Posted by: Vanessa Barneveld | July 9, 2009

Golden (Heart) Girls

Most of us here at We Love YA met through Romance Writers of Australia. (It’s safe to say We Love Romance, too, right, girls?) Our sister organisation in the US has over 9,000 members. Romance Writers of America runs the prestigious Golden Heart® contest, which attracts about 1,200 entries from unpublished authors every year.

Now, why is the GH such a big deal? After a preliminary round where manuscripts are judged by peers, the field is whittled down to one hundred books and read by acquiring editors. The competition has a great reputation for launching finalists into publication, whether they win or not.

Back in March, Tricia Mills (aka Trish Milburn) from RWA left a message on my work phone. In her gorgeous Southern accent, she told me my paranormal, CALL ME CRAZY, is a YA finalist in this year’s Golden Heart. I still haven’t erased that message! I’m honoured to be nominated alongside four very talented women: Amanda Brice, the newly published Addison Fox**, Elizabeth Langston and Shoshana Brown.

Three of my fellow YA finalists are here to talk to us about their nominated manuscripts.

Ladies, congratulations! Isn’t this exciting? What does being a GH finalist mean for you?



ADDISON: I’ve been a member of RWA since 2002 and being a finalist in the Golden Heart has been a dream of mine from the very beginning. There are so many ups and downs when you choose a career as an author, and very few of those precious milestones that make you feel as if you truly are moving to a new step in your career. RWA’s commitment to their unpublished members – and the industry publicity and exposure that the Golden Heart provides – is truly priceless.

Additionally, I feel so fortunate for the friendships I am building with my fellow finalists. I can’t wait to meet everyone in July in DC!

ELIZABETH: The best thing about the Golden Heart is the recognition, especially given that the judges are our peers.

SHOSHANA: I don’t kid myself that it means I’m going to become a bestselling author overnight (Maybe sometimes I fantasize about it, but that’s not the same thing 🙂 ) but it’s a nice to get some encouragement that I’m on the right path. It definitely helps to think about my final when I’m having a frustrating writing day. It’s also a great credit to include in query letters.

What went through your mind when you found out you were a finalist?
ADDISON: Shock, excitement, happiness and…oh no, what am I going to wear?

Elizabeth Langston, I WISHED

Elizabeth Langston, I WISHED

ELIZABETH: I was reevaluating my writing career. Family commitments had increased and I was looking for somewhere to buy time. Then I learned I’d finaled in the GH. It super-charged my batteries. I’ve now put a mental “No trespassing” sign around my writing time.

SHOSHANA: The day the calls went out, I had gotten up really early with my then two-month-old month old baby. Being totally sleep-deprived, I’d forgotten all about the GH finalists announcement until I listened to the message from Trish Milburn on my voicemail. First thought to go through my mind–does this mean I get a break from baby duty? Sadly, it did not. It did, however, net me some pastries from the French bakery down the block.

What’s the premise of your book?
ADDISON: MY BIG FAT ROCKIN’ REALITY is about Lucy Michaels, a sophomore who meets and falls for Trooper Goodby, the middle son of an 80’s hair band rocker. Through some misunderstood contract language, the band has signed on to a reality TV show on The Music Channel and they can’t get out of it. What no one expects– least of all Lucy–is that she and Trooper and their burgeoning relationship will capture the public’s attention.

ELIZABETH: In I WISHED, high school senior Lacey has put her future on hold to care for a depressed mom and high-energy little brother. In one of her raise-cash-quick schemes, Lacey is thrilled to discover a hot genie. But Lacey’s relief is short-lived when she learns that her wishes come with conditions–and her genie comes with rules.

Shoshana Brown, STAGE FRIGHT

Shoshana Brown, STAGE FRIGHT

SHOSHANA: In STAGE FRIGHT, eighteen-year-old Raine Hallifax wants to become a doctor, but her adoptive mother Cyndi, a wanna-be actress, is pushing her toward Hollywood. Raine leaves town in search of someone who will understand her, but when she tracks her biological mother down, the secrets she learns may end a Hollywood dynasty and alter the course of her life forever.

Is there a story behind the story? That is, how did this novel come about?
ADDISON: This story was one of those rare “gift books” in that it just came to me one day. I don’t even remember the defining thought, but the characters, the situation – even the title – just sort of arrived full blown. I jumped on that train and didn’t look back!!

ELIZABETH: I have two teen daughters. A lot of the books they read or the shows they watch depict parents as jerks. I wanted to write a story where there was parental conflict–but the mother wasn’t a jerk, as least not intentionally. She had just lost her way. In the part of the US where I live, there seems to be an epidemic of depression, both among parents and teens. So I started to work with the idea of a heroine, in the midst of her stressful final school year, having to take on the responsibilities of an adult because her mom had become non-functional.

The romantic subplot is something I’ve been thinking about for several years. What do you do when you have two guys interested in you at the same time–and both are amazing? What if your feelings are quiet and sweet for one–and fiery and exhilarating for the other? Who do you pick and why?

I bounced the outer story and inner story off of my older daughter and she suggested I try to weave these two ideas together. So I did and the result is I WISHED.

SHOSHANA: My husband played tennis in college and he likes to joke (at least, I think he’s joking) about molding our children into professional tennis players. Most parents have some expectations for their children, but what happens when they become so obsessed with their dreams, they’re unable to see their children want something totally different?

How did you make your ms shine for this competition?
ADDISON: I’m very fortunate to have an AWESOME critique partner. She is the person I vet everything through and we’ve been critiquing for long enough that I completely trust her inputs and feedback.

That said, while I do revise and feel that revision is an important tool in the writer’s toolbox, I don’t believe in revising to death. My personal process is that I learn far more from each new book I write vs. a lot of edits on a single manuscript. I write in a very linear fashion, getting the whole book down. Then I typically do a full edit afterwards, fixing inconsistencies (which my CP is great with!!) and just making sure the story flows. On a side note, I have the Amazon Kindle and I like to send my work to the Kindle so I can read it like a book – it has made a world of difference, reading it in book format vs. manuscript format – when it comes to catching the book’s rhythm and cadence.

1) After the first draft is complete, I put it down for several weeks and write something else.
2) I visit Cheryl Klein‘s website; she has some wonderful revision resources (although it is in a state of flux right now, so look carefully if you visit.) Based on her revision resources, I made a multi-pass revision of the manuscript.
3) After the revisions are complete, I put it down again.
4) Since I don’t have a critique partner, I often use a well-selected contest to provide the feedback I need. For I WISHED, I sent it to a couple of contests that gave me great feedback. And the next stop was the GH.

SHOSHANA: After I finish a manuscript, I like to let it sit for a month or so before I go back and look at it again. The time away helps me catch problems that I’m too close to see otherwise. My mother also reads my work and lets me know when my characters are behaving illogically or I’m getting lazy and relying on clichéd language, and I can always count on my wonderful critique partner Laurie Darcey to give me a fresh perspective on my manuscript.

Thanks again for being here today, ladies! I loved learning about you and your Golden manuscripts. I can’t wait to meet you in person next week.

And now a special treat. Tricia Mills won the 2007 Golden Heart and soon after, her publishing dream became a reality. We’re giving away a copy of her wonderful YA novel HEARTBREAK RIVER, which was released this year. All you have to do is leave a kind word or two in the comments section. We’ll randomly draw a winner when I return from the States in late July.


**WARRIOR ASCENDED, Addison’s first book in a series for the adult market, will be released by NAL in March 2010.



  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Well done on your GH final. Have a wonderful time – I know from first hand experience what it is like being a GH princess – enjoy you time to shine, Lady. Wish I could be there.

  2. lovely lovely interview(s)

    So badly wish I could be there, too

  3. Hi, Tracey, Ms 2008 GH finalist! I’ll miss you at the conference this year. Thanks for your good wishes. Looking forward to seeing NIGHT’S COLD KISS on the shelves. Just over a month to go!!!

    x Vanessa

  4. Hi, Steph! Don’t Addison, Elizabeth and Shoshana’s books sound fantastic? I’m looking forward to the day I see them in print.

  5. Congratulations from fellow GH finalist. It’s a wild ride.


  6. Great responses, ladies! I totally wish I’d known about this, as a fellow YA GH finalist.

    Hope to meet many of you in DC!

  7. Congrats on the GH finals, ladies! Given the glut of paranormal YA on bookshelves today, it’s great to see your contemp slice-of-life plots and subplots. Good luck at Nationals!

  8. That’s a really good point, Shelley. My GH-nominated YA book last year was paranormal-esque (time travel) but my one this year (CODENAME: DANCER) is a contemporary mystery romance.

    Everyone’s book looks so great! Can’t wait to see them on the shelves!

  9. I’m certainly glad I don’t have to pick the winner! All three books sound great. Best of luck to all of you!

  10. Hi, Kelly! Congratulations to you too–you’re a finalist and newly published!

    Amanda, we’ll have to bring you to the blog for special post of your own! I’m sorry email snafus got in the way this time. Congrats on being a finalist for the second year in a row.

    Thanks for popping round and sending your good wishes, Shelley, my fellow 2009 finalist! Looks like slice-of-life stories are the antidote to slice-and-dice paranormals right now.

    Pat, I agree with you. All of these books deserve to win.

  11. Vanessa:

    Thanks so much for inviting me to the blog today. I had a lot of fun with your questions and I am so excited to meet all my fellow GH finalists next week in DC!

    I couldn’t agree more with everyone’s comments – I am really hoping to see my fellow YA finalists’ books in print!!! From the descriptions alone, I know they are all awesome books!


  12. Hi, Addison! Thanks again for being here. I’ve really enjoyed your company! Can’t wait to celebrate with you in person in just a few short days.

  13. All these stories sound fabulous! Can’t wait to read them epecially the reality TV one as I’ve written my own take on reality TV and another about a reformed rock band.

    Good luck, Vanessa. I’m sure you’re going to have a ball, no matter what happens!

  14. Thanks for the good wishes, Diane!

  15. Okay, I’m way late seeing this post. It went up the day I was driving toward D.C. for the RWA conference and I’ve been either at conference or recuperating from it since.

    Congrats to all of you for being finalists. I agree that all the synopses sound fantastic! Someone buy these ladies’ books, stat! And special congrats to Shoshana for winning the GH.

  16. Trish, it was so good to see you! I hope you’ve fully recovered from the festivities.

  17. […] slowly regenerating my brain cells after a hectic few weeks. I can finally, finally announce that Steph Bowe is the winner of Trish Milburn’s debut YA, HEARTBREAK RIVER, a book I flogged after last […]

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