And the Golden Heart® Goes to . . .

In mid July my friend Jo Anne Banker and I went off to the national Romance Writers of America conference in Denver planning to see lots of friends we only meet once a year, attend a few workshops, maybe speak to an agent or editor here and there, eat a lot, and sleep not so much.

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We’ve both been involved in the Golden Heart® contest for unpublished writers several times over the past few years. Jo Anne was a finalist in 2011 (that year she won in the Contemporary Series category), 2015, and 2017, and I was a finalist in 2011, 2012, 2013, and now in 2018. Between us we know a lot of GH finalists, which has become quite a sisterhood over the years.

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But having made the finals four times, with four different manuscripts, once (in 2011) in the Historical category and three times in the Paranormal category, I was not expecting to win. I write light, humorous paranormal stories, entertaining, I hope, but not dark or angsty. And humor may be the most subjective of fields. One judge might crack up over my manuscript while another wonders what on earth I’m trying to say.

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So my expectations for the conference revolved around meeting the Persisters (the 2018 “class” of GH finalists) and reconnecting with the women (although a few men have been Persisters PinGH finalists over the years, there have been none in my classes) I’ve met through the contest in previous years. The Golden Network, the RWA chapter for GH finalists, holds a retreat every year at the beginning of the conference, a morning of inspirational pep talks, panel discussions, and socializing, always one of my favorite conference activities. And of course, we planned to attend at least a few of the enormous number of workshops going on nearly nonstop from Wednesday afternoon through Saturday morning.

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The presentation of the Golden Heart Awards came at lunch on Thursday. As a finalist I had a seat up front and a ticket for one friend, so Jo Anne and I settled in together to eat and watch the awards. (Two other members of the Houston Bay Area Chapter were also finalists: Leslie Marshman in Romantic Suspense and Sara Neiss in Short Contemporary.)

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“Do you have something written down?” Jo Anne asked me. “An acceptance speech?”

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“Of course not,” I said. “No way I’m going to win. I’ve read blurbs for the other entries. They’re all great, much more serious and inventive than mine.”

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“Eat your lunch,” Jo Anne said. “You don’t want to go up there with food in your teeth.”

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“I’m not going up there, Jo Anne,” I repeated. “Not a chance.”

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By the time Pintip Dunn, the Emcee of the program, reached the Paranormal category (after three industry awards and four GH categories), I had finished lunch and was curious to see what my selfie—I’ve never gotten around to having a professional head shot taken—would look like on the jumbotron (there were about two thousand people at the lunch, and very few of us could actually see the stage).

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Pintip read off the finalist manuscript titles and their authors as they showed on the jumbotron, and then opened an envelope and read, “And the Golden Heart goes to . . . Jinn on the Rocks by Kay Hudson.”

 

.GH capture

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I was stunned. I managed to stand up and make it to the stage without falling off. Someone took pictures of Pintip handing me the little jeweler’s box containing the—my—Golden Heart necklace and the envelope with the announcement—just like the Oscars!—and then I found myself at the podium, looking out at that huge crowd, many of whom were cheering, bless their hearts.

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“I Am Stunned.” I know I started out with that. I know I thanked my local friends who were there (making Gerry Bartlett temporarily famous for nagging me . . . and taking me shopping), my chapters, my GH groups. I think I went on to talk about RWA for a couple of minutes, but I honestly don’t remember that part. I’ll have to watch when RWA posts the recording of the ceremony. Apparently I did all right—at least I didn’t fall off the stage—because friends and total strangers told me so.

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I had intended to go to a workshop after lunch, but somehow I didn’t make it. I managed to get up on the stage again that evening, with the rest of the GH winners, when we were recognized during the RITA® Awards for published books, but fortunately we weren’t expected to say anything.

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The rest of the Conference was anything but a letdown. I went to workshops, met with Necklaceagents, had meals and visits with friends, and even got some sleep. I didn’t need to visit the local pot dispensary to stay high—I was floating. And playing with that necklace, half afraid someone would pop up and say, “Oops, we made a mistake, give it back.” I wore it for a week, and I’ll wear it again, often.

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The only disappointment at the Conference was the RWA Board’s announcement that next year will be the last Golden Heart Contest. The publishing industry is changing faster that anyone can measure, yes, but we don’t understand this decision. RWA has always been supportive of its unpublished members, and those of us who have benefited, made friends, finished manuscripts because of the Golden Heart hate to see it go.

 

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Leslie
    Jul 29, 2018 @ 13:48:17

    The whole week was fun. Being part of the Persisters is something I’ll treasure forever. But watching you win the Golden Heart was definitely the highlight of the day. Congratulations again!!

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    • Kay Hudson
      Jul 29, 2018 @ 19:53:10

      Thanks, Leslie, and congratulations or your own accomplishment in making the finals with your first full manuscript. The Persisters are going to be a good group.

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  2. Laurie A. Green
    Jul 29, 2018 @ 15:53:42

    I so wish I’d made it this year to see you win, Kay! I heard your speech was awesome and I’ll look forward to the video. I, too, am gutted the Golden Heart Awards are coming to an end. They mean so much to so many, and it’s far more than just a competition. Wear that necklace with pride!

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  3. gerrybartlett
    Jul 29, 2018 @ 16:35:19

    I was so thrilled to see you win! It was a triumph for all of us who write light paranormals. And you made my nagging famous. My late husband would say I’d had decades of practice at that. Of course the Golden Heart should stay. As a finalist from the nineties, I got the benefits even though I didn’t win. Now you’re a certified golden winner! Next, the sale. Can’t wait to celebrate that.

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  4. Nina Bangs
    Jul 29, 2018 @ 17:07:13

    You certainly paid your dues, Kay. You absolutely deserved it. Yay, for you!

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  5. Jackie Floyd
    Jul 30, 2018 @ 12:02:21

    Seeing you at the retreat and then hearing your name called at the ceremony were highlights of the week. Well-deserved acknowledgement of you and your writing talent!

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  6. G.L. Jackson
    Jul 30, 2018 @ 16:55:47

    Kay, I wish I’d had my phone out to take a picture of you when your name was called. The look on your face was a priceless mixture of shock and pure delight. So happy to have met you in Denver. Congratulations again on your GH win!

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  7. Cheryl Bolen
    Jul 30, 2018 @ 22:01:08

    Well, I think the Golden Heart luncheon was the highlight of the conference. I almost lost most voice from hollering when they called out, “And the winner is Jinn . . .” I’m very sad they’re going to discontinue the award.

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    • Kay Hudson
      Jul 30, 2018 @ 22:04:58

      I haven’t heard of anyone who thinks discontinuing the GH is a good idea, except, apparently, the board, and they don’t seem to pay much attention to what the membership thinks. And the reasons keep shifting. It will be interesting to see what the board thinks is an adequate substitute.

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