The Golden Heart Part 7: Are You Ready for the Finalists Announcement?

If you’re an unpublished romance writer, finding out you’re one of the Golden Heart finalists is the equivalent of an Oscar nomination. Since December, contestants have waited for the judging results and hoped they will receive “the call,” a contract, fame, and / or fortune.

Past Golden Heart Finalists from Austin RWA

Seated: Jan Hudson Left to Right: Emily McKay,
Katie Graykowski, and Kristin Noel Fischer (Not pictured:
Jane Myers Perrine, Jenna Stuart, and Chris Campillo)

How realistic are those dreams? The talented ladies listed above say there’s no guarantee, but they agree that adding “Golden Heart Finalist” to their subject lines and bios expedited their writing careers. It gave them the validation, confidence, recognition, and boost they needed to obtain representation, receive quick responses to queries and submission packages, sign a contract, pursue self-publication, and / or increase sales.

What advice do they have for Golden Heart finalists? They recommend enjoying the experience and doing your best to balance your family, job, and personal needs. Expect to . . .

1. Be Googled, emailed, interviewed, and envied.
2. Juggle short deadlines for revising, polishing, querying, and pitching multiple projects.
3. Network with other finalists, agents, and editors and increase your online presence.
4. Plan for the July National RWA conference plus the extra events for finalists, the wardrobe (aka awards dress), and an acceptance speech just in case you win the coveted Golden Heart necklace below.

golden_heart png
Jan Hudson’s Golden Heart necklace

What if you aren’t nominated? The past ARWA finalists have more years of experience with that reality. They’re excited about the changes in publishing today that provide opportunities not only for traditional but also for Indie and hybrid careers. Here’s their advice on handling the disappointment of not being a finalist.

1. Embrace it. Wallow in it. But not more than one day.
2. Surround yourself with the support of family, friends, CPs, etc.
3. Congratulate the finalists.
4. Indulge in your favorite comforts.
5. Relax. You have more time for revising, polishing, querying, and pitching.
6. Set new, realistic goals.
7. Keep moving forward. Being published is the end goal, not winning a contest.
8. Write.



Jan Hudson won in the Traditional category and placed second in Long Contemporary in 1986. She sold both manuscripts and later received a RITA nomination for one of them. In 1991 Jan won the RITA for Best Short Contemporary for Step Into My Parlor.

Emily McKay’s Short Contemporary Series manuscript received a nomination in 2001. Two different Harlequin judges requested the full manuscript, and one of them bought it after revisions. In 2013 Emily’s first YA novel, The Farm, won the RITA.

Katie Graykowsi is a two-time Golden Heart finalist for Perfect Summer in 2009 and Place Your Betts in 2013. She’s an Amazon Bestselling Author.

In 2013 Kristin Noel Fischer received a nomination for her Contemporary Series title, Her Soldier Returns. She signed with agent Emily Sylvan Kim in October.

Jane Myers-Perrine was a Golden Heart finalist in the Regency category in 1999. The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek, the second book in her current series, received a 2013 RITA nomination.

In 2009 Jenna Stuart was nominated in the Historical Romance category. She loves all things chocolate and most things Scottish.

Chris Campillo’s Contemporary Single Title, Sail Away, received a Golden Heart nomination in 2011. Her manuscripts have won multiple awards.


The Golden Heart Part 1: Judging Contests by guest blogger, Jody Wallace
The Golden Heart Part 2: Entering the Contest
The Golden Heart Part 3: T’is the Season to Sparkle and Shine
The Golden Heart Part 4: Sliding Across the Finish Line with Your Synopsis
The Golden Heart Part 5: Here Come the Judges
The Golden Heart Part 6: What Do the Judges’ Scores Look Like?


  1. Kristin Noel Fischer says:

    Great post, Jillian! And I wholeheartedly agree about enjoying the experience. You really do feel like a princess at the conference. Congratulations to all the 2014 finalists today!

  2. Great post – loved the whole series. And a whole-hearted congratulations to you on your final in the Golden Heart!

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