As we say in the south, "Grits happen."
In New York, I saw Tracey Morgan's $2 million Bugatti (impressive), nearly naked women in patriotic paint parading through Times Square (not impressive) and I stopped by the Good Morning America Window (would have been more impressive if I was a fan of George Stephanopolous.)
I must say, costs aside, it was cool as hell to be a Golden Heart Finalist. We were treated like freaking rockstars. Conference goers, seeing our badge or our Golden Heart pin would wish us the best, cheer us on and be generally amazing. Besides me, there were 49 other GH finalists (this is for unpublished books) and there were 8 finalists in my category (mainstream with a central romance) but Melissa (who ended up winning our category) had two books in the finals.
The women in my category were amazing and the high point of the trip was when New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley took us to Sardi's for lunch. That Sardi's. The institution with caricatures on the wall of theater greats old and new. She was so funny, kind, wise. All the things you want someone who has gone ahead and is reaching back to those coming up. She told us to block out all the noise and write from the heart.
After lunch we all stood outside the hotel and gave each other the quick pitches for our book. I'll keep that memory with me always.
They had so much scheduled for us that day. Meet and greets, cocktails parties, etc. I didn't attend a single workshop and that's okay because most of them were very romance-centric, and my category aside, romance isn't my wheelhouse. I may have a romance in my books (or not) but I don't write traditional romance with the HEA (happily ever after). My sister-in-law lives in New York and my sister came up from South Carolina so it was great to spend time with them, and they accompanied me to the luncheon the next day. And am I glad they did.
I kid you not, I nearly wet my pants when I walked into that ballroom. My modest Atlanta suburb ranch house could fit in that ballroom four times over. And there were easily a thousand people there.
I prayed I wouldn't have to get up and give a speech and god listened. Whew. Melissa did us all proud, however.
I believe things happen for a reason. I joined RWA six years ago when I decided I wanted to write books women might want to read. I looked around for an organization to join and because Mary Kay Andrews lives in Atlanta and she was a member of RWA, I joined. But I never really felt I belonged, so I didn't engage. But I kept my membership and in December I clicked open an email and saw it was the last year for the Golden Heart contest. And I had a just-finished first draft of a new book so I thought, what the heck. By the time I headed back home, the reason for all of this was clear. It was so I could be part of this amazing sisterhood ... the women of the Golden Heart class of 2019. The Omegas. And I couldn't be prouder.