exactly. I only know I was ineloquent. First draft dialogue kind of babble. Lots of emotion, not much grace. But it was 9:38am and I really thought I’d have another twenty minutes to ponder what I MIGHT say should that call come in. I’m going to pretend I’d have been more professional, less squeaky if given that extra time. (Probably not.) But either way, that call began my day. And it began a roller coaster ride which I know from past experience will last for several months.
All totaled, sixty-five writers can now call themselves Golden Heart finalists. We will share this ride together, and regardless of who leaves the National conference this summer with the gold necklace, we are all very, very lucky.