The Rita Rules

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 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.


  1. Wow Jane – Congratulations!! You go girl! I’ll be routing for you as I am sure we all will.

    Best – Patricia

  2. Hip Hip Hooray for Jane and Odd Mom Out which I knew was a true winner!! I’m so proud of you!!! I think All Around Cowboy needs to be set in Montana where TRUE cowboys come from!! hehe!!

  3. And while I can’t officially have any favorites for the Ritas, I do have to do a huge Yankee cheer for Aussie pal and author Anna Campbell who has finaled TWICE in the Rita Regency Historical category with both Claiming the Courtesan and Untouched, and then there is another friend, the wonderful Nicola Cornick from England in the same category (and edited by my UK editor, Kim Young), as well as the very gifted bestselling Julia Quinn who lives just a stone’s throw from me in Seattle and always has the nicest things to say about my books…

    I think I’m going to go out and read ALL the books in this category again just because they’re so wonderful.

    Do you have a favorite author on the Rita list? Is there someone I haven’t read that I should??

  4. Congratulations Jane! We will all be rooting for you. Are you stressing out about what you will wear? 🙂

  5. Wow, Jane this is awesome! You should be so proud of yourself!!! Can’t wait to see all the pictures and celebrate with you:)

  6. Congrats Jane! Was so lovely to see your name there as well as some other great romance writing friends. And you’re so right about the RITAs being a celebration to make us all feel sparkly and excited about what we do.

    Best of luck!!!


  7. I’d just finished reading Odd Mom Out a few days before the finalists were announced. Congratulations! And best of luck. 🙂

  8. Excellent Jane! Sounds like things are going very well for you – Awesome! Hard work and persistence pay off 😉 😉

    All the best – Brian Olson

  9. Dear Jane,

    It was about time! I am thrilled to bits for you 🙂 Will keep my fingers crossed.

    Best regards,
    Danielle C.

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