My mantra for five years now. Through rejection after rejection, through failures to final in too many contests to count, through self-doubt and endless frustration: Never. Give. Up.
I didn't initially return to writing fiction with an end game of publishing. I returned to writing for the creative joy I found in it. Something changed along the way; I wanted to see my stories in the hands of readers. Of course, I had no clue to the long, hard path of traditional publishing. And that's what I wanted. I knew it meant educating myself, learning the craft, putting my work out there for critique, and being open to listening and learning. I cut my teeth on many RWA® local chapter contests, the feedback from which has helped shape my writing as I honed my craft. And for three years, I entered the mother of all contests for unpublished romance writers: The Golden Heart®.
And each year I'd wait for the phone to ring on the designated date, disappointed when it didn't. After my third try, I decided it was time to hang up my dream of being a Golden Heart® nominee. It wasn't in the cards for me. Then December rolled around. I'd just come out of an extensive rewrite of my first book, the one I refused to give up on. It was tighter and more polished than it had ever been, and the temptation of trying "one last time" was a siren's call. I entered on the last day, primarily because I didn't want to regret not trying one more time. Then I let it go.
A month in advance of the announcements, I booked a job so I'd be on a scaffold with a trowel or paint brush in hand on the date the calls went out to the Golden Heart® finalists. I needed my mind elsewhere, not jumping with every phone call, and ultimately sinking into despair at the end of the day when the call didn't come. This wasn't my first rodeo, and my work schedule was hectic, so not thinking about the outcome was fairly easy. If I thought about it, I pushed it aside. Somehow, I got it in my head the call day was on Friday. I know this might be hard to believe, but I was too covered up with work and other responsibilities to dwell on the excitement leading up to the Rita® and Golden Heart® announcements. I wouldn't make the cut, anyway. Why torture myself?
So when my phone rang early Thursday morning the 26th of March, my heart didn't jump into my throat. It was a call from Omaha, Nebraska, which meant Walgreens' automated refill service was calling. I ignored it since I was heading out the door; but then relented and answered, figuring I'd go ahead and get my refill set up to save time. Or I think I answered, I'm not really sure since I was awaiting the automated voice. Instead, a live woman's voice came over the line. I still didn't catch on. Until she said, "This is Victoria Alexander with the RWA® Board, and I'm calling to tell you THE HOUSE OF D'INNOCENZI is..."
I'm not sure I heard much after that for the ringing in my ears. And bless poor Victoria. I must apologize to her in New York City in July. I'm sure her ears were ringing, too. I think I screamed (at least my husband two rooms away said I did). I KNEW at that point why she was calling. To say I was shocked doesn't cover it--an absolute surprise and truly a gift to have forgotten it was THE day. The call was oh so much sweeter and the best kind of reward for staying the course. My reminder to Never. Give. Up.