They've finally posted the news on The Golden Network website, so I feel free to announce here at last that my manuscript Traitor to Love placed second in the 2010 Golden Pen contest in the "Novel with Strong Romantic Elements" category.
Placing in a contest is always a great feeling, but I'm at least as excited about this second-place finish as I am about some of the first-place wins the manuscript has racked up. The reason is the nature of the contest.
The Golden Network comprises past winners and finalists in the Romance Writers of America's prestigious Golden Heart contest. The Golden Heart draws 1,200 entries every year and taps just a handful of them as the most promising, yet-to-be-published voices in romance writing. The Golden Network, therefore, is a group of talented, proven writers who know what makes a romance manuscript work because they've passed a test that is, in many ways, as selective as being signed to a publishing contract.
Every contest has volunteers who judge the preliminary round and decide which manuscripts to send on to the professional editors and/or agents who decide the final placements. In many contests, the preliminary judges are anyone willing to spend hours of their time evaluating newbie manuscripts. Many of the judges are, themselves, unpublished. Which is not to denigrate their contribution. I'm unpublished, I've judged contests, and I hope that I've been able to give each and every writer some nugget of insight about their entry that will help them improve their work. Bottom line, though, the judging can be a bit uneven because the judges represent a wide spectrum of experience, and that can skew the results.
The Golden Network's Golden Pen, on the other hand, ensures entrants that at least one published author and one Golden Heart finalist will be on every three-member preliminary judging panel. This makes the Golden Pen the only RWA contest I know of where you can have near-perfect confidence that the first round judges know their stuff. That distinction draws an unusually high number of entries. So placing in the Golden Pen contest is a good indication that your work actually does have merit -- and a high chance of eventual publication. That's a pretty amazing shield for an aspiring writer to carry into daily battle against the ego killers of the publishing game.
So I'd like to say thank you to The Golden Network, the preliminary judges, and Valerie Gray, Executive Editor of MIRA, for the honor of placing second. I've never been more proud to be Number 2! (And mega congrats to all who won and placed; we're on our way!)