Our Pages

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What to Expect When You Final in the Golden Heart®

In ten days, on March 25th, RWA will release the names of the 2011 Golden Heart® and Rita® finalists. For those of you sitting on the edge of your seats, waiting for The GH Call, here’s a little preview of what you can expect if you final, along with some tips on how to prepare for the GH whirlwind.

The Call: Finalists usually get a phone call before the official announcement is made. Those living overseas get their calls first, and then it moves across the country from east to west. It’s fun to watch the names trickle in as the calls go out. Here at the Lady Scribes, we’ll keep a running list throughout the day. Please let us know when you get the call.

Tip: Be prepared. They will want to know if you want the announcement under your real name or a pseudonym.

The Flood: I was absolutely stunned by the number of people who took the time to congratulate me after I finaled, and those who invited me to guest blog. At the same time, the GH finalists were all contacting one another to figure out what they were supposed to be doing. It was impossible to keep up with emails.

Luckily, some folks who had finaled in years past took us under their wings, set up a yahoo loop where we could all meet, and pointed us toward The Golden Network, an RWA special interest chapter for GH finalists.

The Name: Every class of GH finalists adopts a nickname. If you're bored waiting for the announcements, you might think of one for this year's group. But chances are, that name will come from something you experience together. The "Unsinkables" came out of solidarity with the Nashville flood victims.

The List: After all the joyful squeals die down, you get the official to-do list from RWA. This includes things like submitting a professional photo and choosing newspapers to receive your press release.

Tip: Might as well get that picture ready now. The List has deadlines.

The Preparation: Preparing for Nationals as a GH finalist can be a little overwhelming. Finalists have wonderful opportunities to sign up for special receptions, retreats, and pitch sessions. As a conference first-timer, I found it challenging to sort through all the events, get signed up for them, and pack appropriate clothing. Luckily, I had my wonderful Unsinkable sisters to explain everything. They were also there for my horrible, hideous hair disaster, and all the drama that went with finding The Dress.

The Submissions: If that doesn’t sound overwhelming, it’s because I forgot to mention this is also the time to submit your queries to editors and agents. You may find the agent who’s rejected you five times on query letters alone is suddenly willing to read your pages. Go for it.

Tip: Finish polishing that full now. Conference is sooner than you think.

The Weird: Agents aren’t the only ones who will treat you differently when you’re a GH finalist. Other writers will have their own emotional responses to the announcement. Be prepared for some odd behavior from both friends and strangers.

Tip: Remember that this has nothing to do with you. It’s about how they feel about their own writing.

The Conference: As a finalist, it’s easy to go into panic mode at Nationals. You may feel like this is it, make or break, your one big chance to get published. It can be frustrating to realize everything is scheduled at the same time, your feet hurt, and you can’t attend every function.

In reality, the tough work is over. You’ve written the book and made it the best it can be. Pitch sessions aside, there’s nothing more you can do. Try to relax and enjoy yourself. The hardest part might be choosing who'll sit up front with you at the awards ceremony.

Tip: Skip the workshops and focus on the people. You can always listen to the workshops on tape, but this may be your only chance to meet your online friends, your agent, and possibly, your future editor.

The Prize: No one wants to be a perpetual GH finalist. Most would much rather be published. But the truth is that not every finalist will ink a deal. In the 2010 Unsinkables class, about 1/3 of the finalists have sold thus far.

The real prize for GH finalists is the camaraderie of the GH class. It’s having a group of kindred spirits beside you on the road to publication. And knowing, that no matter how your writing career turns out, you will always have the support of your GH sisters (and one Unsinkable brother) along the way.

Have I left anything out? For those who have finaled, what was your favorite perk of being a finalist? And for those who hope to final, what perk are you most looking forward to?


  1. Useful info, Clarissa! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Clarissa, great post, as always. I decided not to enter the GH this year, but I'm cheering everyone who has. :) I was a GH finalist years ago, and I was vacationing in New Orleans when I got the call--it's a fun place to celebrate good news like that. LOL

  3. GOOD LUCK to all who entered this years GOLDEN HEART. :) Can't wait to see the list and celebrate with everyone.

  4. Wow! Great list! You've thought of everything. The waiting is as fun as it is nerve-wracking. My favorite perk....hmmmm.
    It was definitely getting to put GH finalist in the subject line for submissions. :)
    Good luck to all!

  5. What a great post! Thanks for sharing! :)

    *who has had her fingers crossed for months! ouch!* :)

  6. Sarah & Donna--Thank you for commenting. It's always nice to see you here.

    Nancy--How could I forget to wish everyone luck? Yikes! I'm so glad you did it for me. I hope we'll see you again on the 25th.

    Jennifer--My Unsinkable sister, you definitely made the most of your GH experience. Congratulations on the big sale and I'll look for you at the RITA's next year.

    Lisa--Best of luck on the 25th. I'll be searching for your name.

  7. Wow! I can't believe it's only ten days away. It certainly seems like time has flown in this whirlwind of a year :)

    I can't wait to see this year's crop of GH finalists. What an exciting, exciting time. Good luck to all who entered.

    The GH final gave me confidence, but also taught me a lot about myself as a writer. My GH manuscript (well, past the first 180 pages or so) wasn't in the best of shape. I hadn't expected to final and had set it aside to percolate. I learned that yes, I can rewrite 250 pages in a couple of months even with a toddler at home! Fear that someone might actually see that first draft scared me silly! I'm hoping deadlines will have the same effect at motivating me!

    I can't say enough about my GH class...I count several Unsinkables amongst my closest writing friends. And at conference, I really got the opportunity to meet other writers. So many people will say hello because of that lovely pink ribbon.

    It can definitely seem overwhelming at times, but as Clarissa said, enjoy it. And keep writing.

    Best of luck!

  8. Clarissa,
    Terrific post, as usual. Two things happened for me as a result of finaling in the GH--one, the affirmation that maybe I'm doing something right after all, and two, realizing there was a whole new world of incredibly supportive writers out there who genuinely cheer each other on. Good luck to everyone who entered!

  9. Hi Heather, Hi Mary, my Unsinkable sisters,
    Meeting you two was definitely a highlight of my GH year. I love how we've all stayed in touch even after conference and I can't wait to see your books on the shelves. :)

  10. What surprised me was how FAST I got invited to join the loop. I guess, actually, it was how fast the loop was created. Heh.

    I was fortunate to share the joy of finaling with a chaptermate and I think that really enhanced the experience.

    Good luck to all those who entered this year!

  11. Hi Abigail, You are so right about the joy of sharing the experience. I'm so excited for my crit partners this year. They all have wonderful stories and deserve to final. I can't wait to see how it all turns out. And I have my money on a couple of folks in the RITA too :)

  12. Thanks for the great post. I got to witness first-hand what happens to a GH finalist when my critique partner was nominated last year. It's all so exciting. Good luck to everyone!

  13. What a great post Clarissa! Great info and insight, and Heather's comment that fear someone might see that first draft spurred her into finishing 250 pages in a short time, made me think about mine. Yikes. So do we all have those drafts in shape? Good luck to all who entered! We'll nail bite together.


  14. I think it's exciting waiting for the finalists to be announced, but I've never entered either. :)

    Good luck to everyone. It's a great honor to be a GH finalist, but if you aren't among the group this year it doesn't mean you won't sell or that your writing isn't good enough. From what I understand, the difference between being a finalist and not can be a fraction of a point.

  15. Clarissa, great advice on how to prepare. It's an exciting emotional time. You talk about how other writers feel about your writing, but there's also how the finalist feels about his/her own writing; would you agree? The first time I finaled, I thought... this must be a mistake. I felt that way the second time, too. Writers are infinitely insecure in their art. Be prepared to have all time highs and all time lows. It's a rollercoaster ride and such an honor.

  16. I haven't entered the GH, but know writers who have. This is very interesting. I had no idea there was so much to consider. Thanks for spelling this out.

    Lynnette Labelle

  17. Good luck to all who entered the Golden Hearts and Rita.

  18. Great post, Clarissa! For me the best part of being a GH finalist was joining the GH loop and getting to know all the other finalists. The even better part is that the loop is still in use. It's one of my favorite things to check every day and learn how everyone is doing. The support and motivation is fantastic as everyone shares their successes and challenges in their writing journeys.

  19. Well, hi Clarissa. I'm glad I found you. I'm a brand new GH finalist searching for the elusive GH loop. "They" haven't found me yet. Any clues on where I might start looking?