It’s that time of year when published members of Romance Writers of America are are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the UPS man. The reason? He comes bearing books! A lot of us are judging the Rita Awards. This is RWA’s annual writing contest with categories that cover contemporary romance, romantic suspense, historicals, regencies and inspirationals.
The Rita entries are limited to a total of 1,200 books for all categories. An author picks the appropriate category and submits five copies of her book for judging. The RWA staff sifts and sorts and sends the 6,000 books out to volunteer judges all over the world. Some years I’ve judged 9 books, other years only 5.
The first year I judged, I got the crazy ideal to judge categories I rarely read. I thought it would be fun to explore. It was . . . but I discovered I’m not a paranormal reader. Vampires just don’t do it for me like a good old cowboy. Now I pick categories to judge as if I’m in a bookstore. What do I buy? What do I like to read? It’s really fun to open that box from UPS and see that assortment of books.
My books arrived yesterday. I’m sworn to secrecy about titles, categories and opinions, but I can say a little about years past. I’ve had the good fortune to judge a Rita winner and three finalists. There’s nothing better than starting to a book by a new-to-you author and thinking, “Wow! This is GREAT.”
Well, there’s one thing . . . it’s getting the call from an RWA board member who tells you that your book finaled. I had that experience with Abbie’s Outlaw in 2006 and will always cherish the honor and the memories of that conference in Atlanta. The other Fillies who have finaled in the Rita awards are Margaret for A Lady Like Sarah and Cheryl St.John. Cheryl’s finaled more than once. I believe her first book got honors, and I know there have been others. (Cher, maybe you can give us all the titles?) Any other Fillies who’ve finaled? Chime in!