While celebrating my Golden Heart® finalist status in one of many phone calls over the weekend, my friend Pat said something that made me tear up a little. She said my mother would be proud.

That’s true. My mom, an English teacher before I came along, always encouraged me to write. When she died in 2003, I hadn’t yet accomplished anything in the fiction world (although I do think she watched me receive a first-place award from the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists for a series of stories on students peeved about a high school’s piercing policy).

Since her death, I’ve lost 100 pounds (and, unfortunately, regained most of it). I’ve found myself a significant other. I’ve finished more than one manuscript and — finally — gained the courage to start putting my fiction out there.

I experienced a moment of sadness that Mom didn’t live to see this moment. But I like to think she knows. Somehow, she knows … just like she knows I sit down and watch one of her favorite movies, “A Christmas Story,” at least once every year. (She grew up in Hammond, Ind., on the street Ralphie supposedly lived on.)

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Yeah, I’m saying there has to be something higher than Cloud Nine, and I’m on it. I am a 2011 Golden Heart finalist. I’ve been fielding congratulatory calls, tweets and e-mails all day — and I’m glad to get them.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought to myself “OMG, OMG, OMG” today. Good thing they just added that phrase to the dictionary, eh?

The GH final wasn’t the only piece of good news I received today. I also found out that “Beauty and the Ballplayer” won the Beacon contest, too. And the final judge/agent requested a full MS. I’ll be getting right on that, contacting her Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See? I’m not imagining all this good fortune. It’s really happening!

I’ve been writing off and on since I finished my first draft of my first MS back in 1995 or 96, but I’ve gotten serious about it in the past two years. I entered the GH for the first time in 2010; my entry earned solidly mediocre scores. This year I entered two (in series contemporary and single title contemporary) and finaled once.

You can find a full list of Golden Heart® and RITA® finalists here. (I’m excited to have found the ® symbol I’ve been instructed to use in reference to the GH and RWA.) It was nice to see so many familiar Ruby sisters (from my adopted GH class of 2009) on the lists.

There’s so much to think about, though. The Boyfriend said, “What’s next?” Well, the most immediate concern is getting a flattering headshot by April 8. I also need to find a way to pay the conference registration fee/airfare/hotel, and think about business cards. And I need to update my website … and take a “crafting the perfect pitch” workshop so I’m ready to meet with agents/editors at Nationals.

Simply put, I need to ramp up my writing efforts while remaining grounded enough to hold onto the day job … and start a new diet to lose weight before July.

None of these things are impossible tasks. I’m just thankful to be faced with such dilemmas.

My phone woke me up — and this time, it was THE call … well, the call that I’m a Golden Heart finalist, at least.

“Beauty and the Ballplayer” finaled in the contemporary series category.

More later, since I’m sure this is the beginning of a long, wild ride!

My immediate dilemma: How can I get a flattering headshot for the Jumbotron? Well, I do work with a bunch of photographers. Maybe one of them will be up to the task.

I’m sure I’m not the only one counting down the days hours until Golden Heart finalist calls go out.

To keep my nerves at bay, I’ve been checking in with the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. They’ve been on GH countdown all week, and will have a big e-party on Friday.

I scheduled myself a massage Friday morning and (inadvertently) a chiropractor’s appointment. (I realized that when I went to enter the massage in my cell phone calendar.)

Maybe I should go shopping for some consolatory chocolate — or a celebratory tiara, as Anne Marie recommended in Wednesday’s post.

And I’ll definitely keep in mind the advice in Thursday’s entry: Not finaling in the GH doesn’t mean your story is no good. Maybe one of your judges was having a bad day … or a bad hair day. Or they hated your hero/heroine.

I hope that none of those things are the case, and that my sparkling prose earned me a lot of high scores, securing me one of those coveted calls and a spot in the 2011 class of GH finalists.

But if it didn’t, don’t worry: I’m not going anywhere. What is it they say? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Strange coincidences seem to be following me everywhere. In November, on the day I shipped off my GH entries, I got the call about finaling in the Beacon contest.

Today, as I left the house for a write-in at Starbucks, I thought to myself, “I wonder why I haven’t received any GH entries to judge. Maybe they decided they didn’t want me as a judge.”

When I returned home this afternoon, there was a UPS box waiting on the deck, addressed to me. Inside were … you guessed it: A stack of entries ready for my judging pleasure.

Kinda strange, right? It makes me wonder if there’s something to all that “Law of Attraction” and “The Secret” hype. Maybe if I start thinking positively that I will final in the GH, I’ll need the week of vacation I’ve requested to go to Nationals.

On another note, it’s only Day One of the WWF and I’ve already earned two points. I killed my 200-word goal at Starbucks, completing 1,066 new words — and I earned a bonus point just for visiting the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood site to declare my goals.

If I continue to write at this pace, I’ll have to up my goal to at least 400 words a day …

Talk of goal altering reminds me: I have some to add to my list.

— Read at least one of the GH entries I’m supposed to judge (after I peruse the judge’s instructions, of course)

— Pay my RWA dues. Got my notice yesterday. The drop-dead deadline is Feb. 28.

Jan. 10 will be here before I know it. That means it’s time to craft my goals for the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival.

But before I do that, I feel a need to create some writing resolutions for 2011.

2010 was a very successful year for me. I wrote more than 180,000 words, entered the Golden Heart in not one but two categories, successfully completed the NaNoWriMo with a 53,000-word story and scored my first-ever contest final.

In 2011, I want to build on that success and keep the momentum going. After all, I’m now less than a year away from the big 4-0 (the arbitrary date I set for myself to get published).

But how? That’s a very good question. I wish I knew the answer — but I don’t. All I can do is try to set some goals for myself.

Keep writing. I wrote 180K+ in year because I sat down to write most days. I can’t say every day, mind you. However, I did write more often than not. I treated writing like a day job … a part-time one, at least. I took myself to Starbucks (where, until July, I did not have access to the Internet. Am I the only one who thinks free WiFi at the Bux is a bad idea?)

Continue my search for the right agent. At our last NARWA meeting, I stated the intention to send out at least two queries a week. Hopefully my agent search will become easier in April, after I final in the Golden Heart. (A girl’s nothing without her dreams, right?) Speaking of GH dreams, I already requested the week of Nationals as a vacation week so I can go when I final. 😉

— Finish the first draft on Beth & Cody’s story.

— Edit Kenny & Kristi, my NaNo novel. I started reading through it again last week and still thought it was excellent … meaning, of course, I haven’t been away from it long enough to see its flaws yet.

— Take at least two online classes/workshops this year, so I can can continue to hone the craft.

Read more. Writers read. Conventional wisdom says you should read as many books in your genre as you can get your hands on. Now that I’m concentrating so much energy on writing, I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. BW (before writing), I could devour two to three books a week. Now, I’m lucky to finish two a month.

Hopefully, that will change soon. The Boyfriend is getting me an e-reader for Christmas. I’m hoping access to cheaper books will encourage me to read more. (Then again, I have shelves full of still-unread books, and that hasn’t been an encouragement. It just adds to the clutter in my room.)

Build up this blog. My weight-loss blog is moderately successful, even if my weight-loss efforts have faltered. It’s doing so well that I pulled in more than 1,000 hits for two of the last 12 months. Love & Laughter, on the other hand, gets between 100 and 150.

One big difference is posting frequency. Here, I’ve been lucky to post once a week. There, I sometimes put up multiple entries in a single day.

Any other suggestions for me? What about you? What are YOUR 2011 writing goals?

 

I doubt this will be my last post of the year (I certainly hope not!), but I thought it was as good a time as any to look back at what I’ve done this year.

That’s right: I was catching up on my Word Count Countdown spreadsheet and realized just how much I’ve gotten accomplished since Jan. 17.

  • 185,287 words written
  • Wrote one complete series-length manuscript (during NaNoWriMo), finished up one that started the year 1/3 finished, expanded and edited two others; and wrote about 1/3 of my second single title
  • Sent out countless query letters and got a few nibbles; haven’t landed an agent yet, though.
  • Finaled in the FCRW Beacon contest (waiting to hear on the final results).
  • Prepped two Golden Heart entries (one in single title contemporary, one in series contemporary)
  • Started — and finished — NaNoWriMo
  • Volunteered to judge the GH (am waiting for a judging packet now)

I feel like I’m finally on my way. And I owe it all to the encouragement of my NARWA sisters, the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood and, of course, Jennifer Ashley, the speaker who somehow lit a fire under my butt at the January NARWA meeting.

Thanks, guys. May we meet on bookstore shelves!