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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Monday, July 07, 2008

Confessions of a Golden Heart Finalist

Conference as a Golden Heart finalist is thrilling and busy! Strangers congratulate you when they see your pin and lavender ribbon. They ask your title and category, but I’ve never been asked for a blurb, thank heavens.
When one finals in the Golden Heart, one is invited to join The Golden Network, an online chapter exclusively for Golden Heart finalists. Getting the invitation is almost as exciting as getting the little gold heart. Since it’s an online chapter, they only meet once a year, on Thursday afternoon at conference.
Thursday evening is The Golden Network reception.
The reception serves two purposes. The winners of the contest, the Golden Pen, are announced, and the members who have sold in the past year are recognized in a “Boot Out” ceremony.
The Boot Out Ceremony is unique. Each year a skit is written to reflect the setting of the conference. In New York, the skit was a Saturday Night Live spoof, in Dallas, it was Texas themed, in Reno, it was gambling, and in Atlanta, the theme was, “If Scarlett O’Hara was a Romance Writer.” Sadly, I don’t remember the theme in Dallas this last time. It was hilarious. The members of The Golden Network who signed contracts were “booted” from the ranks of unpublished and awarded a certificate and a little boot pin. I would be booted this year if I was going ☹
On Friday afternoon, there’s a reception for the Golden Heart and Rita finalists, complete with champagne and chocolate. We rub elbows with Eloisa James and Teresa Medeiros (though not all the Rita finalists attend) and we get our certificates. It goes really fast, because there are over 70 Golden Heart finalists and more Rita finalists. But we dress up, meet other finalists, and take lots of pictures.
If you have an appointment with an editor or agent (which you should, since you have first pick), being a Golden Heart finalist is a wonderful ice breaker, and it really gives you confidence.
On Saturday afternoon, we meet to practice. One year we walked up on stage, said our name into the microphone and checked our slide to see our name and title are spelled correctly. In the past, they’ve run through the slides and tease us with a slide that only says, “WINNER.”
Then we get ready for the big night.
Some people go out to dinner. That makes me too nervous, so I send my husband out for food and eat in the room. The finalists need to be in the ballroom early so we can sit up front. The first year I was late and couldn’t sit in the reserved section. The last two times I was able to sit with my friends. Other friends slip into the area to offer support, give hugs and wish luck.
And then the ceremony begins. Nerves are high. I couldn’t read my program, I was shaking so much. I wait for my category. In past years, I had the second category. This time I was last. I listened and applauded for friends as my nerves tautened.
Just before my category was called, a feeling of calm washed over me, and when I didn’t have to go on stage, I was able to relax.
Then, the party! The lines for food were long, the line at the bar was short. I got hugs of consolation, got to hold a Rita, then went to a party where we read our speeches to each other. That was just a wonderful feeling, because really, one of the reasons I wanted to win was to thank publicly the people who have helped along the way.
Four times I’ve finalled. The experience has brought me more confidence, name recognition and wonderful friends who have the same goals I do. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

I just have to add a little plug. I’m a Featured Author at The Romance Studio. Drop by!


At 8:12 AM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

Thanks for giving us insight to the national convention and the exclusive parts/parties we all aspire too :)

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Mary. It helps me to know what will go on. It has all been a blur for me. I am trying really hard to take a deep breath and get myself organized for Nationals. Wait! There's a speech? AAAAAAK!!!! Okay, I'm not really worried about making a speech. Two of the people in my category have sold since the finalists were announced so I look for one of them to win - Go Lavinia and Susan!! I did, however, buy a really slinky, shiny formal for the occasion. Trying to decide if I really "need" the sequined shoes to go with it.

I am MOST nervous about my editor and agent appointments. How do you "sell" your book in ten minutes????

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Louisa, don't you count yourself out! I bet that practice up and down those stairs will come in handy! ;)

MJ, I'm so sorry you won't be there to get "booted". The interview was excellent! Nothing like firefighters and police officers for heroes. Thanks for sharing all the details of the "GH" conference with us.

I hope all your ambitious goals for your writing this year come true! You make me feel motivated. :)

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

I miss all that, Mary! I think I got addicted. It really is so exciting, and makes a person feel so special, I wish everyone could experience it just once.

Louisa, the appointments are important, yes, but they're not the end of the world. I'll get to that on Wednesday. I'll tell you how to handle your presentation in a way that you can feel like a true professional instead of a nervous wreck.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

You did a fabulous job of describing being a GH finalist. I remember the year posse members went to someone's room and read their speeches. It was so much fun!

Buy the shoes! If you're going glam, go all the way!

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

What fun. I love conference. Great job describing the excitement, Mary. Really bummed that you won't be there this year. Dang! I've missed the last two years after seven in a row so I'm ready and pumped up to go to conference this year. I've missed all the excitement.

Delle, can't wait to read what you have to say about the editor/agent appointments...

Louisa, your dress sounds fab!

And Mary, how late were you when they wouldn't let you in the front section? The ceremony starts at 8, they begin seating finalists at 7, but I might not be there until 7:20...will I get into the front?

At 3:05 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Theresa, I think 7:20 should be okay.

Louisa, O Doggie One, definitely wear the sequined shoes. Believe me, this is one crowd that appreciate sequined shoes. And definitely prepare a speech. It can be very simple... and needs to be short! Even though Lavinia (my pal) and Susan sold, you just never know who will win.

My RITA finalist year, 2006, the RITA/GH finalist reception was the highlight of the whole conference for me, even more than winning. The positive energy and happiness in that room was palpable. I've never felt anything like it before or since. We were all winners. We were all happy. We celebrated everyone's success. May your reception be like that one!

At 8:48 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

So glad you enjoyed it!

Louisa, you'll do fine with the speech AND the appointment. I promise, that little golden heart gives you courage! And get the shoes! I got some bargain shoes instead of the ones I really wanted and I've regretted it since. My MIL was with me and would have had a coronary if I'd spent $80 vs. $20. Oh, and just because others have sold....doesn't mean a thing! What I did with the speech was list people I wanted to thank, just in case.

Gillian, thank you so much! I'm happy to be motivation ;)

Theresa, I don't remember how late I was, but I did end up sitting next to Cindy Gerard when she won her Rita that night! It was my first ceremony and I was a wreck.


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