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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Downunder Finalists – Was it Worth it? By Trish Morey

Downunder began a love affair with the Golden Heart Contest way back in 1993. Joan Kilby wasn’t exactly a Downunderer way back then but we’re more than happy to adopt her. It wasn’t until 1998 that we saw our first home grown golden girls with both Fiona Brand and Cathy Sneyd finaling. It was my own turn to party five years later when 2003 rolled around.

Maybe a sluggish start, but since then we’ve had another eight finalists hail from Australia and New Zealand – Tessa Radley in 2004, Sandra Hyde and Karina Bliss in 2005, Abby Gaines, Christine Wells and Anna Campbell (our first double finalist) in 2006 and Bronwyn Clarke along with another double finalist, Mel Scott in 2007. Not only finalists, but Downunder has scored three Golden Heart wins in three successive years, with wins to Karina Bliss, Christine Wells and Bronwyn Clarke.

With success like this, it’s easy to see why the Golden Heart is now firmly in the sights of many budding romance writers Downunder. But what were the hardships and difficulties of entering the contest from the other side of the world? Finaling is obviously nice, but was it worth the effort?

There’s no doubt the Golden Heart is tougher to enter when you’re off-shore, simply due to the tyranny of distance. A package of Golden Heart manuscripts weighs enough to make your postmaster’s eyes light up with dollar signs and your hip pocket nerve start to bleed. Some of our golden girls have paid in the region of $70 to ensure their precious package arrives and arrives on time. This is on top of the entry fee, so entering this contest starts to get pricey. (Aside: Final, and you’re looking at airfares of anywhere from $2500 to $4000 and that’s just to get to Nationals and it starts to become a very expensive exercise indeed.)

Tessa Radley had a great suggestion for postage. She advises, ‘The cheapest way to enter from down under is to pool together with a group of other writers and buy a box from Fedex. Then pack as many manuscripts as you can in, and split the cost. That way you’re also able to track your entries and be certain they arrive by due date.”

Working out when you have to get your entry away is another big hurdle. Postal time (you really have to allow two weeks if you don’t choose to go the courier route) really cuts into polishing time, so your manuscript has to be ready to go extra early.

Because of this our golden girls were unanimous – the Golden Heart is not for beginners. The costs are high and feedback is negligible, so you want to make sure you send off your very best work.

But even if you send off your very best efforts, what about cultural differences? The Golden Heart contest is, after all, an American contest. Does our Aussie/Kiwi vernacular translate? Here’s what Fiona Brand had to say. “I think the cultural differences can be a small barrier, particularly with humour and subtlety, but they can also be a plus--Down under manuscripts will always stand out.”

So to summarize, it’s going to cost you a decent amount to enter, you’re going to have to keep an eye on that time line and your best bet is to send off your very best work (good advice for everyone!) and with a dollop of luck on the day, your manuscript might stand out as fresh and innovative and a worthy finalist. But was it worth it for our finalists? Listen to the evidence.

Joan Kilby says, ‘I didn't sell my GH book but having finaled definitely got editors' attention for subsequent submissions. Paula Eykelhof was one of the judges and she remembered me when I later submitted to SuperRomance.’ Joan now has more than a dozen SuperRomance and Everlasting titles to her name, as well as a RITA nomination for her very first book to her credit.

Fiona Brand sold her Golden Heart story to Silhouette Intimate Moments and now writes for MIRA and Desire. Fiona said, “I think finaling made it look like I could go places in publishing, which is useful!’ A subsequent RITA nomination for Fiona backs that up in spades.

Cathy Sneyd eventually sold her finalist story but only after she’d sold historicals to Kensington under the name Kate Silver. Now Cathy writes super sexy Victorian historicals as Leda Swan for Avon Red, and is “loving every minute of it”. As to whether finaling in the GH helped her career, Cathy says, “I don’t think that finaling in the Golden Heart made much difference to me at all. But it did give my confidence a boost when I needed it, when I was thinking about giving up because I was finding the whole business too frustrating.”

Tessa Radley sold to Silhouette Desire in 2004, her GH finalist become her second sale, after what Tessa admits was “a LOT of re-writing!” In her words “Of all the contests I finaled in, the GH is definitely the one that resulted in the most editor and agent interest. From my perspective, the number of friends I made among the finalists in my year made the entire experience a really positive one.

Karina Bliss from New Zealand took out our first ever Downunder Golden Heart win in Reno, 2005, to much screaming applause from the Downunder contingent. Karina says, “I never sold the winning ms. BUT, I did have another ms with Superromance (my first sale) and after the ceremony my eventual editor, Victoria Curran, came up and introduced herself to me, so I'm sure winning helped to tip the scales.”

2006 finalist, Abby Gaines, is now writing for both Hqn SuperRomance and Nascar while Double GH finalist, Anna Campbell, is happily penning tales (and RT top picks!) for Avon. “The double final,” Anna said, ‘got my agent to submit my manuscript. It arrived on editors' desks with that great credential behind it. Within three weeks of finaling, I'd sold at auction to Avon.” In fellow finalist, Abby’s words, “I don’t think the GH final was what made the sale, because the editor had already told me they were very interested in two of my mss. But I think it gave them a nudge to pick up the phone and make The Call!’ Abby’s finalist story in fact became her second sale.

2006 Golden Heart winner, Christine Wells, had this to say. “Scandal’s Daughter finaled in the short historical category. I sold it to Berkley after I finaled but before I won.” I asked Christine whether she thought the GH had an impact on her selling, “I don’t think it hurt! When my agent sent out submissions to editors, she put in the email subject line that I was a Golden Heart finalist so I think it does mean something!”

And here’s how Bronwyn Clarke, our 2007 winner, sees the win as impacting on her career – “The publicity following the GH final and win generated several queries to me from leading agents and major publishers, and these resulted in an agent offering representation and a publisher offering a two book contract for the winning book and its sequel.”

There you have it. So far, out of twelve Golden Heart finalists, ten have sold and we know it’s just a matter of time for the remaining two. As one of those, Mel Scott concluded, ‘It doesn't guarantee a sale though if you have a manuscript you consider submission ready then it's definitely worth a shot.’

Do you have a manuscript ready to go? Are you going to give it a shot?

Trish Morey sold to Harlequin Presents within three months of becoming a Golden Heart finalist in 2003 and is currently working on her thirteenth title for the line, but without doubt, one of the best things about finaling in 2003 was getting to know and make friends with her fellow finalists, the wet noodle posse.


At 9:57 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

One thing I love about romance writing is that it is a world-wide community! So we want our Aussie folks to do well in the GH.

Trish, Another cost-saving device is to get an American friend to print out and mail the entry for you. Then send her some Tim Tams or promise her a drink at National!

I have done this for friends in the chapter contests and my friends have always reached the finals!

At 10:22 AM, Blogger doglady said...

I loved reading this Trish! Stories like this just keep me going. I never even thought about the cost of mailing something that heavy from Oz! Wow! I see Diane is working all the angles with her Tim Tam proposal. Hey, I am right there with you, Diane. Tim Tams. MMMM. I think the most vital thing I am taking away from your post, Trish, is that you want to make sure you are submitting your very best work. That is good advice for writers on either side of the Pond! And as many of my favorite authors are Aussies, I don't think anything is lost in translation.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

A very inspiring post, Trish. I will keep my fingers crossed for the two Aussies left. Two questions:

1. What the heck is a Tim Tam?
2. When it's 6 a.m. here in California, what time is it where you're at?

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

These are all such great examples of how the GH can help. Sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big ways, but it usually makes a difference somehow.

Ooh, what a super-smart idea to save on postage, Diane!

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Oooohhh, Diane--

Sounds like you have a magic printer!:) And, of course, some seriously talented friends!

At 1:34 PM, Blogger CM said...

Great story, Trish. I've read several of these authors--in some cases, without knowing I was reading the work from someone down under.

I also love Diane's suggestion--it shows how much smaller the world is becoming. And since I've read (and loved) these books (and their authors *cough*Anna Campbell*cough*), I welcome this change wholeheartedly!

At 1:35 PM, Blogger CM said...

Oh, and I don't mean to imply I don't love anyone other than Anna Campbell--it's just that I've talked with her personally, and she's a wonderful, kind, generous soul. It's impossible not to love her!

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Trish, do the twelve of you meet every month? Did you all help each other critique, etc., or did you offer support via e-mail? How did you all get together?

At 2:07 PM, Blogger doglady said...

I concur with CM on Anna C! Of course all of the ladies doing this blog have shown their generous spirits and genuine care for aspiring writers in taking the time to help us all. Anna C IS one of the sweetest, funniest and most encouraging people I have ever encountered. Hey, and I haven't read a bad romance novel coming out of Australia yet!

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Hey everyone! It's just 7am here and I'm battling with lunch boxes. Theresa very kindly posted my blog in the wee hours here so that it wouldn't be late - thanks Theresa!

I'll be back to catch up on the posts shortly.

At 3:48 PM, Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Trish, great post! And CM, cough away! ;-) Goodness, and I just hit the next post - THANK YOU! You're after some Tim Tams, aren't you? Very mysterious Aussie voodoo magic! Oh, no, and now I'll have to send some to Pam too! You girls put me to the blush as they say in the best Regencies! Diane, what a lovely offer to print out stuff and send it. I swear I spent the GDP of Mexico entering US comps from here and that was back when e-entries weren't really that widely accepted. I'd definitely repeat Trish's advice to put your best foot forward. It's too expensive otherwise from the other side of the world! Oh, and the other thing I'd say, along with lovely Tessa, is that the friends you make in the GH are the 'golden' part of the prize!

At 4:04 PM, Blogger Robyn E said...

Great post!
I agree that GH entry is expensive with little feedback for beginners Downunder - but I've still be entering it since my first manuscript. I found that an entry deadline that was going to cost me so much really made me put my backside into gear and FINISH the darn book. lol.

At 4:04 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Would you look at that! Turn your back for 5 minutes and a bandit sneaks in:-))

Welcome Anna! Great to see you here.

Diane, I think you're fabulous! How come I didn't know you back in 2002? What a great thing to do, printing out friends' entries. That is such a huge undertaking (espespecially fraught with difficulties when Mercury's in retrograde - which I swear it is every time I have to print out something important -lol)

You're a great friend to have.

Actually, that's one thing that came out of all the Downunderers comments - the friends they made with their fellow finalists. Like Anna says so eloquently, "the friends you make in the GH are the 'golden' part of the prize!"

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

doglady, lovely to see you here! And yes, isn't it motivational to see what a bunch of finalists have done?

And you're absolutely right - you have to submit your very best work, wherever you hail from. There's no point otherwise because there's no feedback, which is the beauty of other contests. So you want to make sure your GH entry (or at least that first three chapters - lol) shines!

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Theresa, you don't know what a Tim Tam is?? You've been hanging around with the wrong people at Nationals - lol.

A Tim Tam is the most gorgeous cookie, I guess you'd call it, two layers of chocolate cookie with chocolate between and all around. Totally delish. If you do a google search on images I'm sure you'll get the idea. In fact, they sell them in the UK apparently, with the advertising blurb - "Satisfies a woman 11 times in one night". Now there's a claim to fame!

As to what time it is here when it's 6am there? Good question. Where's there?:-)) It's 7:45 now, we've just gone daylight saving so we're on summer time. What time is it there? Oh, and it's Wednesday here, and so far, it's looking good!

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

cm and doglady, I gotta agree with you. Anna is the most gorgeous, bubbly friend, you can't help but smile when you're with her. And talk about a smashing author! She's so good she could almost be a noodler - lol!

Esri, good to see you here. Isn't it interesting to hear how the GH benefits writers? Even in small ways, like RobynE (hi Robyn!) mentioned, in providing that motivation by way of a deadline. Have to say, that's what happened with my entry. The full was requested in August a week after I'd sent the partial and I promised the editor I'd have the ms to her by late November (nothing like a bit of motivation - right?) which was perfect timing to enter the GH along with a couple of Downunder contests. The rest is history.

And you know, it's so important to use contest deadlines when you're unpublished, because it is GREAT practice for when you get published and your life suddenly becomes ruled by deadlines. So make the most of them.

Oh, and Robyn, if you're entering the GH this year, all the very best for your entry!! May this be your year!

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

LOL, Trish. I guess I didn't give you all the info needed! ha! It is 2:30 p.m. here in California and it is Tuesday...garbage day. :)

Those Tim Tams sounds delicious. It appears I don't get out often enough!

At 4:33 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Theresa, you asked if we twelve finalists ever get together - it's a bit tricky seeing five are in New Zealand and the rest scattered from Queensland in the north west to Melbourne to Adelaide, so conference time in July is when we catch up. Romance writers downunder are almost like family - and being a GH finalist here is one of those cool little bonds that brings you closer - does that make sense?

Hey, must dash. I have creative writing at my kids' primary school first thing! I'll be back a wee bit later:-))

At 4:35 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Ha Theresa! We'll set you right in San Francisco. There'll be so many Downunders there, you won't be able to miss them:-))

2:30pm Tuesday? Ah, I remember it well:-)) Have a great garbage day!

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Conference time in August I meant! July is Nationals. Always happens when you're in a hurry. Must skedaddle.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Hey, you, Trish M! A Bandita can take on a Noodler any day, with one hand tied behind her back! ;-) A Bandita's grandma can take on a Noodler and win! Thanks for the lovely comment - right back at ya!

And Robyn, definitely good luck for this year. You're so right that if the GH gets you to finish a manuscript, it's a GOOD thing!

At 5:06 PM, Blogger Bronwyn Jameson said...

Great post, Trish, full of excellent advice. Love how the GH finalists form such strong bonds of friendship, like the noodlers and the bandits. Pure gold.

At 6:24 PM, Anonymous Karina said...

Hey, Trish, excellent article. I hadn't realized there was so many of us and it's heartening to see so many published. And Mel Scott and Sandra Hyde are well overdue.
Here's to twelve out of twelve in 2007.

At 6:24 PM, Anonymous gaill said...

This has been a great post, and it really brings home the fact that globally we are all alike in our writing desires. It never occurred to me the financial impact of entering contests from the other side of the world. I cannot imagine that coupled with the emotional impact. You ladies Downunder ROCK!

At 7:49 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Anna, them sounds like fighting words! And to think I was going to nominate you as an hononary noodler - lol. Oh, and I look forward to meeting your gran:-))

Bron, lovely of you to drop by. Isn't it fantastic how romance writing forges such fabulous friendships and all over the world? Honestly, if they just handed over the united nations to us, the world would be a better place (just watch out for those banditos:-))

Karina - our first Downunder Golden Heart winner! Fabulous to see you here. And isn't it amazing how many of us finalists there are now! Let's hope some clever people are going to add to our exclusive little club in 2008.

Gaill, thanks for dropping by and I'm so glad you got something out of the post. Of course, it's not just foreigners who have to pay the big bucks to enter. Our own Jennifer L Smith entered all the way from Korea! An entry from there would definitely be the exception, I'd wager.

But the thing is, it proves that it doesn't matter where you are in the world, a place in the Golden Heart finalist lists is there for the taking. You just have to work for it.

At 1:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful advice. From a very wise, clever writer. Thank you

At 5:18 AM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Eric, thanks for dropping by. Even more for your lovely comments. Do you think you'll enter the GH this year?

At 7:24 AM, Blogger Christine Wells said...

Hi Trish! I know I'm very late. Just got back from the good ol' Aussie beach tonight, but I wanted to say, that's great advice you've pulled together for the GH entrants. I wish everyone the best of luck and hope we get some more Aussie wins next year!

At 12:36 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Copying and mailing aren't that bad, and I do have a good printer.
Besides, I'll do anything for Tim Tams. Being satisfied 11 times in one night is okay with me (grin)


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