I should have written this post months ago.
I meant to. Back in Denver in the summer when we gathered for our annual national Romance Writers of America conference, I was already planning this post in my mind, having watched the finalists of this year's Golden Heart Contest working so hard to put a brave face on what, for all of them, must have been a truly difficult experience.
Since RWA's board first announced it was doing away with the Golden Hearts, I've felt, very strongly, that our organization is making a mistake.
When I came home from Nationals, I started drafting open letters to the board, to try to tell them how I felt. To try to tell them why. I couldn't get the words right, and so here I am, on the same weekend the new board is holding its first meeting and I'm writing my long overdue open letter to all the board members, and anyone else who will listen.
Dear Board Members:
You've asked us to suggest what you should do that could replace the Golden Heart Contest.
And my answer is: Nothing.
I've read the data that was posted when this process all began--the fancy numbers used to justify the killing of the contest. Yes, the Golden Hearts cost more than they return, on paper. But so do the Ritas.
And for all the internal prestige we may place on the Ritas--and I'm saying this as someone who values that golden lady very highly, having had books final three times and win once--when it comes to fulfilling our actual mission "to advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused romance writers", the Golden Heart Contest wins hands-down.
The Ritas are for us individually. They don't help us sell more books (they really don't--ask your editor). They don't help us make friends within the organization. They are peer recognition, which is valuable and wonderful, but just for us.
The Golden Hearts help writers finish books, because only a completed manuscript can be entered. They help writers, especially shy new writers, connect with other writers. Look at the networking and camaraderie that happens among Golden Heart finalists. Nothing like that happens with Rita finalists. Through the contest, writers pursuing a traditional publishing path have found agents and editors.
That all sounds like a pretty good use of my dues, to be honest.
I never entered the Golden Hearts. I had been published long before I joined RWA. But my first real success--the book that opened all the doors for me in 1993--was a book called Mariana, that won a contest for unpublished manuscripts. Maybe that's why this feel personal, to me. I know that feeling of having your world truly change overnight.
And the thought of us taking not only that feeling but that opportunity away from so many of our members, especially when the Golden Hearts are--of the contests that we run--the one that serves our mission best--seems wrong.
You can't replace it with anything because nothing could adequately replace it. If you want to do something positive, you could restore it to its former place of honor on awards night, alongside the Ritas, so all our finalists are on equal footing and we're not paying unnecessarily for two awards ceremonies with two emcees.
The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood has more suggestions--I hope you'll take the time to read them: http://tinyurl.com/y8qwzm72
Thanks for your service, and thanks for your time, and for listening.
I might be sending this too late to have any real effect, but I just couldn't stay silent.
If anyone reading this wants to add your own experience with the Golden Hearts in the comments, please do.