Monday, January 7, 2008


Today, I’m going to write about The Golden Heart because I got my GH entries to judge.
Actually I got them before Christmas, but I haven’t looked at them since until yesterday. When they showed up at first I thought, well, why’d they dump these on me at the holidays? But I have this vision of some poor contest coordinator with entries stacked on her dining room table…which she has available because she never uses that table except at holidays, who needed that stack to go away NOW. So, okay, I understand.
So last night I opened them up and just started reading the first one and you know what? I’m hooked.
It was really good.
Not, ‘wow she used five senses’ ‘wow, showing not telling’ not anything I can exactly put my finger on…all I know is, something interrupted my reading flow…..I think she left the word ‘a’ out of a sentence and I felt the need to make a note of it and I realized I hadn’t been judging. I looked at the page number and found out I was on page twelve.
That’s talent.

It’s so cool to get your hands on a book that just grabs you. Again, I’m not even sure why, nice high stakes action scene but still, those can be done well or poorly as we all know.
It got my juices flowing to judge the whole packet (well, actually Ruthy yelling at me to stop procrastinating got my juices flowing, which is why I picked the first one up--but after that....after the email yelling faded from my ears--or brain or wherever--it was all ME!)
This entry reminded me of that, oh, not sure what to call it really, that X Factor in a book. That readability factor.
I’m a big believer that what it really is, is all the pieces fitting together. Everything you’ve learned getting put right there on the page for all to see.

I think storytelling is kind of a gift you’re born with. But writing is a skill.

To be a writer, you’ve got to have the story dying to be told and the inborn character flaw of being able to sit still for long periods. A strange combination of mental hyperactivity in a sendentary body--which describes me perfectly.

But I think if you don’t have that you probably have no desire to write books anyway. But everything else--the SKILL of writing--can be learned.

So did anyone here enter the Golden Heart?
Anyone else judging?
It’s too late if you didn’t do it.
It’s the granddaddy of them all…and we’re off.


  1. Mary said: I think storytelling is kind of a gift you’re born with. But writing is a skill.

    Amen to that, Mary! Fortunately, if you have the passion to write, the writing part of it is a skill you can learn and fine-tune through contests, critiques, conferences, etc. So there's hope for anyone who has the gift and passion for writing ... AND likes to pray -- A LOT!:)

  2. Cool, Mary. I wanted to enter, but I would have had to fork out $150, since I'm not an RWA member, and hubby hadn't been too eager to fork out anything, right before Christmas, to further my "writing career," which he doesn't consider to be a career at all. (Do I sound a tad bitter? I'm sorry.) I am trying to get a part-time job to support my writing habit. Won't he be just a touch more supportive when I sell my first book for a cool million, like Nicholas Sparks did? (A girl can dream, right?)

    I'm glad you're enjoying the judging, Mary. :-) I'm sure you'll do a great job.

  3. I think it's less expensive to just join RWA, Melanie, then the contest costs $50, but it's still a chunk of change. But you've been doing great in contests. It may be time to start digging into your couch cushions for change so you can give this contest a whirl.

  4. Connealy.

    Just so you know, 8:59 your time is 10:59 for us East coast authors...

    Tap, tap, tap....

    That's me tapping my computer at some untold hour this morning, then scanning the calendar wondering who was supposed to post, then...

    Ah, yes. Farm girl, USA.

    But since you were so nice and forgiving when I totally messed up my promise to post Georgiana's info last week, even after I sent out an e-mail wondering who had her post (me, of course. Duh), I won't tell anyone that you were late.

    Well, not late, but later than I wanted you to be, LOL!

    Okay, GH.

    I entered this year, first time. I'll most likely get my hat handed to me and a courteous nudge toward the door, but why not give it your best shot? In the previous two years we'd had tough family problems in the fall, deaths and illness, and I could never quite muster the time to get things done during the post ACFW conference entry time, but this year no one was at death's door (convenient, huh?) and no one was suffering unduly (hooray, God!) and I'd taken on a second job to help re-jumpstart my mid-life career change to published novelist which, by the way, is way more appealing to my children than pole dancing.

    Do you know they do pole-dancing house parties now? Like Tupperware only.... different.

    I think. I don't know for sure, but if this writing thing doesn't pan out, a gal's gotta keep her options open.

    So I entered GH, and I'm playing with other contests as well, and hoping some near-sighted but sweet-hearted editor will think I've got talent and grab me before she discovers otherwise.

    But I still have the pole dancing brochure, just in case.


  5. I agree with the storytelling comment. Just out of curiosity, do you believe a good storyteller also has the gift of gab? :)

  6. And Melanie, I can totally relate to your husband's attitude.

    And even if that first check is for $2500, or $5000.00, he'll come around.

    But yeah, that's why I've got the second job. It's hard on a guy who's paying the bills if there isn't quite enough to go around and we plop an extra tab for $75 or $100 or $35 in their laps on a regular basis.

    Add in computer, electric, ink, paper, postage.

    Eventually my writing will pay me back. Right now it's me deciding to do what needs to be done to keep things moving.

    If you want any helpful advice on how not to kill children, small animals, or husbands when you're dead tired, e-mail me.

    We'll chat.



  7. I cannot tell you the number of writers I know who were about to throw in the towel because of family pressure and then with that declaration, THEY SOLD. I could list names.

    It is terrific pressure to find balance in home, family, outside jobs and writing. The creative arts (dance, music, writing, art) are just not predictable. It is as much about being a skilled artist as it is being in the right place at the right time and a little magic tossed in.

    We didn't pick this gig out of a catalogue. It is a God given gift so I am trusting God to clear the road for this journey.

    Hang in there.

    BTW, I never discuss the possibility that I might have entered the GH until THE CALL DAY.

    But I got my entries to judge and I can't wait to read them.

  8. Jess, moving on from the senior citizen pole dancer--as if I can ever recover from THAT mental image, I don't think a story teller necessarily has the give of gap, just because so much of writing is internalized.
    I mean look at me, quiet, shy, refined, demure (those all my be synonyms but I'm too lazy to check). All my Seeker sisters will agree, I'm sure.

    I heard someone say (yikes, where'd I hear this? Bad form to quote imaginary people) 'In order to be a great writer, have the worst childhood you can survive.'

    Well, that's not really true in my case. I had a nice childhood.
    But there is some truth in it, because a lot of writing seems to come from an angst-y place in an author so if you had a bad childhood, no doubt you've got a great big angst-y place.
    (Take Note: Possibly the first known use of the words 'angst-y place' in North American)

    And, while Tina is listing all the people who sold one second before they give up, I can list (can but won't) a lot of writers who are just plain nuts.

    And also, Tina, it's not really fair to say they sold right before they quit because most writers quit about twice a year, so it is ALWAYS right before they quit.

  9. --the gift of Gap.

    Surely a shopping reference. I made myself laugh.

  10. I would like a large gift of GAP.

    Writers do not quit twice a year. They threaten to quit twice a year. Much more effective.

  11. The gift of Gap...

    Yup, I'm cracking up here in WNY Connealy!

    You and Tina are both right. Technically we're all ready to give up on a biannual basis , AT LEAST, but I think Tina means the real 'gotta throw in the towel and give it up' quitting.

    Maggie Shayne told a great story to a writers group once, about how her agent called her within days of her five-year set goal of help hubby pay the bills and get a real job deadline.

    Things happen. Life interferes and intervenes....

    And I'm Irish and Celt enough to believe in God and a hint of magic.

    And fairies, angels and leprechauns.

    How on earth did I get on that track???

    And Mary, just so you know, I actually don't pole dance.



  12. But the threat, Ruthy. I can't recover from even THAT!

    We should have given the gift of Gap for a prize, then this blog would be loaded.

  13. I'm laughing so hard. Mary, you still got it, even if you do get really mellow sometimes. Thank goodness it doesn't last long.

    You guys are so encouraging. Thanks. :-)

  14. I have to say I love reading the comments left. I got to giggling at the computer and my kids thought I was crazy.

  15. just had a question...all those contests that say that readers are the ones that judge, how do readers get picked to judge? do you have to be a member of RWA? is it random readers? readers who want to read?

    ok that was more than one question.

  16. Deborah, most contests are judged by regional RWA groups. There are exceptions, like the Golden Heart which is the national chapters big annual contest for unpubbed authors...excuse me...for PRE-pubbed authors.
    There are genre specific contests like the FHL Chapter is for inspirational fiction. The Daphne is for suspense. Outside RWA is ACFW's Genesis contest. ACFW is not affiliated with RWA, although many are members of both.
    So usually the judges are members of the local RWA chapter. And a lot of chapters have specific rules about judges, at least one must be published, or the chapter will have a training session for the judges or the judges have to at least confess if they're published or not.

    Besides members of each chapter judging, sometimes, if the say...contest coordinator...has any remaining author FRIENDS, whom she is willing to BLACKMAIL and WHINE to until said friends ears bleed and you'll do anything to STOP the will find judges outside the chapter.
    Ahem...never mind. Moving on...

    For Golden Heart you need to be a member of RWA. To judge the Rita Award you have to be a published author.
    I've always kinda thought that was backward.
    I mean a READER is who should judge a published book, don't you think?

    And I'm kinda freaked out right now because my word verification code comes very close to spelling the word EXUME and now I've got an idea for a horror novel.

    'Scuse me....gotta go make notes.

  17. Mary, loved your description of a writer as someone with a hyperactive mind in a sedentary body!!! When both the mind and body go inactive that's called a nap. Doesn't bode well when the story can't even keep the writer awake.

    What fun posts and comments. Instead of pole dancing how about stand up comic, Ruthy?

  18. Tina said: I cannot tell you the number of writers I know who were about to throw in the towel because of family pressure and then with that declaration, THEY SOLD. I could list names.

    I cannot tell you the number of times I was about to throw in the towel because of family pressure and then something pushes me back to writing. Yet even then I wonder, "Why am I putting myself though this emotional torture?" I might as well take up skydiving because I'd at least have some awesome pictures to show people.

    Oh, wait! I forgot I am a coward. Maybe I could take up pole dancing with Ruthy. Oh wait! That would probably end up with another kid, so I'd never get WIP #2 revised.

    What's the point of this discussion? Oh, the GH.

    I enter. I was disqualifed because I didn't DS my synopsis. LOL. Someday it'll make a great story...or at least I'll embellish it enough to make it a great story.

  19. The rejections are torture but I love the writing. Is the writing hard for any of you. It's painful for some people...that whole angst thing.......

    Yes you want to quit because it is so disgusting to get RJ'ed but as for the writing...I think I'd keep doing that til I die, whether anyone published my book or not. It's just so entertaining to me.

  20. Deborah, there are published contests that are judged by readers.

    You are correct.

    The OKRWA chapter has one like that. If you see one you are interested in, just email the coordinator and ask if you can be a reader for a particular category. They often have back up readers also, in case of a problem.

    You get to keep the books they send you in most of these contests.

    The OK site is and email the National Reader's Choice coordinator for information.

    Does anyone know of any other contests in RWA that uses readers?

  21. I didn't answer the rest of your ONE question, Deborah.

    Generally they do not want you to be an RWA member for these reader contests. They are looking for strictly readers not writers.

    Hope that helps.

  22. Gina, FYI:

    We have six kids and I never pole-danced. Not once.

    Just thought you'd like to know that pole dancing is not requisite to procreation.

    And a quick note about contest coordinators:

    These are desperate men and women. These are people who must, in a short, abbreviated space of time, cajole editors into being final round judges, dig up first round judges (Mary, exhume is a word every contest coordinator is familiar with because we're always digging people up, in fact I used three dead people to help with the Barclay just last year...), ascertain that the first round judges are not too judgmental, too anal or too new (newbies make tough judges because they hang onto every single hint of intelli-speak they've heard at meetings and conferences and see it as ten commandments set-in-stone rules to go by. Tough crew to impress), and then we bribe, wheedle, cajole, beg and whine so that our very best writer friends take pity on us and give us the help we so desperately need.

    Because we're Seekers and we believe in passing the torch, giving back, paying it forward and random acts of kindness.

    Or you were just all afraid of me. I understand the strength of that possibility and respect you for it.

    God bless contest coordinators everywhere with friends like mine.



  23. Mary, you are so right. Sometimes I think we get so hung up on the right way to write, we forget all about the STORY.

    I've read two of my entries. One needs work; one needs to be published. My internal editor immediately turned on when I read the first entry making me jones to write comments on POV and tone. Of course you can't do that for the GH. BUT, if this story had been in any other contest, I'd have started critiquing from the get-go.

    The second entry made me forget I was reading an unpublished entry. Like Mary said, it had that SOMETHING we should all be striving for to bless our story children with.

    Ah, Golden Heart time. To everyone courageous enough to have entered, I bow to your fortitude and applaud your accomplishment!!!

  24. Okay, I left my first comment in direct reference to Mary's post. NOW, leave it to Ruthy to bring up the extracurricular activities. . .sorry, no pole dancing for me--too much muffin top. But, if we want to go shopping for gifts of Gab or Gap, hey, count me in!!!

  25. Mary, rejections aren't the issue. I don't think I've had one of them for a few weeks, and even with that one, it didn't faze me.

    I love writing, but it can drive me bonkers, especially if it's a scene that's not working for some reason. YEsterday I really really really tried working the spiritual thread into this one scene. I phrased, rephased, tweaked, snipped, trimmed, embellished the dialogue and talking about God just wasn't working. So I figured why force something for the sake of feeling obligated to put it in.

    Regarding judging contests...

    Last November, one of my CPs begged for judges so I naturally obliged. No I wasn't excited, but she had invested so much in me that I wanted to give back even though I wasn't overly excited about judging.

    Because the contest had opened to electronic entries, they received a boatload of entries compared to the previous year. Finding judges is hard enough. Finding a bajillion good judges is a near impossibility.

    That's why I'm a firm beliver that for every two contests you enter, you should at least judge that one. Ideally, I think one to one is reasonable. Why?

    Because you can learn just as much from judging as you can from entering a contest. Well, I'm not so sure you'd learn too much from judging the GH because the contest is more about your overall liking of the story, how well it captured you and how well it fit the definition of "excellence in romance."

  26. good luck on the contest! hey, if you did your best and feel happy with what you did and enjoyed it thats what matters. If God wants you to win, you will.

    judging any contest scares me. though i work in the music business and feel fine "critiquing" lots of musicians.

    here's my email addy if i'm on of the lucky contest winners. hsmuda[at]

  27. Deborah, I have yet to join RWA (fingers crossed for this year) but I judge at least one contest every year. Lyn Cote is always looking for judges for the IRCC contest (FHL chapter). The Gayle Wilson Award for Excellence only takes reader judges. In fact, if you are pursuing a writing career, even if you're unpublished, you're disqualified.

    I usually find out about contests that need judges through various writing-related loops where someone puts out the call. If you love to read and can be fair and impartial, it's a neat opportunity. And once you're on the judge list, they usually contact you automatically for the next year.

  28. Fun to hear about all the opportunities out there for readers. But without you Authors we wouldn't have much to do. With the tight schedules so many people have I can imagine the craziness of juggling day jobs, writing as a hobby or otherwise and then on top of that the deadlines that start staring you in the face for manuscripts when you do start publishing.

    Please include me in this week's drawing. forest_rose[at]yahoo[dot]com

  29. Interesing post. These contests sound kind of nerve wracking. I feel for you authors. As a readerl, I just get to sit and enjoy the finished product that you poured such time and effort into. Talk about blood, sweat and tears.

  30. thanks for all the info! really helpful. ok one more thing. call me blind but for the Gayle Wilson contest, how do you get picked to be a judge? is it a list they already have or can you write in and ask to be one?

  31. I love writing, but finding the time is abit difficult. Apparently missionary life is to blame for that. LOL
    Would love to enter the Golden Heart, but funds are another difficult. Blessings to all from Costa Rica

  32. To be a writer, you’ve got to have the story dying to be told and the inborn character flaw of being able to sit still for long periods.

    See, this is why I'm a reader, not a writer - that flaw just isn't there I guess. If I'm sitting still it's because I'm at this darn computer checking email or in my bed reading (this 6th pregnancy is totally wearing my out, but I'm reading about a book a day :-)

    ryanx6 at msn dot com

  33. I didn't enter the Golden Heart. I entered the HOLT and will enter the ACFW Book of the Year. Yep, it'll be fun to watch others win :-)