Sunday, March 25, 2007

Woo-hoo! I'm a RITA finalist!

I was aware that finalists for Romance Writers of America's RITA awards for published novelists (and Golden Heart awards for unpublished writers) would be contacted by phone today and given their good news. Yes, I entered the contest, but I never dreamed I would get one of those calls, so even though my answering machine isn't working right now, I dragged my hunk o' burnin' love to the local garden center to buy some flats of pansies and primroses to pot up for the back garden. When we returned home, the phone was ringing.

My second book, A Family Forever, is a finalist in the Inspirational category of the most prestigious award in the romance industry--and now I'm too tickled to think straight. So to finish this post, I'll fall back on what I wrote here on the blog on March 24 of last year:

I wouldn't dream of calling any of my romance-author friends today without first ascertaining that they have both Caller ID and Call Waiting. That's because today is the day the calls go out to the finalists in the mother of all romance-writing contests, Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA Awards. Today romance novelists everywhere will bite their nails and mutter, "Ring! Ring, darn you!" to their silent telephones. And by tonight the romance-writing corner of the blogisphere will be buzzing with news of who did or did not get a call informing them that their book had advanced to the final round of judging.

What's a RITA? Simply the best-known award in the romance industry. Entered romance novels are judged by panels of published romance authors, and winners in thirteen categories are announced in an Oscar-style evening (glittery gowns, spotlights, presenters cracking lame jokes, trembling winners thanking their editors and their agents and their spouses and sometimes, God) at the close of the annual RWA Conference.

How do you win a RITA? First, you publish a romance novel. Then you fill out a contest form, write a check for $40, and mail five copies of your book to the RWA offices in Houston. They'll send your books to the contest judges, all of whom are published authors and RWA members.

Does a RITA win mean your book was the best published all year in your category? Assuredly not. A RITA win means your book is very, very good. It does not mean your book is "the best" of anything. Here are some facts to back up that assertion:

1. If a book is not entered, it can't win. While books may indeed be entered by authors who aren't RWA members, it's a fact that not every author--member or not--will enter her books. So while this contest is a huge deal in the industry, it does not determine the absolute best romances published, but only spotlights some of the great ones.

2. If even one of the judges in the preliminary round gives your book a low score, you're out of the running. We authors like to believe we always behave professionally when judging books, but we're still human. We have bad days and we have personal biases. Sometimes those things affect our judgment even when we don't realize it. And a single judge can prevent your fabulous book from winning a RITA award.

3. If your book makes it to the final rounds and one of those judges gives you a low score, same deal. You lose. The RITA will be awarded to the author whose book scored the highest in your category.

As you can see, it is entirely possible for a wildly popular, beautifully written, gonna-go-down-in-history romance novel to be overlooked in the RITA contest. But what is not possible--and here's the real value of the awards--is for a poorly crafted romance novel to win. A book of inferior quality just isn't going to make it past two separate panels of judges. But for argument's sake, let's say that in the crapshoot that decides which books are sent to which judges, one stinker of a book somehow ends up being evaluated in the preliminary round by several of the author's sorority sisters. Yes, the book will advance to the finals. But what are the chances of its being judged this time by several more of the author's biggest fans?

What does a RITA win mean? It's a huge affirmation of a book's quality. This July at the awards ceremony in Atlanta [make that Dallas for 2007], the entire industry will sit up and take notice of the thirteen winners as one at a time they climb the stage steps, their sequined gowns dazzling in the spotlights as the coveted golden statuettes are presented in front of more than 2,000 authors, editors, and agents.

Congratulations are definitely in order for the 75 or so finalists who will be getting those thrilling phone calls today.

24 comments:

pacatrue said...

Congratulations, Brenda!

Anna Adams said...

Yay, you, Brenda! I'm so excited for you. Can't wait to cheer you on in person!

Shauna said...

CONGRATULATIONS!

Mirtika said...

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's time to dance the dance of joy!!!!!!!!!!!!

Congrats, sugar.
Mir

Jennifer Shirk said...

Congrats, Brenda!

I'm going to look for it in my bookstore. :)

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Brenda,
Congratulations! "A Family Forever" was a wonderful story and deserves high recognition. I loved it . . . Have a great time in Dallas!

Robin Bayne said...

Woohoo!! Big warm fuzzy congrats!!

LaShaunda said...

Congrats Brenda!

What a nice way to start the week.

Brenda Coulter said...

Thanks, everyone. You're all very sweet.

Katrina Stonoff said...

Oh, wow! Congratulations!!

Now...to find the perfect dress. And yes, we want pictures.

Nell Dixon said...

Congratulations, Brenda! That's wonderful news.

Brenda Coulter said...

Pictures. [Snort.] Believe me, Katrina, it's better for everyone if I stay behind the camera. But thanks for your congratulations.

You, too, Nell.

<3<3<3

Domino said...

Wow! Yay!!
A Hearty Congratulations to you. Of course, I'm not surprised.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!!!!!!!!!! =)

Elle Fredrix said...

Brenda, congrats!

TrudyJ said...

Congratulations -- you must be so excited!!

Brenda Coulter said...

Yes, I'm excited. And I just can't tell you how much I appreciate everyone's good wishes. Thank you all.

Alison Strobel Morrow said...

Hey Brenda! From one Rita finalist to another, congratulations!!! Will you be going to the gala? We need to get all the inspirational category finalists together for a photo op and mutual encouragement/cheering/bearing-up/photo op session beforehand! :)

-Alison
blog.alisonstrobel.com

Brenda Coulter said...

Well, congratulations right back to you, Alison! Yes, I always go to the conference. I'm looking forward to meeting you.

Nienke said...

Congratulations, Brenda! That's great news! I'm not surprised either, it's a great book!

Brenda Coulter said...

Thanks, Nienke. I'm so glad you liked it.

Rachel Hauck said...

Brenda,

I'm late chiming in, but BIG HUGE congrats!

Rachel :)

Crystal said...

I had to come over and say a big congrats, too! Whoo hoo! We're all proud of you.

Brenda Coulter said...

Thanks, Rachel and Crystal.