Confessions of a Golden Heart FinalistConference as a Golden Heart finalist is thrilling and busy! Strangers congratulate you when they see your pin and lavender ribbon. They ask your title and category, but I’ve never been asked for a blurb, thank heavens.
When one finals in the Golden Heart, one is invited to join The Golden Network, an online chapter exclusively for Golden Heart finalists. Getting the invitation is almost as exciting as getting the little gold heart. Since it’s an online chapter, they only meet once a year, on Thursday afternoon at conference.
Thursday evening is The Golden Network reception.
The reception serves two purposes. The winners of the contest, the Golden Pen, are announced, and the members who have sold in the past year are recognized in a “Boot Out” ceremony.
The Boot Out Ceremony is unique. Each year a skit is written to reflect the setting of the conference. In New York, the skit was a Saturday Night Live spoof, in Dallas, it was Texas themed, in Reno, it was gambling, and in Atlanta, the theme was, “If Scarlett O’Hara was a Romance Writer.” Sadly, I don’t remember the theme in Dallas this last time. It was hilarious. The members of The Golden Network who signed contracts were “booted” from the ranks of unpublished and awarded a certificate and a little boot pin. I would be booted this year if I was going ☹
On Friday afternoon, there’s a reception for the Golden Heart and Rita finalists, complete with champagne and chocolate. We rub elbows with Eloisa James and Teresa Medeiros (though not all the Rita finalists attend) and we get our certificates. It goes really fast, because there are over 70 Golden Heart finalists and more Rita finalists. But we dress up, meet other finalists, and take lots of pictures.
If you have an appointment with an editor or agent (which you should, since you have first pick), being a Golden Heart finalist is a wonderful ice breaker, and it really gives you confidence.
On Saturday afternoon, we meet to practice. One year we walked up on stage, said our name into the microphone and checked our slide to see our name and title are spelled correctly. In the past, they’ve run through the slides and tease us with a slide that only says, “WINNER.”
Then we get ready for the big night.
Some people go out to dinner. That makes me too nervous, so I send my husband out for food and eat in the room. The finalists need to be in the ballroom early so we can sit up front. The first year I was late and couldn’t sit in the reserved section. The last two times I was able to sit with my friends. Other friends slip into the area to offer support, give hugs and wish luck.
And then the ceremony begins. Nerves are high. I couldn’t read my program, I was shaking so much. I wait for my category. In past years, I had the second category. This time I was last. I listened and applauded for friends as my nerves tautened.
Just before my category was called, a feeling of calm washed over me, and when I didn’t have to go on stage, I was able to relax.
Then, the party! The lines for food were long, the line at the bar was short. I got hugs of consolation, got to hold a Rita, then went to a party where we read our speeches to each other. That was just a wonderful feeling, because really, one of the reasons I wanted to win was to thank publicly the people who have helped along the way.
Four times I’ve finalled. The experience has brought me more confidence, name recognition and wonderful friends who have the same goals I do. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
I just have to add a little plug. I’m a Featured Author at The Romance Studio. Drop by!