Table 55

It’s been two weeks since I got back from the Romance Writers of America national conference in Atlanta, and I’m still coming down from the high. Let me just say, being at RWA nationals as a finalist in the Golden Heart ® contest for unpublished manuscripts… doesn’t suck! 😉 Now that I’m back in the real world, I miss the little pink ribbon attached to the bottom of my name tag identifying me as a finalist. Or to be more precise, I miss the way everyone from friends to total strangers to legends of romance writing reacted to that magic pink ribbon, congratulating me and wishing me luck. That ribbon turned me into a temporary celebrity.

Our class of GH finalists adopted the nickname the Lucky 13s, and we arrived in Atlanta sporting pins designed by one of our own, historical finalist Lisa Baker (a/k/a Lisa Confetti), whose day job is making jewelry. Lisa’s design, a four leaf clover made up of four golden hearts with the points at the center, drew all kinds of raves. Meeting in person, the Lucky 13s quickly cemented the friendships we’d formed on-line since announcement day four months earlier. Then we went through a four day whirlwind of pitch sessions and receptions and dinners until the highlight of the conference, Saturday night’s awards ceremony.

As finalists, we had assigned seats, and permission to use a special entrance, bypassing the line that snaked halfway around the hotel lobby. Me and my “date” Christine Glover, whose debut romance will be published by Entangled next summer, were assigned to Table 55. After a flurry of picture taking, we made our way to the front of the room, where we discovered that Table 55 was not only in the front row, but directly in the center, closest to the stairs the winners would take to go on stage and collect their awards. Then Christine looked at the place card for the table, and I thought she was going to hyperventilate as she announced, “Eloisa James is at our table!” It was true – Eloisa, nominated for the RITA for best novella, was soon sitting right across the table from me, as were RITA nominee for best historical romance Sarah MacLean and their editor Carrie Feron. Our table also included Golden Heart ® nominees Miranda Liasson (a double nominee for contemporary series romance and romantic suspense) and AE Jones (paranormal); their Northeast Ohio RWA chaptermate Barb Heintz; and Miranda’s husband. As we talked, Christine and I were surprised to learn that despite numerous nominations starting in 1999, Eloisa had never won a RITA. She showed us the chocolate RITA she’d saved since it was given to her the first time she was nominated.

The ceremony finally started, and my category was announced first. As I expected, since she was the only person in our category to have her manuscript requested by one of the judges, Miranda won. A few categories later, in a category with no clear favorite since no one had either sold their manuscript or received a judge request, AE joined Miranda by winning the paranormal category. Cleveland really did rock that night! The most exciting win, though, came when Eloisa finally took home the statue. In her acceptance speech, she showed the audience the same chocolate RITA she’d shown our table earlier. She was obviously thrilled, and I was pretty excited myself to have had a front row seat—literally!—to her first victory. Then to add the final icing to the Table 55 cake, Sarah won as well, making the score 4 wins out of 5 nominees.

Although I didn’t win (I won’t use the L word, LOL!), I’d like to think that some of the magic of Table 55 will rub off on me. Before Christine and I left for the Samhain afterparty, I asked Sarah if I could touch her RITA, explaining, “This is as close as I’ll ever get to one.” She was kind enough to tell me that wasn’t true. We shall see. 😉

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