Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nine Nuggets from My Golden Heart® Experiences

Audra here. I'm so excited to have Keli Gwyn join us in Seekerville today! Keli is a faithful friend of Seekerville and the investigative reporter/hostess of Romance Writers on the Journey. Freshly home from RWA Nationals where she attended as one of the 2010 Inspirational Golden Heart Finalists, Keli tossed her suitcase in the laundry, climbed into her row boat and now joins us to share her experience -- and dare I say wisdom -- in unlocking the joys and rewards of the Golden Heart.

Welcome, Keli!

My sincere thanks to Audra for inviting me to be a guest at Seekerville. I’ve always admired, been awed by, and aspired to meet this great group. I’ve done so online, but at RWA® Nationals in Orlando, I got to meet six Seekers in person: Debby, Janet, Missy, Myra, Ruthy, and Sandra. What a thrill! I can vouch for the fact that they are every bit as wonderful as you’d expect. And they’re so nice. (Yes, even Ruthy! Although, don’t tell her I said that. I don’t want to ruin her reputation.)

Sandra, Myra, Janet, Keli, Ruthy, Missy

Anne Barton, Debby, Keli

Audra asked me to blog about my Golden Heart experience, so I’ll do my best to give you a feel for what it’s like to be a finalist in this well-known and well-run contest. Since I live in the heart of California’s Gold Country, I’m going to share what I refer to as nine nuggets, those nifty benefits I was blessed to receive because of my finalist status.

1) Polishing Skills

The GH entry is one of the longest contest entries out there, totaling 55 pages between the partial and the synopsis. Entrants get plenty of practice polishing those critical first chapters until they shine so brightly the judges are tempted to don sunglasses.

That’s not all. The GH is the only contest in the romance genre I know of that requires entrants to submit a complete manuscript. This forces entrants to edit their entire entries, giving them even more experience at making their stories sparkle.

If that’s not enough, RWA allows finalists to submit a revised copy of their manuscripts in the event that they receive requests from final round judges. Knowing an agent or editor may ask to see an entire entry spurs many a finalist to keep working on a story until it glints like the gem they envision it to be.

2) Patience

The GH entry is due in mid-November, and yet the finalists aren’t announced until the last week of March. Four months.

Once the finalists are announced on March 25, they have to wait until the end of the RWA conference to find out who the winners are. Four more months.

Eight months of waiting and wondering are good practice for the world of publishing. Novelists do plenty of both. So, the GH experience prepares the entrants for the writing life as they learn patience.

3) Excitement

OK. Excitement is an understatement for the emotion experienced by most entrants whose phones ring on March 25. Exhilaration, elation, or euphoria is probably a more accurate description.

The thrill begins that day, but there are more to follow. As you’ll see in my next nuggets, a finalist is in for an amazing four months filled with unexpected joys.

4) New Friends

For me, what followed my first GH call in 2008 was a blessing beyond belief. I’d been writing in isolation for two years. I knew not one other writer. I’d spoken briefly with a friend of a friend who told me I needed to join RWA, which I did. I devoured each issue of the Romance Writers Report, which is where I learned about the contests, including the GH.

Even though I entered the GH, I had no idea what an accomplishment it was to final. My first hint that I’d done something special came on March 28, 2008. I received an email from the newsletter editor of my husband’s British sports car club saying someone named Tina Russo wanted her to pass on a message about “a Golden contest or something like that” and asked me if it were legit. Um, yeah!

A month later, Seekerville hosted the four inspirational GH finalists. I was such a newbie that Tina had to talk me through the process. I’d only visited one blog in my entire life and had no clue what a wonderful world of writers awaited me. Thank you, Tina and the rest of the Seekers!

The writer buddies I met through your awesome blog were some of my first. Since then, I’ve met many more. Truly, when it comes to the friends I’ve made because of my GH finals, I feel like I hit the Mother Lode.

5) Fellow Finalists

Two of my fellow GH finalists who met me here in Seekerville back in 2008 invited me to join the Yahoo! group, which had been set up the day the finalists were announced. Courtney Milan helped me make it through the steps involved in joining the loop and posting my first message. In spite of being a latecomer to the group, they gave me a warm welcome.

Over the next three months, I got to know this amazing group of women, who call ourselves the Pixie Chicks—or Pixies for short. We’re still a tight group, and I was delighted to see several of our members in Orlando.
In March of this year, I became part of a second group of finalists known as the Unsinkables. I had a blast meeting many of them at the various GH functions in Florida. Talk about talented. Five of them sold even before Nationals!

6) Recognition

Being a Golden Heart finalist catapults a romance novelist from obscurity into the spotlight. RWA invites each finalist to submit information about their local media and sends out press releases. Some finalists find themselves featured in their local newspapers. One of the 2010 winners was invited to be a featured guest in her town’s annual parade.

Not all finalists make the news or wave to their adoring fans from a float, but most would agree that being able to tell others about their final lends credence to their calling. Family and friends seem to take them and their writing more seriously.

7) Requests

In the professional realm, being able to add Golden Heart Finalist to the subject line of a query can reap rewards. Those who’ve had work in agents’ or editors’ slush piles may find the publishing pros more eager to read their work.

Back in 2008, I watched in amazement as fellow finalists received requests. Some were the result of queries sent prior to the finalist announcement. Some resulted from queries sent after the GH calls went out. Still others came after the final round judges turned in their scores. The requests continued to pour in at Nationals as finalists met with the publishing pros.
The response this year has been similar to what I witnessed in 2008. While GH finalist status is no guarantee of a sale, it does get one noticed and can lead to requests.

8) Royal Treatment

I’d heard previous finalists talk about how much fun it is to attend Nationals as a GH finalist. I saw for myself what they meant when I went to San Francisco in 2008. RWA treats the finalists like royalty.

As soon as the finalists are announced, RWA sends out the GH pins via Fed-Ex. This shiny bit of bling dresses up one’s badge nicely. When a finalist arrives at Nationals, she or he will find a pretty pink Golden Heart Finalist ribbon to attach to the badge. I felt like a minor celebrity when other conferees would stop me to offer their congratulations.

There is a champagne reception where the GH finalists get to mingle with the published RITA finalists and receive their certificates. Being in the same room with some of the biggest names in romance is incredible.

Then comes the Awards Ceremony, where each finalist gets her or his moment in lights. Everyone is dressed in her or his best, creating a festive atmosphere. The GH finalists are seated in the VIP section with the RITA finalists, as well as the editors and agents. In Orlando, my awesome critique partner and dear friend Anne Barton and I were at the table next to Nora Roberts and her friends. And, no, I didn’t badger her to pose for a photo with me. But Anne did take one of me with the other inspirational finalists before the Awards Ceremony.

Keli, CJ Eernisse Chase, and Kristin Leigh Wallace

The ceremony begins with the GH presentation. Each finalist’s picture, book title, and name are displayed on four jumbotron screens placed around the room so each of the 2,000+ attendees has a good view by category, with the announcement of the winners coming afterward. Spotlights follow the winner to the stage. The evening has the feel of the Oscars. I marvel at all RWA does to make the event—and the entire GH experience—such a memorable one.

9) Hidden Blessings

I mentioned the fact that the family and friends of finalists often take them and their writing more seriously after a GH final. For me, I found that I took myself more seriously. After my first final, I felt like I’d received validation. I’d asked God if I were in His will in regard to my writing. I’d asked Him for writing pals. I’d asked Him to boost my confidence. I believe He used the GH as His answer.

I’ve alluded to the new friends I’ve made, but I haven’t talked about the most special connection of all. For me, meeting fellow 2008 GH finalist Anne Barton and forming our critique partnership was by far the best thing to come out of my GH experiences. I didn’t walk on stage in Orlando, and I’m fine with that. I firmly believe the Lord wanted CJ to win. She’d finaled six times, and I felt it was her turn to get a new necklace. I couldn’t be happier for her.

The only thing I was sad about that night was that I didn’t get to tell everyone how much Anne means to me. She’s an awesome critique partner, a treasured friend, and an example of class personified. I’m blessed—and I know it!

Keli and Anne Barton 

* * * * *

I know some of you may not have been able to attend Nationals, so I have a few mementos to share. One commenter will win a package containing a water bottle, notebook, and pen that commemorate the 30th anniversary of RWA. If you’d like to enter the drawing, just say so in your comment. Be sure to leave an email address so I can contact you—unless you know I already have yours.

If you have any questions about the Golden Heart, please feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answers, I’m sure there are others who will, since many of the Seekers and their friends have been GH finalists.

And now, I have a confession to make. I’m a lousy cook. Since I know y’all (that’s for you, Missy) don’t have the addiction to Taco Bell I do, I’ll refrain from subjecting you to seven layer burritos and such. Instead, I invite those of you who are great cooks to offer us some delectable cyber creations in the comments. One thing I do request, though, is that there is coffee—good coffee—available at any hour of the day. That way I know we can keep Anne and Ruthy happy.

Keli Gwyn is a writer of inspirational historical romance represented by Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary and was a 2010 and 2008 Golden Heart® finalist. She's the wife of a British sports car enthusiast, mother of a college student, a member of Toastmasters, a scrapbooker, and a Taco Bell addict. She has a weakness for Coach handbags, collects hedgehog figurines, and has a hard time not singing along when 70s music is playing in the Dollar Store.



    Keli, welcome back to Seekerville.

    You've been so busy winning contests we haven't seen you as a guest since, what? 2008? Sheesh.

    When folks found out you would be here today they sent emails asking us to please get you off the island FAST, as you're hogging all the contest bling.

    BTW love all the great RWA Conference photos. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Keli

    Thanks for sharing the mining experience. CONGRATS!!!

    Sounds like the Lord is blessing your writing - finaling twice in a short time must be quite an accomplishment.

    Fun prize today but I'm not a romance writer so someone else will surely enjoy more than me.

    I'm so glad you've kept writing, Taco Bell notwithstanding.

    Good LUCK on keeping Ruthy happy. I guess since she's been to the conference and all, she thinks she can take of bringing FOOD here. Sheesh.

    Helen, did I beat you here this morning? No way. You're probably typing as I am. ;D

    So- Helen's probably bringing coffee. I'm still in sustenance only mode, but stopped by for hot from the oven MUFFINS. All kinds - you name it, I took 'em... except there is one less of the cinnamon apple.

  3. Yay Tina!
    YOU brought the coffee!!!
    Contest bling - love it.
    Bet Keli will be off any time. She's about to TAKE off - no boat needed! Wahoo!

  4. I've brought a box of tissues. A box I didn't know I needed. And since you like Taco Bell, how about tacos with cilantro, fresh garden tomatoes, romaine lettuce and cheese?

    Keli, your experience sounds wonderful. I'm trying to decide if I'm ready for GH or if I'm a chicken. The thought that I might final is a tad scary, but the the thought that my name might get called as a winner is down right terrifying. I know I'd trip and fall flat on my face, and then it'd be twitted for the world to see. :)

    By the way, all three of you look fabulous in your gowns.

  5. Thank you, Audra, for inviting me to be a guest here in Seekerville. Talk about feeling like a celebrity. Wowzers!

    I was sooo excited to meet some of you Seekers in Orlando. I look forward to meeting even more of you in Indianapolis, since I'll be attending my first American Christian Fiction Writers Conference.

    I hope there's a post coming up with the Awards Ceremony shoe picture. You lovely ladies were sporting some cute ones. =)

  6. Tina, thanks for putting the coffee on. Gotta have it ready when Ruthy gets up at o'dark thirty. I saw firsthand what she's like when she doesn't get her cuppa joe. =)

    I'm working on getting off the island. Thanks to your great articles here in Seekerville, I've learned heaps that has helped me improve my stories. You ladies rock!!

  7. KC, thanks for your words of encouragement. And for bringing muffins. I helped myself to a yummy oat bran one. OK. So, I took two. Since they are calorie-free cyber fare, I decided to splurge.

    So, if you're not a romance writer, are you a writer? Or a reader? Which authors are your faves? Seekers, of course, but any others?

  8. Renee, bless you for bringing my favorite food. I stuffed the last bite of muffin in my mouf, grabbed one of those delish tacos, and chowed down. Can you say happy? Mmm!

    In regard to entering the GH, I say go for it. You are far more savvy than I was when I entered the first time. (Shh. Don't tell anyone that newbie me entered in 2007 and got scores that put me in the bottom half.)

    I'm sure you'd do far better than you expect. And if you were to final, you'd have a great group of fellow finalists who would be there to share in the experience, answer your questions, and offer moral support.

    As far as making the trek to the stage, I kept two things in mind. The RWA staff told us the lights are so bright that the winners can't see the audience, so you can pretend you're talking to your best friend. Some of my Facebook pals gave me another bit of advice. Wear shoes you're used to, which is why I ditched the ides of wearing heels for the first time in 20 years.

  9. Oops. I was goofing off and got here late with coffee. Sounds like you could use a second pot, though. So here it is.

    Validation. I agree, Kili. That's and important thing that the contests can give.

    Hang in there, girl. Sounds like you're on the cusp of great things.


  10. Keli:

    My apologies for changing your name.


  11. Helen, thanks for keeping the coffee coming. I never developed a taste for it myself, but I know there are many out there who will be happy to find it ready and waiting.

    Contest finals can be a real boost to one's confidence. I'm often plagued by bouts of doubts, so encouraging feedback from contest judges or an unexpected final can offer much-needed affirmation.

  12. Hey Keli, stopping back by...

    ooh - shoe photos - that should be fun! Y'all DID look mah-velous already. I'm dating myself here but I think it was Peggy Fleming, the Olympic ice skater for those who are young un's, who said she liked to think of the heads in the audience as cabbages. That still makes me laugh.

    I'd think that knowing people really ARE rooting for you would make a big difference. It's just exciting all the way around.

    Well - I found these great Seekers when one of my mentors from the Christian Writer's Guild - Dave Fessenden - was a guest here. Been a serious fan ever since, and they DO put up with children's writers here. Open-minded bunch!

    My WIP is about an imaginative young Schnauzer who escapes an abusive home, has many adventures and shhh - becomes a K9 spy. :) Love to have you stop by and sign up for May updates... whenever I get around to sending one. There's not really been anything to send yet. Other than the adventures of the real live May. She's a hoot.

    I am a member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and entered the contest for my local group (mid-south) last night. I hired my other CWG mentor to help coach me to the next level and thus am doing a complete rewrite. Sigh. As someone recently said, good practice! So - this is my 2nd contest, and the 1st with the new perspective. And of course... this means I need to redo the audio on the website since it's now quite a different text. But the story is essentially the same, though now it's completely in first dog-person. Wshew.

    We only could enter 1st chapter or 1st 10 pages (mine was 7) but I now need to get on to the rest of it so I'm ready for the conference which is end of Sept.

    And now you know! Thx for asking! :)

    There are other children's writers here I know... we lurk about. I'm just more vocal than the rest.

    I've NEVER been a romance reader so this has been quite eye-opening for me. I've very much enjoyed reading several of the authors here, and look forward to reading many more.

    (This is just an aside but... when I think of the word "jaw", it's more in terms of animals. Perhaps it's the circles I run in - chasing my tail no doubt - but I just don't hear that word in conversation... Wondering if there can be a romance work without the word "jaw"? It's kinda gotten funny for me now. **Yikes! Hope no one had on open toed-shoes because I probably just stepped on many,many toes there...)

    Seekers and friends have been so so supportive. (So now I'm bidding you fond farewell since I'm going to be blacklisted...) We newbies truly appreciate each of you.

    OH - and I have several Twining's teas too - I'm going to be sipping some Black Currant shortly to go with the blacklist. Care to join me at the table all by myself? At least my dog loves me...

  13. Oh my gosh, what to address first???




    And I have CONFESSED to Keli that the same year she DOUBLE-FINALED I tried to BUY a GH final by working extra shifts and entering four manuscripts in various categories.

    Crashed. Burned. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

    She double-finaled and I whined. A lot. The poor little thing prob'ly heard me clear 'cross country. I'm such a baby.

    And now I love her. Just love her. And all I can do is pray for her to get off the island, so I nudge her (read: harrass) now and then.

    Because that's what good friends do. (laughing here)

    Great blog, since I've never had the (ahem) PLEASURE of being a GH finalist, Kel. You brought it to me first-hand.


    I've been getting in late over here because life took a turn this week, and I'm so glad y'all are coverin' the food. You guys rock.

    I did bring (loving the muffins!!! and HEY, HEY, HEY!!!! I'M NOT THAT HARD TO KEEP HAPPY, CHICA K. C.!!!) a stash of Boyer Mallo-cups and a cool, fresh fruit tray because it's been in the upper 80's, low-nineties here all week and it's just too hot to turn that oven on! You guys know I'm a wuss when it's hot.

    And did I mention the room-sized roach that tried to eat me on the Boardwalk in Orlando?

    Keli, praying for you. Love knowing you. And I'm apologizing publicly for being a brat.

    You'd think I'd learn, wouldn't ya'?

  14. KELI!!!! Soooo good to have you back in Seekerville, my friend, and SUPER CONGRATS on yet another GH final, girl!!

    I gotta tell you, Kel, that you are one of a handful of writers that I am on the edge of my seat for, just WAITING for the moment you get the call because I honestly cannot understand the delay. I have read your work and I know it's just a matter of time ... uh, God's time, that is, which as we all know is always perfect even if He seems a bit tardy on occasion!

    As a former GH finalist (2005, along with Janet Dean, Myra Johnson and Tina Russo), I totally concur that the two HUGE perks that came with the honor were 1.) AMAZING friendships like the "Golden Girls," which is what Janet, Myra and Tina called our little GH group, AND The Seekers, of course. And 2.) Validation!!

    Like you I took myself a lot more seriously after the GH final, as did my family and friends, which helps to light a fire under you like nothing else seemed to do.

    It's a wonderful experience, and one that I hope and pray more and more of our Seeker friends are able to enjoy down the road.


  15. Keli, great to have you here. And congratulations on finaling in the GH! I've been looking forward to your visit on Seekerville for weeks!

    Thanks for giving us all the little nuggets on your expericne with GH. Just like you, my writing took a turn after winning the ACFW Genesis a couple of years ago--not only did it give me a much needed boost of confidence, it made me work harder at learning the craft which in turn convinced my family that Mom' was serious about this writing thing!

    I suspect you'll be getting off the island shortly if that stash of bling you've been picking up is anything to go by--At least, that will give the rest of us a fighting chance at all those contests! ~grins~

    Patty Hall

  16. Oh my goodness, look at all the comments already! I feel like such a slacker!

    Good morning, Keli! So glad you're playing with us today! You don't do coffee, huh? Well, I've got an amazing assortment of herbal teas and huge urn of hot water going right next to Tina's urn of coffee. There. That should hold us until lunch, LOL!

    Amazing nuggets of advice, Keli. The Golden Heart is such a pinnacle contest. A you achieved the peak not once, but twice.

    You go, girlfriend!!

    My prayers are zeroed in on you. Off the island!!! Talent, good looks and a winning personality--what more do the publishers want?

    Since I'm eating, breathing and sleeping the county fair this week, I've brought a ton of breakfast burritoes, Egg McMuffin sandwiches and tater tots.

    Just wait to see what I scrounge up for lunch -- do I hear funnel cakes???

    Love ya, Keli!

  17. Keli,
    Thanks for all this great info and CONGRATULATIONS!!!
    I'm still so happy for you!
    And I hope this is your time, Keli. Instead of yelling "move that bus' - we're yelling "get off the island" :-)
    My hopes and prayers are with you, Keli. WOOOHOOO
    So, what keeps you going? Besides 70s music and good food?

  18. Awww, love reading this Keli! Look how tiny you are! And about Ruth...she already ruined her reputation at the signing. WAY too smily and sweet.
    Ruth, you're going to have to work on that. *grin*

    Keli, thanks so much for sharing about your experiences!

  19. Wow -- I'm kind of hyperventilating after reading that. I think you're very, very brave, Keli. The more I find out about what happens after contest wins and publication, the more I'm liking the vagaries of my own unpupped island. I'm thinking of trading my grass hut for something more substantial 'cause it's comfy here all by my lonesome.

    Oh -- and I love your smile. You're just beaming in every picture.

  20. Hi Keli, Welcome to Seekerville and what fun to see you again. Last week was marvelous. So fun to meet Seeker friends.

    And I love Taco Bell so bring it on. The muffins are good too and the homemade tacos are lovely. Thanks.

    Tina always makes great coffee.

    Your photos are great. Loved the analogy to gold country since I'm a Californian by birth. And you're right. Its been through contests that I've made some of my best writer friends.

    KC I write children's books too and there are a bunch of us here. Writing skills are writing skills. And it is such a joy to share.

  21. KC, how cool that you write children's stories. One of my dear writer friends who lives in my area does. I love getting together with her and hearing about her stories. Hers are, coincidentally, about dogs, too. And I love the name of her blog: Paws and Ponder. Isn't that great?

    Rewrites? I can sooo relate. My Dream Agent gave me the best Christmas present ever when she offered me representation this past December 23. That was the AWESOME part. The not-so-thrilling part came six weeks later when I learned that I had muffed up a major plot point only 1/4 of the way into my story. I had to delete 86,000 words and write 75,000 new ones. I finished right before Nationals, and now I'm preparing to do yet more revisions.

    I've decided I'm not a writer; I'm a re-writer. I'd already gone through two major rewrites of this story, so I'm getting used to this. Not that I want to make it a habit or anything, though. I have my Dream Team this time around to help me get it right. With Rachelle and my two uber talented critique partners, I'm no longer writing blind. Their kind but insightful feedback helps me. Sounds like you can relate, since you have some awesome mentors.

    I don't know if I should say this, but I'm 100% certain I use the word jaw in my story. Seems we romance writers have a thing for men and their chins. Part of the problem is that guys so often refuse to show their emotion, forcing us to convey it with movements of their jaws. If you know other ways, do share. =)

  22. Welcome back to Seekerville, Keli! Always great to see you!! Thank you to you and Anne for stopping by my table at the Literacy signing in Orlando. I'll send the picture soon.

    I could relate to every nugget the Golden Heart has given you. I met Julie, Myra, and Tina in the GH in 2005. Nothing could ever replace those precious friendships that led me to the rest of the Seekers. Missy and I shared the fun of finaling in 2006. What lovely memories the GH has given finalists and winners alike.

    I'm praying for your exit from Unpubbed Island. Let's celebrate with a Taco Bell buffet! I love the stuff. :-)


  23. YAY Sandra!

    Knew there were others of us around! Are you in SCBWI? Are you going to Nashville in Sept? Maybe we can start a YOUNG Seekers - ha! I know we're all young right? ;D

    alright - y'all have a great rest of the day - off to do my thang...

    Y'all keep smilin' (as my hubby of 15 yrs TODAY always sez)...

  24. So glad you were able to go to the conference and had a great time, Keli!!! It must be awesome to final in the Golden Heart! Not once but twice! You are on your way, girl!

    Hope I get to meet you some day! I'm sure I will! Congrats again!

  25. Ok - that is WAY unfair...

    link please!! I tried looking it up but found Paws N Ponder, Paws to Ponder and various other renditions.

    Guess I can't have the pity party alone eh? I've heard though, that the best writers are the rewriters. In fact, think I've heard that around HERE!!!

    Is Rachelle Gardner your agent? I follow her blog as well. Have thoroughly enjoyed and learned so much from her also.

    I'm thrilled there seem to be so many Christians, living out their faith. Wonderful!!

    Ha on the jaw... I don't know - it's just gotten funny to me now. I'm sooo not the person to give advice. Heck I'm dealing with a young female with a full beard (her being a Schnauzer and all)...

    now - REALLY
    tearing myself away...

    have fun in Seekerville today.
    I'm expecting the helicopter to swoop down and pluck you from the island any moment.

    Capt Jack's ready for another party by now, though seems like we JUST celebrated another leaving last month (I think). It sure gives us HOPE!!!

  26. Ruthy, puh-leaze don't lighten up on me. I count on you to keep pushing me to have more fun cuz, the truth is, I'm still a scaredy-cat inside. I just do a better job hiding it these days. I need people like you who help me learn to take myself less seriously. So, don't you dare go easy on me. Nudge (harass) me all you want. Naw! I'm not brave enough to say that, but I trust you to do it when I need it. Deal?

    Sorry to hear life dealt you a blow this week. Hope things are looking up.

    Thanks for bringing the fresh fruit. I didn't make it to the continental breakfasts in Orlando early enough to get any. My fault, I know, but I'm filling my plate this morning, thanks to you. =)

  27. Julie, your kind words melted my heart. Thanks for them.

    You may not know what an impact you've had on me and my writing, but your critique of my first chapter is one of the reasons I'm where I am today. Talk about nuggets. You showered me with them. Your comments and suggestions helped me take my story to a new level. When I get published, there will be some of your words in the first chapter. I'm thrilled to have your fingerprints on my story.

    My office walls are full of motivational words and sayings. Right next to my computer hangs a pretty silver frame with your letter inside. Whenever I doubt myself, I look at it and am encouraged. =)

  28. Keli, welcome back to Seekerville. Talking about being a GH finalist brings back memories of last year's contest when I was a finalist. That was such a thrill and it sounds like it was for you too! It's such a wonderful contest.

  29. Patty, thanks for making me feel so special. What a nice way to start my day. You're a dear.

    Congratulations on your Genesis win! You're obviously a very talented writer to earn that honor. I'm impressed.

    Will you be at the ACFW conference? I'd love to meet you in person. Since it's my first time, I'll be looking for friendly faces.

  30. Audra, thanks for taking time from your fair duties to deliver some scrumptious breakfast burritos. I helped myself and made a cup of peppermint tea. I'm glad this is calorie-free cyber fare because at the rate I'm wolfing it down, I'd be dealing with quite a sagging middle by day's end. =)

    I hope you have tonz of fun at the fair and that things go smoothly.

  31. Pepper, thanks for your kind comment. I'm such a fan of yours. Love what you've done with your Writers Alley blog.

    What keeps me going? Hmm, let me see. One thing is my husband's unflagging support. He is president of my fan club. Men don't come any finer. Next is my tenacity. My parents have often likened me to a Sherman tank, small but strong. My faith upholds me. God's blessed me so many times on my writing journey, giving me affirmation just when I needed it most. And, I know this sounds prideful, but the thought of seeing my books on the shelves between Robin Jones Gunn and Cathy Marie Hake spurs me to keep working, growing, and persevering despite the difficulties inherent in the writing life.

    What keeps YOU going?

  32. Hi, Keli!
    It was so great seeing you in Orlando. It's been waaaay too long. Loved your post and all the excellent insight.

    I have been a finalist in the Golden Heart twice and each time it was a unique experience in its own way. To all who may be holding back from entering...JUMP IN THE POOL! It's a great experience.

    I hope to get to see you, Keli, while I'm out here in good ol' California---now please pass the coffee! I need a great big cup!

    PS-Loved all the great pics!

  33. Jessica, I loved meeting you at the Literacy Autographing. That was one of my conference highlights. What fun it was to see you in person. You're a lovely young woman.

    Ruthy was nice, wasn't she? Maybe shooting us those dazzling smiles was her way of getting her books into our hands. I just couldn't walk away from her table without one. And, wowzers, did she ever make my day with the nice words in the inscription! She certainly knows how to use them to full effect. =)

  34. Gosh, it was great seeing so many of the Seekers at Nationals! Thank you for the hugs, the prayers, and the laughs. You all are the best, and I loved running into you around every corner at the conference (on the escalators, on the way to workshops, etc.) You really made it fun.

    Can I just say how relieved I am that Keli still likes me after rooming with me? She didn't seem to mind that my hair and makeup products took up 3/4 of the bathroom counter or that my shoes littered the floor of our room. Of course, she might just be too kind to say anything . . .

    Great post, Keli! You summed it up really nicely. It's hard to believe it's time to think about the 2011 GH already! Getting back to work now.

  35. So glad to see Keli on here!

    A few months ago I got to know her when she graciously agreed to interview me on her site. It was my first interview and she supported me every step of the way since I was such a newbie.

    Speaking of which, everyone should check out her site...the amount of work and detail she puts into making every interview shines is obvious and they are a joy to read.

    She's a lovely person and I wish her all the best!

    Please enter me in the contest.

    Christi Corbett
    christi_corbett at yahoo dot com

  36. Thanks for sharing with us, Keli! I had no idea that the awards banquet is so elegant. It sounds amazing.

    KC, I a have a confession to make. I am hanging out at your table, too. I also write for children. I am just finishing an historical novel for middle graders.

    I do love reading romance novels and have been knocked over by Debby's MIA and Ruthy's Waiting Out the Storm! Loved those! The Wings of Refuge series by Cheryl Wyatt is quickly becoming a favorite, too.

    I have learned so much from you gals. I hope you can tolerate the SCBWI members. You can put us in the kiddie corner of the island.

    Thanks for the coffee. I need it!

  37. Hi Keli,

    Congrats on your GH finals. That's awesome to get there twice.

    Keli is a great interviewer and I loved sharing my shoes on her blog.

  38. Kav, each step on my journey has stretched me and taken me further from the coziness of my comfort zone. Ruthy wasn't kidding when she said I was a huge scaredy cat back in 2008. I had no idea what I'd gotten myself into when I finaled in the GH and headed to my first RWA conference. Talk about overwhelmed. That was me.

    But, I did it. And I learned that there are so many wonderful people out there ready to support and encourage us. Writers are some of the most generous people I've ever known. I met a Pixie (2008 GH finalist) at the registration desk, and she gave me a hearty welcome. My next stop was the Faith, Hope, and Love retreat. I entered the room not knowing a soul, but Janet Dean spotted me and rushed over. Her gracious greeting eased my fears.

    As for the smile, when I downloaded the pics after returning from Orlando I noticed that my smile was so big my eyes squinted. That's cuz I had a blast, and I'm one of those people whose face reveals every emotion I experience. I was thrilled to meet some of the Seekers, to spend time with Anne, to hang out with other writers, to receive such high caliber instruction . . . The conference was a 12 on the 1-10 scale.

    I encourage you to venture into the contest circuit, to attend conferences, to join writers groups. I guarantee you'll be blessed.

  39. a great posting...loved the pictures :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  40. Sandra, meeting you was a delight. I loved being able to see you with that pretty pink First Sale ribbon hanging from your name badge.

    I'm glad to discover other Taco Bell fans here. I eat there so often, I should have stock in the place.

    Where did you live in California? We moved lots when I was a kid, up and down the state, so we may have been in some of the same places.

  41. Janet, I enjoyed seeing you in Orlando. Your beautiful face was one I sought. I have such wonderful memories of our first meeting in San Francisco. Your graciousness helped me overcome my first timer jitters.

    The friendships formed among the GH finalists are special. My Pixie and Unsinkable pals are the greatest. It's such an honor to be part of two talented groups of writers.

    Like you, I've formed lasting bonds with my category mates. I enjoy seeing their successes. I clapped my hands until they stung when Kit Wilkinson won in 2008 and was thrilled for CJ Eernisse Chase when she took her walk to the stage last week. I rejoiced when Kit sold her first book not long after Nationals in 2008 and look forward to celebrating with the others as well when they make their first sales.

  42. KC, Happy Anniversary! Enjoy celebrating your 15 years of togetherness.

    Sorry I forgot to add the link to the blog I mentioned. My friend is Chris Pedersen, and the blog is Paws and Ponder. If I added the right HTML code, the name is a clickable link.

  43. Melanie, thanks for taking time from your busy pre-release days to stop by. You must be getting excited to have your first book on the shelves. Have there been any sightings yet?

    I'm looking forward to reading The Healer's Apprentice. I've been privileged to serve as one of your contest judges and to read for you, so I know how well you write.

    All the best to you as your book makes its debut. I'm so happy for you. =)

  44. Cara, how fun to be part of the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood. Anne, as you know, is a member of that group as well as the Pixies. Your group's blog is awesome. If anyone wants to check it out, the name is The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood.

    How exciting that three of the four in your inspirational category have already sold. I expect to hear good news for Kayla any day now. (If I've missed it, please enlighten me.)

    I'm eager to read Love on a Dime. I love the story line. I just need more hours in my day--and a course in speed reading. =)

  45. Caroline, it was wonderful to see you in Orlando. I miss your presence at our Sacramento Valley Rose meetings.

    I'd love to see you while you're out here in California. Drop me a line, and we can set a day and time.

  46. Anne, seeing you in Orlando was hands down the high point of my conference experience. Thanks for rooming with me, cruising the Literacy Autographing with me, sharing meals with me, and putting up with my endless chatter. I had two years' worth stored up, so your ears must have taken days to recover. =)

    You looked stunning each and every day. I loved seeing your stylish outfits and cool shoes. Talk about good taste. You've got it in abundance. I was sorely tempted to borrow some of your adorable tops. *grin*

  47. Christi, how great to see you here. Thanks for the kind words about my blog. It was my pleasure to have you as my guest at Romance Writers on the Journey. I loved learning more about you and your writing. I hope you're doing well.

    You are entered!

  48. Kathy, how fun to have another children's writer visiting. You're in great company.

    The Awards Ceremony at the Romance Writers of America conference is incredible. Being in a room with 2,000+ romance writers, their guests, and a smattering of publishing pros all dressed their best is an incredible experience.

    Does the SCBWI hold a national conference? Are there contests similar to the Golden Heart and RITA? Do you belong to a local chapter? My children's writer friend does, and she says it's a great group.

  49. Shannon, what fun to see you here. Thanks for dropping by.

    I had such fun interviewing you. Your shoes are great. I only wish I'd had room to share more of them. Wait until the Seekers post the pic of those they wore at the Awards Ceremony. I think you'll like 'em.

  50. Karen K, thanks for visiting. I'm glad you like the pictures. It was fun to pose with some of my favorite people. =)

  51. Keli,

    Thanks for the behind-the-scenes glimpse into the Nationals. Loved the pics. You guys look so glamorous!

    You are such a wonderful example of the generosity of writers. I am always amazed at how encouraging, humble and generous most writers I have met, in person and on-line, are.
    You have an inner light that shines through in everything you do. I can only imagine how wonderful your writing is and I know I'll get to hold a hard copy in my hands one day soon!

    I, too, count my 2008 GH final as one of the best things that ever happened in my writing career. Like you, I had no idea what it really meant to final, so I don't think I was appropriately excited when I got the call. I just thought, 'Oh, that's nice. I finaled in a contest.' It wasn't until Tina contacted me from Seekerville (I found out that she had sent out private investigators to find me!) that I realized the enormity of the whole thing. And of course when people started discussing gowns (GOWNS?) to wear, I got an inkling.

    The friends I've made through the GH loop are the greatest blessing to me!

    Thanks for sharing with us. And many good wishes for great things in your career!

    Sue (a Pixie who hopes to one-day get to a conference!)

  52. Great post, Keli. Way to be up there with the finalists. You are forever more a GH finalist, you don't have to go home with the necklace to own that.

  53. Keli, It was great to meet you and share with you the GH experience. Your nine nuggets are wonderful. Like you, I wrote in isolation for a long time. The Golden Heart final gave me the courage to reach out to my local chapter after a 15 year hiatus and I'm really glad I did.

    Ruthy, wonderful to FINALLY meet you. I have nothing but admiration for you and the rest of the Seekers. You ladies have inspired me in so many ways.

    Keli, best of luck with your writing career. I hope to be cheering your sale soon.

  54. Keli, how much fun is this? What a crowd!

    Finalling in the Golden Heart is such a big deal, but really, what you're doing for Romance Writers on the Journey is incredible, too! I loved my time in your space, LOL!

    Thanks for sharing about the GH and do tell a little bit about your efforts on your blog!!

    Okay, as I promised, I'm hauling in the Fair food!! Funnel cakes, cotton candy, and chili dogs for everyone. Buckets of lemonade and slushies. Don't forget to pick up a turkey leg, gotta have that protein to balance out all the sugar, LOL!

    Can't wait to meet you in person at ACFW, Keli!!

  55. Hi Keli!!

    It's so fun to see you here today!!! :-) I'm really proud of you and your story! Your hard work and perseverance are an inspiration to all of us!

    And I just loved your nugget analogy! (And the alliteration!) You're so clever! ;-)

    Love, Jody

  56. Julie sent you a letter???

    She's such a suck-up.

  57. Iced coffee would be good hear. Need some caffeine to make it during the afternoon.
    I so wanted to go to the RWA conference. I planned to go to Nashville. It's just a couple hours from home. So sad about the flood. Hopefully, they will come there soon.

    I'd love to be entered in the drawing.

  58. Is no one else picking on this girl???

    Am I the only one???

    Oh my stars, didja all go to 'nice girl' school since last week?

    Sure she's cute. Personable. Writes beautifully.


    Geez, Louise, don't we have a reputation to uphold here?

    And Keli, you stop tellin' people I'm nice, holy smokeroni, girlfriend, you're gonna get 'em all believin' it and then the expectations mount, and the stress...

    Oh, the stress....

    Luckily I brought mid-day coffee, REALLY GOOD coffee, too, from my Keurig system and you can pick whatever grind or blend or flavor you want.

    What a wonderful, heart-stopping marvelous idea this machine was.

    You're doin' great, sweetcheeks.

    And Julie reallllly sent you a letter???


  59. Ruthy
    SOOOOO good to have you back. LOL :-)

    What a wonderful testiment to your husband's support. WOW! That's beautiful.

    I think strength is a definite plus to make it in the writing world.

    Your blog is fabulous, so encouraging. You were the first person to ever interview me as a writer, and it meant SOOOO much to me. It made me feel like this writing-gig was real :-)

    Dr. Pepper keeps me going ;-)
    And the encouragement of people like you and the SEEKERS.
    And my unrelenting parents, who believe in me more than anyone else on this planet.
    And this insatiable need to create - that I KNOW is from the Lord.
    Plus - a hint of ADHD and a really big love of humor. Both of which make life a little more manageable ;-)

    Thanks so much for what you do, Keli. You are a blessing to SOOOO many.

  60. I write the word SOOOOOO way to much. I'm stopping now to research synonyms for 'so'

  61. Sue, my awesome Pixie pal and 2008 category mate, I'm so glad to see you here. I look forward to the day you make it to Nationals and I can meet you in person.

    I'm sooo eager for the day you sell. I've read your work, as you know, and you can write--WELL! I'm surprised a publisher hasn't snatched you up. I'm sure one will, and the sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned.

    Congratulations on taking second place in the Touched by Love contest. I was thrilled to hear your name called at the FH&L meeting.

  62. Mary, thanks for taking time to stop by. Since you crank out books at warp speed and must keep your fingers flying over your keyboard for hours on end, I count your visit as a gift. Keep those fun reads coming!

  63. Cat, what a treat to have one of my Unsinkable buddies stop by. I'm glad I got to meet you in person, even if our time together was brief. Thanks heaps for all you did to get the Unsinkables pins and distribute them.

    Mega congrats on your GH win in the Contemporary Series Romance category. You looked great up on the stage. I'm thrilled for you and hope you are on the loop sharing news of your First Sale very soon.

  64. Audra, the fair food is fun. I chose a chili dog with lotsa cheese on top, a big ol' glass of ice cold lemonade, and cotton candy for dessert. Pink, cuz I think it tastes the best.

    Thanks for your kind words about RWotJ. It was a privilege to have you as my guest.

  65. Jody, what fun to have you drop by. I know how busy you are writing your contracted books, running your fabulous blog, and mothering five kids, so your visit means a great deal to me.

    I'm honored to have you as my new critique partner. As such, I can vouch for how well you write. It's easy to see why Bethany House offered you that three-book contract. You're mega talented. I can't wait to read The Preacher's Bride. It's not too much longer until your first book is on the shelves. How exciting!

  66. Ruthy, lemme tell you about that letter from Julie. Then you'll know that she's not the "suck-up." I am!

    Julie was a guest on a blog last summer. The blogger ran a contest, offering a 15-page critique by the famous Julie Lessman. It was one of those deals where you could get multiple entries if you took extra steps. Let's just say I took a hike and racked up more points than anyone else cuz I craved Julie's feedback. And I won!

    Julie gave me her feedback on hard copy and included a cover letter, the very one I have framed on my wall.

    So, there you have it. Proof that I do know how to go after something I want--like getting your signed book at the Literacy Autographing, complete with an inscription that made me tear up.

    OK. I'll stop now because I'm in danger of completely destroying your reputation by awarding you more nice points. =)

  67. Runner 10, thanks for stopping by to read the post. I'm sorry the conference had to be moved so that you were unable to attend. Most of all, I'm sorry for what those of you in that part of the country endured with that record breaking rainfall. My heart goes out to everyone who is still dealing with the after effects of the flooding. I hope you can make it to an upcoming conference.

    I've got you entered in the drawing.

  68. Pepper, I'm so glad you have such support. The writing life can be tough at times, and having one's cheering section is vital. How cool that your parents are members of yours.

    I think it's cool that Dr. Pepper keeps you going. Our daughter's a huge fan of the cherry vanilla variety.

    I'm sooo eager for you to sell. I look forward to reading your fun stories.

    And, for the record, I love the word so. Use it all the time. Want proof? Just scan the replies I've left today. =) I had a contest judge point out my liberal use of so, so I added it to my personal Weasel Words list so I will be on the look out for it. So, like you, I need to figure out how to use alternatives. If you come up with some, I'd sooo like to see your list. =)

  69. I'm late. I'm late. For a very important...

    OK. So "blog" doesn't rhyme with "late," but hopefully the joke is there.

    Keli, congrats to you on your final. One of your contest wins will always hold a special place in my heart as I got to be at the podium for you (if only to hold the cell phone for your speech).

    It's hard for me to imagine you being scared (unless it's due to a proximity to Ruthy :-) ). However, I just want to say how much I admire you and your abilities.

    And you can enter me in the contest, too.

  70. Oh Keli, rewriting 75,000 words!

    I'll never whine again when trying to re-work my WIP.

    I so need to enter the GH contest this year. I've been too chicken so far. You make is sound so exciting.

    Please enter me into the drawing.
    bcountryqueen6 at msn dot com

  71. I'm doing some back-reading and want to thank everyone who went to the RWA conference for sharing their stories and photos! Glad everyone had a blast!

  72. Keli!!! So I'm coming to the party late. I tried multiple times EARLY this morning to welcome you, but each time blogger rejected it with a 'service unavailable' notice. Then finally I couldn't log into the internet at all.

    ANYWAY, thank you for joining us in Seekerville & congrats on your GH final! (That's something I was never able to do!) Can't wait to meet you in person this fall!

  73. Keli, I'd love to get together with you at the ACFW conference! This year is shaping up to be a great one--I actually have a critique buddy flying in from Australia!

    So looking forward to seeing you(and everyone else) there--just six weeks away!

  74. Thanks for entertaining Keli today while I played at the Fair--ha!

    Really, Keli didn't need any entertaining at all. So many friends sharing and congratulating...almost makes me tear up. Glad you had a great time Keli and I can't wait to give you a big ol' hug at ACFW!!!!

    Check out the weekend edition on Saturday and see who gets the wonderful RWA momentos Keli has us drooling over!!!

    Have a great week, everyone!

  75. Walt, how cool to have you drop by. Sorry I didn't reply earlier, but I had dinner to prepare and a mystery to watch. Gwynly got me hooked on whodunnits. We love the British series available on Netflix. Right now we're watching the Inspector Lynley Mysteries. The interactions between Lynley, an Earl, and his commoner partner--a woman with disdain for those in the titled class--provide a great character study.

    I have to say that of all my contest placements, The Maggie stands out. I was stunned the night you gave me the play by play on your cell phone and my name was the last one they called in the inspirational category. I was so shocked I'm amazed I was able to think of anything to say. In fact, if you hadn't prompted me, I don't know that I would have. Thanks again for your part in making that experience so memorable.

    I've got your name entered in the drawing. The box with the goodies just arrived this afternoon. Phew!

  76. Connie, I encourage you to enter the GH. I know it's pricey, but a GH final does have its benefits. Even when I didn't final, it was nice to find out where I ranked in relation to other writers. My scores in 2007 put me in the bottom half, and I wasn't content to stay there. The results spurred me to keep studying craft and forcing myself to work harder at producing a good story.

    Bidding those 86,000 words farewell and rewriting three-quarters of my GH story wasn't easy, but it was well worth it. The story is much improved. My agent gave me wise counsel, and I was eager to heed it. Rachelle knows her stuff.

    I've got your name in the drawing.

  77. Eva, I'm glad you enjoyed the pics. I did my best to remember to keep my camera handy. My critique partner Anne did a great job, so between the two of us we got some nice shots, which are a fun way to recall a great conference and the many wonderful people in attendance.

  78. Patty, I look forward to meeting you in Indy. How cool that you'll be able to spend time with your CP who's coming all the way from Australia. I hope the two of you have a blast.

  79. Audra, thanks for the tasty fair food. I haven't indulged in cotton candy for years. I know it's pure sugar, but it tastes so good. Yummers!

    I enjoyed my time in Seekerville. You lovely ladies and your visitors sure know how to make a guest feel welcome. Thanks for the great reception.

    I'll hold the drawing and send you the name so you can announce it in the Weekend Edition.