Before writing a romance novel and joining Romance Writers of America, I had only the vaguest of notions about writing contests. I had worked in publishing, so I had heard of the big contests, such as the RITA Awards because if an author won a RITA, it was a good thing to put on the book cover. It makes those in the know salivate.

Then I went to the RWA conference and discovered that the RITAs warrant their own fancy dinner ceremony, which they share with the Golden Heart Awards. The RITAs (named after RWA’s first-ever president) are awarded to published novels, and the Golden Hearts recognize excellence in manuscripts written by as-yet unpublished authors.

Those are the biggies, the Oscars of the romance world. I did not enter the Golden Heart contest. Why not? I wanted to wait to see what an agent says about my manuscript. After she weighs in and I make some improvements, I may think about it. Like chicken soup, it couldn’t hoyt.

In the meantime, just for kicks, I entered two other contests that are sponsored by local chapters of the RWA. Let me tell you, there’s a plethora (love that word) of contests out there, for published authors, unpublished authors, for beginnings, for love scenes, for query letters (the cover letter that accompanies a manuscript), even for cover art. I chose two contests for unpubbed writers, both for beginnings, where you have to submit the first 25 pages or 6,000 words, which comes out to be about the same amount of real estate.

Contest one is sponsored by the Yellow Rose Romance Writers of America, in Texas. It’s the Winter Rose Romance Contest. Contest two is the Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest, thrown by the Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America. Both contests are for unpublished authors, or authors who haven’t had anything pubbed in the last five years.

When I first saw these contests on the RWA website, I thought, “Hey, I think my story has a pretty good opening scene. I’ll enter these.” I figured I’d enter the contests just for giggles, and I’ll get a “score sheet,” or a structured evaluation of my work. What the heck, right?

When I read all the rules for these contests—and there are many rules—I considered hiring an attorney just to prepare my entries. There are rules about methods of paying the entry fee, formatting your partial manuscript, what fonts you can use, and how to format your entry to email it (I learned how to make an rtf file; never even knew there was such a thing). I felt like I was filling out a job application for the CIA.

But I made it through and the contest people have cashed my checks. Now I can sit back, relax, and wait to hear from them. In April. (Yes, April.)

What do you win if you win, you ask? In the one contest, an agent will read your manuscript. In the other, you can use the contest winner logo on your website. Good thing I didn’t plan a career around winning romance writing contests.

As always, I’ll let you know what happens. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. And I’ll press my thumbs, which is what they do in the Czech Republic for good luck.

Thank you for your support!

  • If you read the last post, then you know I compared waiting for Gail (literary agent extraordinaire who has my manuscript) to contact me to meeting a great guy (when you’re single) and having him promise to call you, but you don’t know if or when he will.

    So guess what? He texted!

    Or at least that’s what It feels like. This morning I checked my email and to my vast delight, found an email from Gail. Yep. She said she’s been busy with the holidays, etc., but that she’s started reading “Thrown” and likes it so far! She added that she wrote so I wouldn’t worry, which was awfully nice of her.

    It’s like the cute guy texted and said he’s been thinking of me. Sigh. Swoon! I’m not picking out china patterns yet, but I sure am happy.

    By the way, Gail’s at, and represents several fine romance authors, including Jodi Thomas.

  • Will he call?

    15 Jan


    Today my manuscript has been with an agent for one month exactly. I feel like I’m still single and met this amazing guy one month ago. He was gorgeous, smart, funny, charming, sincere, sweet. We talked for hours, he took my number and promised he’d call (he put it in his cell phone and I made sure he got all the numbers right). He told me that although he WOULD call, he was leaving the next day for Europe to spend the holidays with his family, and that January and February are notoriously busy in his line of work. So he might not call SOON, but he WOULD call me. When he had time.

    What does this all translate to? I know Gail will get back to me, eventually. She had a FEW things to do over Christmas and New Year’s besides reading my manuscript. As if anything else could be more important than reading my manuscript. Like watching her children’s eyes as they open their Christmas gifts. Spending valuable time with family and friends. Listening to carolers. Eating sugarplums. Crap like that.

    And really, from what I’ve read online and on the Romance Writers of America chats, it’s not unusual for an agent to take even two months to get back to you. One friend suggested that she’s reading it a second time to give me terrific feedback and prepare for the bidding war among major publishers. I just hope she likes it.

    In keeping with my budding romance parable, I’m hoping to hear at least by Valentine’s Day. Wouldn’t that be appropriate? And I’m hoping he not only calls, but wants to take me to dinner. And marry me. In Vegas. Right away.

  • So. In order not to go mad as I wait for my agent friend to read my manuscript, I have been busy rereading my next story, “Love in the Time of Colic.” I made few corrections—things like getting rid of “markers” in dialogue, like “he said” when it was perfectly clear who was talking. But I didn’t do much, I just wanted to read it in its entirety.

    I still love the characters…but I think they need more drama.

    Hence me looking to create more conflict, or become a literary drama queen. Don’t get me wrong, there’s SOME drama, it’s not all butterflies and moonbeams by any stretch. But I think our heroine and hero—the free-spirited Peyton and the straight-laced, scientific Mason—even though they are intrinsically at odds, need more to keep them going at each other.

    I think of it as a sea they float upon. Their little ship is on too-tranquil seas and that simply won’t do. I need to start a tempest. Boil the ocean. (This is a business term I have only just met, usually said in the negative—“we’re not trying to boil the ocean”—but really, who wants to boil the ocean? Wouldn’t that be bad?)

    This challenge is going to take some time, I think. I have a few ideas—Elizabeth, my California reader and dear friend—suggested another horse plotline, which intrigues me. Or I can look at what’s already there and pump up the volume, or were Emeril helping me write, add some BAM!

    This is not a new issue for me, as I tend to go for more subtle stories and scoff at what I consider to be overly dramatic plots. I likely need to do more than I think is enough and I’ll hit the right note.

    And if all else fails, I’ll throw in some zombies.