What A Difference A Day Makes…

March 25th started out just like any other Friday morning. Oatmeal with my kids, and a quick review of spelling words for their weekly tests. Me, getting slimed by the dog as I refilled her water bowl. Dirty laundry on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, dirty martini in my hand. No, wait… make that: a biggie size cup of industrial strength coffee. No martinis for mommy until the kids are on the bus.

But once my little darlings were transported off to elementary school, the day took a whole new meaning. It was announcement day, you see. The day Romance Writers of America® reveals the names of all the RITA and Golden Heart contest finalists. This is an annual contest with up to 1,200 entries spread across several categories, some for published writers, and some for unpublished writers. Entire blogs are devoted to this announcement process. First, finalists are notified by phone, then their name is posted on various websites in real time. It’s like watching lottery numbers being drawn, and many of us sat at our computers that morning, waiting, watching, instant messaging each other, and constantly refreshing our screens.

I had entered the Golden Heart contest back in November with the naiveté of someone who can’t do math, therefore I had no idea the stats I was up against. I just knew I had a finished manuscript which had received decent scores in a few, much smaller contests. I figured, what the heck? I submitted my entry and pushed the announcement date from my mind. But as it grew closer, the anticipation rose, like a bubble coming to the surface. And so I faced that Friday morning with a sense of existentialist dread, certain I would not make the cut but determined to be a big girl about it.

The first names popped up around 9:30am. Names I didn’t recognize, in genres I didn’t write. But still, seeing them made this suddenly feel very real. At Rubyslipperedsisterhood.com, names were added, and comments were flying. All good, all excited, and all very supportive. On Facebook, I was messaging with my writing partners while also drafting an email to yet another writer friend. I felt like an air traffic controller trying to keep my eyes on multiple screens.

Then my cell phone rang. Area code 301. I didn’t recognize the number or even know where that area code was from. (Turns out it’s Maryland.) I stared at the number, letting the phone ring a second time as I thought to myself… Could this possibly be what I want this to be? If it’s a telemarketer, my brain will explode. So, I took a deep breath and answered, trying to sound like I was doing something terribly important and not glued to my computer screen watching other people’s names being added to the list.

A warm friendly voice introduced herself, and I so wish I could remember who she said she was because I would like to send her a Christmas card every year from now until the day I die. She congratulated me and told me I was a Golden Heart finalist for my story, Totally Dody. My eyes watered and my heart thu-whumped. I wanted to laugh and scream and generally make a fool of myself. But for fear of completely losing it, I went the zombie route. In a calm, cool and collected manner, I said, “I’m so excited.” And I’m sure I would’ve sounded very professional – except that I repeated that phrase about fifty times. Maybe sixty.

Last year, at the RITA/Golden Heart awards banquet in Orlando, Florida, I sat at a table in the far back corner of the room, with 2,300 people between me and the stage. Still, this table was next to the bar, so I considered it a damn fine place to sit. And I was having a fabulous night with my Mid-Michigan chapter friends, and a few new friends, too. But as we watched the awards being doled out, as the winners gave their heartfelt speeches, I thought to myself, “I am literally and figuratively as far away from that podium as I could possibly be. I want to be one of those women up there in the front and I so never will be.” But I was wrong. One year later I am a member of that glorious community. I am a Golden Heart Finalist. Only a few nominees will walk away that night with the title, but each of us is already a winner.


12 thoughts on “What A Difference A Day Makes…”

  1. Tracy, this post gave me shivers throughout the whole thing! I’m so excited for you, and I’m still hoping I’ll be there to cheer you on in person. Congrats again. I’m glad your dreams are coming true. 🙂

  2. Tracy Brogan says:

    Thanks, Donna! I can picture that moment of starring at the phone as it rang, and not daring to answer for fear it WASN’T the RWA. So glad it was. And sure hope you make it to NYC!

  3. Congrats, fellow 2011 finalist! It’s good to meet you. In 2010, my phone rang with an unfamiliar number on call day and it was a guy from GoDaddy. (On the Rubies’ advice, I’d purchased my domain name earlier in the week.)

  4. Loved your post, Tracy, fellow GH finalist! And your title. I swear I’ve said that a hundred times since Friday. And ain’t it the truth! Your reaction was very close to mine. *FREEZE* OMG, can it BE? After sitting through silence last year, I’m so very glad it was. 🙂

  5. Loren Price says:

    I couldn’t be happier or more excited for you, Tracy!!! I’ll be there this year (probably sitting at the back corner table by the bar again) cheering for you with the rest of us MMRWA people until I’m hoarse.

  6. Great post, fellow GH NSRE finalist! I could feel the emotion in it, and share in it 🙂 NYC is going to be a blast!

  7. Kimberly Kincaid says:

    Heyyyy, I remember that table by the bar– it was fun!

    Love this post! It can’t get any closer to the truth, and I’m so, so glad that we’ll be at the same table again this year. Do you think they’ll let us sit by the bar again, though? I mean, for old times’ sake and everything? 😉

  8. Wonderful blog. Congratulations, Tracy. I’ll see you at the awards ceremony in NYC 🙂 Good luck 🙂

  9. Erin Kelly says:

    Love this post!! I just posted my own GH call story on my blog this morning, and I love that we both had angry thoughts about telemarketers, lol. Congratulations on being a finalist – I’m so excited about getting to know you and the other finalists better over the next couple of weeks!

  10. We are SO having dinner at Arno’s… which you should buy. You know, after you win.

    Love you Trac and so excited for you!

  11. Patty Hoffman says:

    Girl you are so right–you are already a winnah! And a table by the bar IS fun, but a table up front is even better! And a short walk up the steps is the best!

  12. Janie Mason says:

    Thanks for saying hi to another newbie at Hearts Through History. I enjoyed reading about your exciting day. Maybe someday I’ll have one.
    Best of Luck!

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