It's been over a week since I sat in the audience during the RITA ceremony holding my best friend Cathy McDavid's hand and grinning foolishly at my editor Krista Stroever. When they announced Linda Goodnight's name, I relaxed and let go of Cathy's hand. I still grinned at my editor. I'm thinking whoever was holding Linda's hand shouted OUCH. And, if you think Linda was grinning, you should have seen her editor. For those of us who are still Ladies in Waiting or dreaming of being a RITA finalist, here is some of the joys, fears, and yes comaraderie that went into this year's Inspirational RITA category via an interview with our Harlequin's own Linda Goodnight.
Question 1: How did you feel waiting for the winner's name to be announced.
I had spent so much time praying not to covet the award that I was perfectly at peace and ready to shout my head off for the winner. So I was just sitting there thinking that my dress was too tight and had unbuttoned my jacket. When they began to read off the Inspy finalists, I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should button my jacket just in case.” Instantly, butterflies started dancing in my stomach. (They’d probably been there all along, but now they were crushed and fighting for their lives.
At the moment the title of my book was announced as the winner, I went blank. I never heard my name called. Even though I don’t believe in out-of-body experiences, that’s the only way I can describe those few seconds. I remember looking at my editor and saying, “What? What did she say?” I still get chills just thinking about that amazing, exhilarating rush of disbelief and realization.
Question 2: How did 'you' really feel up there on stage?
Really, really embarrassed not to have written a speech. My mind was both numb and whirling at the same time, but no coherent thoughts would come. I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to jump up and down and laugh! The lights were extremely bright so all I could see were shadows in the audience. My brain was yelling, “You only have two minutes! Stop blubbering.”
Even though I tried to remember to thank all the right people, I forgot so many. I wanted to honor the other finalists, whom I have come to admire, and like as women as well as wonderful, worthy writers. Believe me, to win in a category with those other authors means something very, very special.
Question 3: What happens after you step off the stage, both at RWA and then later on at home?
Wow! I couldn’t stop giggling during the rest of the ceremony –and shaking. I hadn’t been shaky before but I sure was then! My editor kept whispering, “I told you. I told you.” And then I’d squeeze Miss RITA and start giggling all over again.
After the ceremony, there was this rush of people-friends, other finalists, editors-toward me, and that continued for the next hour or so. Frankly, I loved it!!! I’ve said this over and over again, but it’s so true. Awards mean nothing if you have no one to share them with. The absolute best part of winning the RITA is that first hour after the program.
I have two very sweet memories that I will treasure in my heart forever. The other finalists, Pamela Tracy, Susan Mae Warren, and Irene Hannon were the first people to greet me. Looking so beautiful in their fancy duds, they hugged and smiled and congratulated me, though I know they had to be disappointed. That meant so very much and always will. See why I admire these women? They’re the real deal.
The second treasured moment was seeing my friend, Libby Banks. Libby and I have been friends and critique partners since before I sold that first book. Libby is a strong woman, an attorney who keeps her emotions in check. But there she was, coming at me through the crush, moving people out of the way like they were bowling pins, tears streaming down her face. We fell into each others arms, laughing and crying. Sweet, very, very sweet.
The next day, after two hours sleep, (Who needs sleep when you have adrenaline?) my family greeted me at the airport and took me out to dinner. Then, when I turned down the road toward home, I was met with a big congratulations sign erected by my neighbors.
Since getting back home, my email box has been full of congratulations. My chapter sent flowers. My phone has rung off the hook. My editors have emailed. Even some agents that I’ve never met have emailed! It’s truly been an exciting, amazing, and fulfilling ride.
Thank you for letting me re-live the excitement. Now, back to work. I have a book due!