Romance author Alison Kent discusses the honor of receiving a 2014 RITA award nomination for her book, "The Second Chance Café." The official RITA award winners will be announced July 26.
Interested in RITA nominees? Read more from romance author Nancy Kerkness on her RITA nomination experience.
My name is Alison Kent, and I'm going to tell you all about the RITA experience. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular writing award, it's the highest peer-judged honor given every year to published romance novels and novellas by the Romance Writers of America.
This is how the RITA contest works. For every author I know.
- Early autumn, when the RITA registration opens, we rush to send our entry fee to RWA before the contest reaches its entry cap and we're left looking in from the outside. Through our tears.
- Late autumn, when the deadline for receipt of RITA books approaches, we rush to send the copies to the RWA office before it's too late. Since I now live less than five miles from the national headquarters, I get to skip the postage and the post office lines and motor over!
- Early winter, when the RITA judging packets hit our front doors, we rush to rip into the boxes, wanting to see what has arrived. It's like a late Christmas gift. Free books! New authors! Free books!
- Late winter, when the RITA scores are due, we rush to the RWA website to submit them. Or at least I do. I'm sure there are some out there who are much more organized!
- Early spring, when the RITA finalists are announced, we rush to get out of bed so we can then wait by the phone. The calls go out early. Twitter explodes with congratulations. Those whose categories have not yet been called try not to weep.
Funny how much rushing is involved when publishing is all about "hurry up and wait."
This year when the calls began, I was sitting in my kitchen coffee shop with my husband pretending the day was no different from any other. This is our morning routine. Coffee and Twitter for me. Coffee and Fark for him. I was reading the tweeted call announcements and cheering on friends. Then our house phone rang. The only unit we have is upstairs.
"That's my RITA call," I said, and didn't even move. My feet were propped up. I had my phone in one hand, my coffee mug in the other. There was no way I would be able to pry myself out of my cushy chair and get to the phone before it stopped ringing. My husband felt differently. He sprinted to my office and caught the call in time. I had entered three books in two different categories, but in my heart of hearts knew which had finaled.
How did I know it was a RITA call? For one thing, no one who knows us to talk to us uses the house phone, but it is the number attached to my official RWA membership. The real reason I was so sure, however, is because The Second Chance Cafe has been a magic book since the moment it became a Montlake Romance - and I can't even explain why. I did nothing differently while writing it than I did while writing any of the forty-plus books that came before. It was a matter of the right book and the right publisher at the right time.
I think that's called luck. And mine was twenty years in the making.
My first book was released in 1993, years before social media was a thing. It took days to find out who had finaled. Some years I didn't see the full list until the Romance Writers Report (RWA's official magazine) arrived with the announcement weeks later. There was no hearing the news as the calls were made, no getting to celebrate with friends on the spot.
I'm so glad it took this long (no, really!) because of that experience. Congratulations from readers and authors alike chirping on my phone made "call day" the best ever. Flowers arriving from my publisher brightened my kitchen coffee shop for days. Wearing a RITA pin and ribbon during the RWA conference will make the week fun beyond words.
I've enjoyed every minute of being a finalist and will do so even after the winner is announced. It's an incredible honor to have my book selected by my peers as one of the year's best romances. I'm thrilled to death to be able to share it with Amazon Montlake.
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