by Nancy Northcott
This is a big month for some people in RWA. The calls go out in late March to the finalists in the Golden Heart ("GH") and RITA contests. The people who're most relaxed on the designated calling day are the ones who don't have a horse in either race. Those who do cope with it in various ways--sitting by the phone, avoiding the phone, watching hungrily for posts online, checking occasionally, or avoiding RWA email loops altogether. Or eating chocolate. When all is said and done, though, some people are going to be very, very happy while others are going to be very, very disappointed, with a bunch in between.
Having a little perspective helps us deal with any exciting success or stinging disappointment. When it comes to contests, I like to remember the wise and gifted writer, J. R. R. Tolkien (which may clue you in to which grungy guy we're going to be discussing). In The Fellowship of the Ring, the hobbits meet Strider at the Sign of the Prancing Pony in Bree. He then takes them into the wild, protecting them from the black riders. Tolkien includes, later, a poem about Strider that starts, "All that is gold does not glitter." And so it is with manuscripts and books.
Finaling in the GH will not, contrary to what some entrants think, sell a book. It gives the author exposure, which she (or he) needs to be ready to use to advantage. Finaling in the RITA will not catapult an author up the publishing house ladder. As Joan comments, finaling in the GH is an honor that helps "validate and nourish the frustrated writer's soul." The same would go for the RITA. Neither is, however, the secret elixir. Ask any bandita. Anyone who judges these contests can tell you that fabulous books, every year, don't make that final few. It doesn't take much to keep one out, and a lot depends on how the book strikes its randomly allotted judges. So a book that finals really wowed its judges. We should all celebrate that.
The RITA, of course, is a golden statue of a woman seated and writing. It's gorgeous. I think it's safe to say we all want one someday. Several banditas have the Golden Heart pendant (not shown at right, but this resembles the pins RWA gives finalists for their name badges). They're also gorgeous. And the nice thing about the GH is that while only one person can win, more than one can have a manuscript requested by an editor or agent judge. And everybody has the option to dress up for the ceremony.
Which brings me, at last, to the grungy guy. Tolkien's Strider appears to be a woodsman. He doesn't look much like what he is, Aragorn, Dunedin and rightful King of the West. The poem speaks, in beautiful word images, about strength not withering and about the fact that wandering doesn't mean you're lost. So it is with the quest for success in any creative endeavor. Success requires the strength to persevere. Wandering, which is often signposted with rejection, is an opportunity to develop the skills that make grasping success possible.
Good luck to everyone with a horse in the March RWA races!
How do you deal with waiting for contest results? In what endeavor have you had to persevere? Have you ever felt that you're wandering in the wilderness while others find the success you seek? How do you keep going?
Soon-to-be-published bandita and bibliophile mystery author Kate Carlisle shares this photo from the night Gemma Halliday presented her with the Golden Heart for the Novel With Strong Romantic Elements category. Congratulations and thanks for sharing, Kate!