So there's nothing quite like stepping out of the shower and discovering you have a voice mail from one of your favorite authors, and an email to boot. Last Friday, I was fortunate to receive the news that I was a 2016 Golden Heart® Nominee from none other than Tessa Dare. Unlike last year when I didn't realize it was "The Call" day and thought it was simply Walgreens calling, I didn't scream in her ear. You are welcome Tessa!
New York now has a piece of my heart. What a memory, my very first RWA Nationals and a Golden Heart Finalist on top of it. My first day walking into the hotel, I happened to ride up the escalators with none other than the gracious and lovely Eloisa James who promptly invited me to join her for a cup of coffee. What a way to start my first conference!
From that second on, it was a whirlwind of activity that never let up. Attending workshops, trying to absorb all the incredible opportunities, meeting writers I'd admired for many years, and meeting my fellow nominees--it was a blur that went by too fast. On Friday, the Golden Heart and RITA nominees were honored at a reception where I was presented my certificate for making the finals. Thank goodness for the photo, because it all seems like a dream now.
In so many ways, it was almost too much to absorb. It seems cliche to say that being nominated is enough, but it truly is for me. I'm now a part of a group of writers who've become friends in this shared experience, the 2015 Golden Heart "Dragonflies." Our sisterhood of 46 chat daily, and they are a source of support and camaradarie that is priceless. I so wish we had a photo of the entire group together, but I do have this one taken after the awards presentations. What an amazing night it was.
It doesn't require a win to thank people, and I have many people to thank. First on the list is the RWA and all the local chapter members who volunteer their time to sponsor contests, judge and provide writers with amazing feedback. The resources and opportunities the organization provides its members is unsurpassed. My local chapter, Music City Romance Writers tops that list. I have numerous critique partners who've helped me along the way, none more than Charissa Weaks, my plot and structure guru who convinced me I needed to toss my manuscript and start over. I have no doubt I wouldn't have the Golden Heart nomination without her pushing me in the right direction.
And last but not least, my amazing fellow 2014 Pitch Warriors who came to New York for a mini-reunion during RWA. For me, the absolute best part of this trip was spending time with these friends and valued critique partners I'd yet to meet until New York. And best yet, having them with me for the Awards ceremony. Hopefully, this first reunion will be the first of many to come.
My mantra for five years now. Through rejection after rejection, through failures to final in too many contests to count, through self-doubt and endless frustration: Never. Give. Up.
I didn't initially return to writing fiction with an end game of publishing. I returned to writing for the creative joy I found in it. Something changed along the way; I wanted to see my stories in the hands of readers. Of course, I had no clue to the long, hard path of traditional publishing. And that's what I wanted. I knew it meant educating myself, learning the craft, putting my work out there for critique, and being open to listening and learning. I cut my teeth on many RWA® local chapter contests, the feedback from which has helped shape my writing as I honed my craft. And for three years, I entered the mother of all contests for unpublished romance writers: The Golden Heart®.
And each year I'd wait for the phone to ring on the designated date, disappointed when it didn't. After my third try, I decided it was time to hang up my dream of being a Golden Heart® nominee. It wasn't in the cards for me. Then December rolled around. I'd just come out of an extensive rewrite of my first book, the one I refused to give up on. It was tighter and more polished than it had ever been, and the temptation of trying "one last time" was a siren's call. I entered on the last day, primarily because I didn't want to regret not trying one more time. Then I let it go.
A month in advance of the announcements, I booked a job so I'd be on a scaffold with a trowel or paint brush in hand on the date the calls went out to the Golden Heart® finalists. I needed my mind elsewhere, not jumping with every phone call, and ultimately sinking into despair at the end of the day when the call didn't come. This wasn't my first rodeo, and my work schedule was hectic, so not thinking about the outcome was fairly easy. If I thought about it, I pushed it aside. Somehow, I got it in my head the call day was on Friday. I know this might be hard to believe, but I was too covered up with work and other responsibilities to dwell on the excitement leading up to the Rita® and Golden Heart® announcements. I wouldn't make the cut, anyway. Why torture myself?
So when my phone rang early Thursday morning the 26th of March, my heart didn't jump into my throat. It was a call from Omaha, Nebraska, which meant Walgreens' automated refill service was calling. I ignored it since I was heading out the door; but then relented and answered, figuring I'd go ahead and get my refill set up to save time. Or I think I answered, I'm not really sure since I was awaiting the automated voice. Instead, a live woman's voice came over the line. I still didn't catch on. Until she said, "This is Victoria Alexander with the RWA® Board, and I'm calling to tell you THE HOUSE OF D'INNOCENZI is..."
I'm not sure I heard much after that for the ringing in my ears. And bless poor Victoria. I must apologize to her in New York City in July. I'm sure her ears were ringing, too. I think I screamed (at least my husband two rooms away said I did). I KNEW at that point why she was calling. To say I was shocked doesn't cover it--an absolute surprise and truly a gift to have forgotten it was THE day. The call was oh so much sweeter and the best kind of reward for staying the course. My reminder to Never. Give. Up.