Within Romance Writers of America, which is the granddaddy of the organizations dedicated to promoting excellence in fiction for women, there is one award that reigns supreme and that’s the Ritas. The Ritas are a bit like the Oscars except we aren’t judging the best films of the year but the best books. I’ve been a Golden Heart and Rita judge for years, and some years have judged the prelims and finals for both categories–a lot of reading, I can tell you.
All that above is a long way of saying, Odd Mom Out finaled this year in the “Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements” category. I’m stunned that Odd Mom Out finaled. I didn’t expect it as it’s been five years since I last finaled (with Lazaro’s Revenge, my 5th book for Presents) and since Flirting with Forty got such dismal scores last year. For those of you readers who aren’t members of RWA, finaling, or even winning the Rita, does virtually nothing for sales, and won’t help reprints or store orders or industry reviews. Instead, the Rita is a celebration within the industry. It gives you, your editor and your publisher some attention and visibility. The night of the Rita ceremony the nominated book covers are flashed on giant screens during the show, along with the author’s photo and the editor’s name and publisher info. The audience is made up of several thousand well dressed writers, along with some seriously influential agents, editors and publishers and the winner gets to go up on stage in her finery with her more subduedly dressed editor and say thank you and accept the golden statue. The ‘winning’ editor gets a nice plaque. My editor, Karen Kosztolnyik, already has quite a few of the plaques on her wall thanks to bestselling authors Karen Rose, Susan Crandall and more.
I have quite a few friends who have finaled this year and I’m very proud of them. For some, it is their first Rita nod, for others its a happy repeat. Odd Mom Out is my third Rita nomination, and the first outside the series category, although I did win the Golden Heart in 1998 with a longer series manuscript, All Around Cowboy. I was 5 1/2 months pregnant with my second son on the night of the ’98 awards ceremony in Anaheim and I had big hair and wore a red shiny tent dress and I stood at the podium and cried because the manuscript had already been rejected by both Harlequin and Silhouette. I cried because there was nowhere else for it to go, and I was so shocked that editors somewhere had liked this book that couldn’t find a home. That someone somewhere had made this book the winner.
It never did sell. But I’m still very attached to it. Maybe one day it’s a book I can rewrite as a mass market romance because I do love wounded alpha heroes, hardened cowboys, Texas, and characters that survive terrible family tragedies.
To check out the Rita nominations, visit RWAnational.org and to view some of the stars of tomorrow, take a moment to see who has finaled in this year’s Golden Heart contest, the fabulous contest that celebrates the best of this year’s unpublished manuscripts.