An inside look at the magical journey from contest entrant to contest finalist and maybe winner!
RWA has a total of more than 150 combined, local, foreign and special interest chapters with almost as many chapter contests. But the Golden Heart is considered hands down to be the top tier of contests for unpublished romance writers. Because of the scoring system, it is also in this writer's opinion, one of the most subjective contests for unpublished romance writers.
Every year the Golden Heart allows entrants to reserve their spot and then send the complete manuscript and six partials, consisting of the beginning of the manuscript and synopsis for a total of 55 pages for judging.
With scores arriving in the mail right now this is a perfect time to dissect the contest. The current GH rules call for a cap of 1200 entries across all ten categories. The finalist are the top ten percent of the entrants in their category or per the RWA Policy and Procedures:
"The top 10 percent of each category’s entries, but no fewer than three or
more than eight, provided the minimum total score for each finalist equals
80 percent of the total possible score, shall advance to the final round. "
A letter from RWA will say:
Below please find the scores for you manuscript X, in the preliminary round in the 200X Golden Heart Contest. Scores are listed, from one of the 5 judges. (There are also the boxes that may be checked: not a romance, wrong category and not properly formatted)
The rest of the score sheet states:
RWA applies a standard deviation method for determining finalists and winners, meaning if the lowest score for this work was found to be outside the range limits, the lowest score was replaced by the average score to determine the final score of the manuscript.
You may refer to the following standard deviation method for determining the ranking of your score.
Top quarter; final scores equal to or greater than __
Second quarter; final scores between ____ and ___.
Lower half; final scores equal to or less than ____.
I pulled out two of my scoresheets from previous years for the
same manuscript, unchanged.
1. Scenario one: scores, 6-7-9-8-6 Total 36.00
Top quarter equal or greater than 37.10
Second quarter between 34.60 and 37.00
Lower half scores equal or less than 34.00
2. Scenario two: scores, 8.8-9-8-6.8-7.9 Total 40.4
Top quarter equal or greater than 37.7
Second quarter between 37.5 and 33.6
Lower half scores equal or less than 32.5
I'm not going to speculate on the whys and hows nor am I going to GH bash. It's a contest. The nature of the beast is that it is subjective. NOT a crap shoot. I resent that term. It is a competition. This post is merely to share information so you can go into the Golden Heart informed, and so you can know the upside and the downside.
The RWA Policy and Procedure lists all of the of the judging criteria for the first round of the Golden Heart, here is just a portion:
"In selecting judges for the preliminary round of the Golden Heart contest,
priority should be given based on the following criteria and in the following
order:PAN or PAN-eligible authors (after the RITA judging pool has been
staffed), previous Golden Heart winners and finalists, PRO members, and
other interested RWA members."
Second round judging has now begun! From the RWA Policy and Procedure here is some of the judging criteria for the second round of the Golden Heart:
"The final-round Golden Heart entries shall be judged by a panel consisting
of (in order of preference): Three editors, or Two editors and a PAN-eligible published member."
Looking back at the history of the Golden Heart. The first award was presented in 1983. Over the years categories have not only been changed but have been eliminated in particular years due to low entry.
A very partial list of some names you will recognize who began their careers as GH winners: (Again, the list of those with stellar careers who never entered or finaled in the GH is equally amazing; however this post is not about that, it is a celebration of the Golden Heart.) For a complete list see the RWA web site.
1983 Kathleen Eagle
1984 Barbara Dawson Smith
1985 Lauraine Snelling
1990 Christina Dodd
1994 Kate Welsh
1994 Rachel Gibson
1995 Roxanne Rustand
1998 Jane Porter
2003 Merrillee Whren
2004 Pam Hillman
2005 Myra Johnson
2007 Carla Capshaw
Even more spectacular is the Golden Network Hall of Gold, those members who finaled more than three times. Some highlights:
Linda Rooks, 5 time finalist, Theresa Ragan, 6 time finalist, Delle Jacobs, 7 time finalist and Trish Milburn 8 time finalist.
Why do they do it? Some of the multiple finalist's names are only seen on the Golden Heart roll call and not regional contests. So is it for the challenge, the PR, the thrill?
The Golden Heart doesn't deliver a contract to unpublished authors but it does offer a window of opportunity to heavily market yourself using the Golden Heart as your launching pad.
Plus, frankly, being a Golden Heart Finalist is a lot of fun.
Events to add to your calendar when you final:
- An invitation to join The Golden Network, a special interest chapter of RWA, whose membership is only open to Golden Heart finalists. The Golden Network offers a Yahoo group for networking and support. At RWA Nationals this chapter provides a dessert reception for Golden Heart Finalists with an opportunity to network with industry professionals. In recent years they have provided a mini conference with great agents and editors present. They also have a "booting" out ceremony for members who sell. The chapter also has a contest, The Golden Pen, which most closely resembles the Golden Heart with only Golden Heart finalists/winners as judges. This is a great way to prepare for next year's Golden Heart.
- Since 2000, the individual Golden Heart classes have begun their own Yahoo Group for support.
- RWA National's provides Golden Heart recognition with the lavender Golden Heart ribbon for finalists. Per RWA Policy and Procedure those not attending nationals may still receive their ribbon by writing to RWA and requesting one. RWA hosts a champagn reception for Golden Heart and Rita Finalists which is a little bit of fairy dust when you consider you are in the same room with authors you want to be when you grow up.
The climax of the Golden Heart journey is sitting in the audience with one guest, in those up front seats waiting to hear your category called. Attendees look as glamorous as any Oscar gala.
Afterwards, finalists and winners receive a certificate. But those coveted Golden Heart necklaces go to the winners. And by the way, here's a link to what the real Golden Heart necklace looks like from the 2005 Winner, Seekerville's own Myra Johnson.
The Golden Heart journey is by no means a guaranteed path, or the only path to publication, as many multiple finalists who have not yet sold can attest. It is however a thrill to be acknowledged by your peers as a one of the top writers in your organization.
Congratulations to this year's Golden Heart finalists. Please join us Tuesday and Wednesday as Seekerville welcomes the 2008 Inspirational Golden Heart finalists. We'd like to applaud them and support them on this year's journey.