Ah, the Golden Heart. Gotta love it, gotta hate it. I was still pretty new to RWA when I entered. Actually, the first time was in 2004, a non-entry. I thought I'd been very careful to check all the deadlines and submitted my entry form in plenty of time. But then I got the wrong date in my head for the ms. due date and didn't realize it until the very day submissions were due at the RWA office. Not that morning. Not early afternoon. More like 5 p.m.! I lived in Houston at the time, only a couple of miles away, so, silly me, I tried desperately to contact someone to ask if I could rrrrrush my manuscript over, but it was too late. At least they were kind enough not to run my charge card when my entry was a no-show.
The next year, I paid more attention and created several reminders in Outlook so I wouldn't miss another deadline. I sent two mss. (actually, I delivered them in person several days early), then tried not to think about them for the next three or four months. The day the calls went out, I was actually feeling pretty good. Novice that I was, I had no concept for how tough the GH competition is, and I knew what I'd sent was good. So I think the person who called to tell me one of my ms. had finaled was somewhat disappointed that I didn't scream and jump up and down and blow out her eardrum. I kept waiting for her to tell me the other ms. was a finalist, too. After all, I knew it was so good. (Actually, it was my non-entry from the year before, a ms. that still keeps getting chewed up in contests.)
Okay, if you think waiting from December to March is nerve-wracking, the wait from the day of THE CALL until awards night is excruciating! That's the summer I learned just what a big deal the Golden Heart really is. It's also the summer I became friends with three of the warmest, most caring ladies I could ever know. It's the summer I learned to really pray--and mean--"Not my will, but thine be done." Right up to the moment my name was called, I'd been praying that God would let the Golden Heart go to the person who most needed that affirmation.
And frankly, I didn't think it was me. Looking back now after more than two years of trying to market that ms. when two of the other ladies have already sold their books, I can see how important that little golden necklace has been in reminding me every time I look at it that somebody thought I'd written a darn good book. It gives me hope that someone (preferably with the authority to issue a publishing contract) will think so again.
So. It's Golden Heart time again. Heed my warning: This is no contest for the fainthearted! Nor is it for the chronologically challenged. Engrave those submission dates on your brain. Know the rules forward and backward. And follow them. Go here for full details. The two important dates you need right now are:
- November 15, 2007 — Entry forms and fees must be received by the RWA Office.
- December 3, 2007 — Entered works must be received in the RWA Office.
Oh, and write a really good manuscript. Which is why it's a good idea to enter at least a few other contests first, contests where you get actual feedback. As Janet said yesterday, every contest critique is a valuable learning experience. It's an investment in your writing career, so, whether you win, final, or end up wallowing in scathing comments, learn all you can and keep polishing your craft.