first published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail 19 April 2008
Though Hollywood’s award season has finished for the year, the romance world is only beginning to gear up. The industry’s biggest conference, the Romance Writers of America Annual National Conference, takes place every year in July/August, and, among the keynote addresses, panels, round tables, and cocktail parties, the RWA also presents the coveted RITA and Golden Heart awards.
The Golden Heart is awarded to the best unpublished manuscript across 10 different categories, mainly different subgenres. Every year over 1000 manuscripts are submitted by their authors. The manuscripts are read and judged by RWA members, and are narrowed down to approximately 100 finalists. The finalists are then judged by a panel of acquiring editors from romance publishing houses.
Being a nominee has huge consequences for unpublished authors as all the major publishing houses keep a very close eye on this award, and many previously unknowns gain publishing contracts even if they don’t win the Heart. Brisbane writer Christine Wells won for Scandal’s Daughter in 2006, the first Australian to do so. Her award-winning novel was released in September 2007.
The RITA is the romance industry’s highest award, and is handed out across 12 categories, again mostly broken down by subgenre, but including a best first novel award as well. Named after the Romance Writers of America’s first president, Rita Clay Estrada, the RITA takes the form of a golden statuette and is a symbol for the best in published romance fiction.
About 1200 novels are submitted every year to be considered for the RITA award by either their author or the book’s publisher. The nominees are then judged by fellow romance writers to determine the best of the year.
This year’s nominations were announced on the 25th of March, phone calls going out in the early hours of the morning from RWA headquarters to the nominees. And, this year, Australia and New Zealand writers have made an absolutely amazing showing.
First up is Kelly Hunter, nominated for her novel Sleeping Partners, in the Contemporary Series Romance category. Hunter burst on to the scene last year with Wife for a Week and has become a name to watch in category romance.
Here’s hoping it’s third time the charm for Romance Writer of Australia president Anne Gracie, who’s third nomination comes for The Perfect Kiss in the Historical Romance category.
New Zealand writer Emily Gee’s first novel, the dark fantasy Thief with no Shadow, is double-nominated this year, earning nods in both the Best First Book and Book with Strong Romantic Elements categories.
Finally, Sunshine Coast author Anna Campbell has also earned double nominations in the same category. Her two novels Claiming the Courtesan and Untouched are competing against each other for Best Regency Historical.