Monday, July 11, 2011
Finaling in the Golden Heart ® and Opening Doors
Janet here. I'm excited to have Ruth Kaufman posting in Seekerville today! I met Ruth in 1999 at my first Romance Writers of America conference in Chicago. We’ve stayed in touch, along with Becke Turner, another writer we met that year. We have an annual picture taken after the Rita’s ceremony as seen below. I appreciate much about these two lovely ladies, one of which--they make me feel tall. Ruth’s smile is always beautiful but this year it’s downright dazzling.
And no wonder.
Ruth's medieval AT HIS COMMAND won RWA’s 2011 Inspirational Golden Heart® Award. Her true, short story “The Scrinch,” will be in St. Martin’s anthology The Spirit of Christmas, foreword by Debbie Macomber. Ruth is a Chicago voiceover and on camera talent. If you heard her acceptance speech in New York, you know Ruth can talk fast!
Now here's Ruth.
In my May 2010 Seekerville post “Persistence: Profits, Perils and Plans,” I wrote, “Sometimes I feel like a gambler: Just one more bet (submission/contest entry), and my horse will come in (the call).”
After years of pursuing publication, rejections on numerous manuscripts (most personal and complimentary, but still “no, thanks”) and several nail-biting “almost theres,” I wondered when persistence turns into banging your head against a brick wall. How much money, time and energy can you put into a dream? I’d reached a low point, and was seriously considering closing many doors I’d worked so hard to open.
Thanks to encouragement from writer friends like Janet Dean and her repeated suggestions (and synopsis assistance from Janet and Love Inspired author Terri Reed), I didn’t give up. I turned one of my medievals into an inspirational, now titled AT HIS COMMAND.
The first place I sent it was Romance Writers of America®’s national contest for the as yet unpublished author, the Golden Heart®. I’d made it my goal to finish by the entry deadline, though in the past I’ve test new projects in a contest that offers feedback or at one of my local RWA chapter’s critique sessions.
I was thrilled to get the call that AHC was a finalist. I know happiness is supposed to come from within, but finaling in such a prestigious contest was a huge, validating shot in the arm, renewing my hope. I’d planned to go to RWA’s National Conference in New York just to catch up with friends and see shows. Now I had to make the most of this window of opportunity.
After doing some research, I found that most publishers don’t accept unsolicited queries, so I couldn’t even knock. I e-queried some of the agents who handle inspirationals, putting “2011 GH Finalist: Inspirational” in the subject line. I received requests with lightning speed, as if those words had the power of Ali Baba saying, “Open Sesame.” The GH final helped me open new, and reopen some old, doors.
It may seem like a small thing to some, but getting my pink Finalist name badge ribbon meant a lot...a physical representation of finaling. Given the competition, including Seekervillian Pam Hillman, who’d already sold to Tyndale House’s new e-book line, I didn’t think I’d win, and so was surprised when presenter Kit Wilkinson called my name. (Confession: I hadn’t prepared a speech, against advice on Yahoo! groups, from friends and even the awards ceremony director. My extensive improv and public speaking experience helped me come up with a speech on the spot.)
Being a GH finalist has been wonderful, providing months of fuel for a positive attitude. Winning is a bigger thrill and opportunity than I’d expected, opening more new doors and others wider. I’m so grateful for the outpouring of congratulations, support and interest in my writing. Examples: In the bar after the ceremony, an agent I hadn’t queried made a request. A couple of agents who had already requested emailed their congratulations; one who’d wanted a partial asked for the full instead. Having agents approach me is invigorating.
Even so, I can’t raise my hopes too high or count any chickens. Neither a GH final, a win, getting your feet in nor enthusiasm about reading your work guarantee representation and/or a sale. But as they say, if you’re not in it, you can’t win it.
The GH is a great way, but not the only way, to get in the door. What new doors can you open? Can you reopen others, say, by querying an agent who’d rejected you with a new manuscript?
The keys are not being afraid to try and not giving up. You never know when your time will come.
Learn more at www.ruthjkaufman.com and www.ruthtalks.com
© Ruth Kaufman 2011
Janet “Bookends” Dean again. Leave a comment, perhaps answering Ruth’s challenges or relating experiences that either kept you going or ended in The Call for a chance to win Wanted: A Family and rub Ruth’s necklace.
While we’re chatting, grab a plate. I brought fresh fruit, bran muffins and hardboiled eggs for breakfast.