Why I love Romancelandia

I haven’t posted in a while – life got incredibly busy over the past few weeks, including a trip to Houston for the RWA board meeting. I managed to fly out after one Nor’easter and just before the next, and got back just before another hit. And I’m sitting here listening to ice pellets on my window, in the middle of the fourth storm in two weeks. The worst of our winter has definitely been in March.

So being in Houston was a nice break. I got to sit outside in the sun a little (I had one break which included sitting outside at the hotel Starbucks with Denny Bryce and Mellanie Szereto and Jessie Edwards) and had dinner with Shirley Jump one evening at an outdoor patio. Not hot weather, but short sleeves and green grass weather, which was lovely. And then long, long meetings.

Today’s blog is about Romancelandia, and serving on the RWA Board of Directors as the PAN Advisor plays into that. Until you’ve been in the boardroom, it’s impossible to understand the commitment, the smarts, and the insightfulness of the board and the staff. It consistently changes the way I think. I had no idea how dedicated these people are to the organization and the industry until I went to my first meeting . So here’s why I love Romancelandia reason #1: the authors in it are smart, savvy people who not only write beautiful, heartwarming happy ever afters, but also are resilient and resourceful and dammit, if we need to learn something we learn it. ROAR.

The other way my board service plays into it is Why I love Romancelandia #2. Yesterday I got to do something very special. It was RITA/Golden Heart finalist call day, and as a board member, I got to make some of those calls.

If you don’t know what the RITAS are, just think of it this way: they are our industry’s version of the Oscars. It’s an award that celebrates the best of the best. There are two thousand entries each year in a number of categories. TWO THOUSAND. So finalling is a big deal. The Golden Heart is for unpublished authors, and they submit fifty pages and a synopsis to be judged.

Getting a call is a Big Deal. I know because I got one in 2012 and I vaguely remember the conversation and know I said “oh shit” and cried a bit. Then shook through most of the day. I went to Anaheim and sat in the reserved section and took Fiona Harper as my +1 and it was…magical.

Yesterday I got to deliver that kind of news and it was soooo amazing. There’s a moment when I’d say, “This is Donna Alward from the RWA Board of Directors” and there would be a pause. That kind of… OMG, is this real? pause. And then sometimes there’d be a slightly stunned reply, or some crying, or a scream in my ear. I’m going to out Sarah MacLean as the screamer…though she’ll be glad to know she didn’t hurt my ears at all. And y’all….I SPOKE TO SARAH MACLEAN on the phone. How cool is that?

One finalist was so shocked that she just kept saying OMG and crying…and I sniffled right along with her. I remember that feeling. It’s so incredible and validating and…hard to put into words.

And now we’re at Why I love Romancelandia #3: we all freakin’ celebrated. Even as everyone waits for the phone to ring, HOPING it’s going to be them, we cheer and celebrate with those who DO get the call because we’re genuinely happy for them. The level of generosity and support among romance authors is unparalleled. We don’t always agree, we don’t all write the same thing or publish in the same way but when it comes down to it…We’re all in this together. Which, incidentally, is the theme for the RITA Awards this summer in Denver.

I’m always buoyed by the camaraderie and emotion and overall awesomeness that really is showcased on #RITAGH call day. Even when I don’t get a call myself. I still love what I do. I love this industry. And when it comes down to it, we all truly want each other to succeed.

Stay warm (if you’re in the Northeast!), read a good book, and smile at a stranger.

Until next week,



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