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The very generous and enterprising TJ Bennett is giving away totes and baskets full of RITA -nominated books and audios. You can enter by posting a comment on her blog here. My contribution is below.  Also note the question at the bottom of this post. Need your input!

[Ed. note (from TJ): We continue our RITA® giveaway with our final tote bag. Be sure to leave your comments on the posts for a chance to win. One tote per winner will be awarded, but you can comment on any post throughout the contest period, which ends July 18, 2009. Remember this week, there are four totes up for grabs: #7, 8, 9, and 10.]

Susan Wiggs, Snowfall at Willow Lake
[NOTE: Book in tote is audio (MP3-CD) version]
2009 RITA® Finalist for Contemporary Single Title Romance 

“Every writer I know started out as a reader. She was like me–voracious, insatiable, reading anything and everything she could get her hands on. Eventually she fell in love with genre fiction, and found a special affinity with romance novels. Like me, she probably cut her teeth on the big, juicy historicals of Kathleen Woodiwiss, Laurie McBain, Jennifer Wilde, Laura London. She stayed up late with A Woman of Substance, fantasized along with Princess Daisy and wept over The Thornbirds. She dreamed of Turtle MoonHoney Moon and Carolina Moon. She developed a taste for Like Water for Chocolate and maybe even started her own knitting and reading club. All this reading made her a better writer, and an incredibly savvy reader. Along the way, she joined RWA® and volunteered to judge the RITA®.

That’s why being a finalist is such an incredible honor. The judges are the pickiest readers in the world, and this year, they picked Snowfall at Willow Lake. This was extra-special for me because of the content of the book. Sophie Bellamy, the main character, was one of the most reviled and misunderstood protagonists I’ve ever created–chilly, competitive, deeply self-absorbed, a woman who had the audacity to be unhappy in her marriage–and to finally do something about it. Her journey from the international courts of The Hague to the storybook shores of Willow Lake was more than a plot, it was a quest for redemption. Landing in the finals was an affirmation that her journey was a success.

The competition is incredibly tough; I know, I’m always reading and I read a ton of terrific novels last year. So I’m deeply grateful and honored to be a finalist this year. I’m also thrilled to be slogging it out with some of my favorite writers for the final prize, the Queen of All Knickknacks. Because as soon as the list of finalists came out, I read all the others and was wildly entertained for days! There’s a reason the RITA® is the gold standard of prizes in our genre. I’m proud to be in the game. To read more about Snowfall at Willow Lake, and to find out more than even my husband knows about me, please check out my web site at and blog at”

About Snowfall at Willow Lake:

Can a single moment change your entire life?

International lawyer Sophie Bellamy has dedicated her life to helping people in war-torn countries. But when she survives a hostage situation, she remembers what matters most—the children she loves back home. Haunted by regrets, she returns to the idyllic Catskills village of Avalon on the shores of Willow Lake, determined to repair the bonds with her family.

There Sophie discovers the surprising rewards of small-town life—including an unexpected passion for Noah Shepherd, the local veterinarian. Noah has a healing touch for anything with four legs, but he’s never had any luck with women—until Sophie.

Snowfall at Willow Lake speaks from the heart about all the loves that fill a woman’s life, and all the ways that love is tested and made to grow. It’s the story of what comes after a woman survives an unspeakable horror and finds her way home, to healing and redemption and a new chance at happiness.


I need your advice! Last year I “won” a pair of Camper Twins when I didn’t bag the RITA. Should I fail to bring home the Queen of All Knicknacks this year, what should my consolation prize be? (I have an idea or two…)

Today, a step-by-step guide:

  1. Get up at the crack of dawn. Make strong coffee. Stay in your jammies–who’s gonna know? Set a lofty goal for your page count. Ten pages of your novel, at least.

    big plans for the day

    big plans for the day

  2. Innocently check e-mail queue to make sure the world didn’t come to an end overnight.
  3. Discover that, yes, the world did come to an end overnight. Your professional world, anyway. Your book, which is a finalist for a big-ass prestigious award–the Queen of all Knicknacks–has not been received for judging at the Central Judging Office of the Universe.
  4. Remember the unbending strictness of this rule. If books are not received by the cut-off deadline, you will be immediately disqualified. This has happened, people. It’s happened to the best romance writer on the planet. Her contest entry books were held up by trolls at the US/Canada border one year and arrived a bit late and she was DQ-ed and sucked forever into the Tubes of Obscurity. Shudder to imagine the same fate for yourself.
  5. Suffer deep executive assistant envy of your friends who have them. If you had an executive assistant, you would simply push a button on the intercom and say, “Mr. Matsura, would you please send Five Copies of my Finalist Book to the Central Judging Office of the Universe to arrive before 5pm Central?” And he would adjust his loin cloth and say, “Yes, ma’am, right away ma’am” and you would start scribbling madly, knocking out those pages.
  6. Shake off fantasy, track the shipment you expedited twelve days ago and discover it has been labeled “Exception” which is their way of saying, “My bad. Your books are lost, honey.”
  7. Let coffee get cold, decide to go to Proper Office to get more Author Copies to re-send, overnight, at Enormous Financial Expense. Slog up the driveway to Proper Office in your jammies and gardening clogs, praying the neighbors don’t see.
  8. Cheerily greet Mr. Dow who gives you a wave on the way to get his paper. Tell yourself he already thinks you’re an unemployed alcoholic anyway, so this won’t change anything.
  9. Discover that there is not a single author copy left of the book in question, except the versions in Chinese, Latvian, Urdu and Manga.
  10. See if you can figure out a way to pin this fiasco on a man, because somehow it has to be the husband’s fault. Oh! I know! He raided your supply of author copies to give out at a charity golf tournament. It’s too perfect. Better than a smoking gun.
  11. Call local bookstore which has good news! They have completely sold out of that title! 100% sell-through, baby!
  12. Call adorable daughter. Learn that she is suffering from the plague and consigned to bed and besides, her local bookstore only has three copies anyway. Call indulgent mother. Learn that she is gone to a Red Hat Meeting and besides, her bookstore is fresh out of copies, too.
  13. Sheepishly e-mail publisher and ask if they can send books. Remember publisher is in Canada and fear that Border Trolls will hold up the shipment. Listen to Adam Lambert’s “Mad World” with new appreciation for the lyrics.
  14. As a back-up plan, log into Big Giant Online Lollapolloza Bookstore and order 5 copies to be sent overnight, at Enormous Personal Expense. Feel nervous about the Fine Print.
  15. Consider calling girlfriends in Houston to ask them to round up books and take them to the HQ of the Biggest Writers’ Organization in the Universe (BWOU). Realize girlfriends have better things to do with their time.
  16. Discover that the BWOU employs a compassionate person who wants to help. Accept her offer to pick up books at a local bookstore. Dub her your NBF (New Best Friend). Call local bookstore and be told they don’t accept payment over the phone. Overnight check + chocolate to NBF.
  17. Realize the Hq of the BWOU will soon receive 20 or 25 copies of Finalist Book.
  18. Dare to look at clock. Remember company is coming for dinner. You are still in your jammies and there is no food. Regard blank pages in horror.
  19. Clonk head on desk.
  20. Repeat as necessary.


…paid me a visit this morning! Snowfall at Willow Lake  is up for a RITA Award.

goddess of knicknacks

goddess of knicknacks

The call came from the lovely and talented Lorraine Heath, who is also up for the award for her historical romance.

Winners will be announced this summer at the RWA National Conference.

Wish us luck in the RITA smackdown!

Food for thought from Deborah: Did you enter writing contests when you first started out? Do you recommend entering contests to writers? Why or why not?

SW: Almost none. Very early on, I didn’t know such things existed. When I first heard of RWA, I wanted to enter the Golden Heart, but–no exaggeration here–I was too broke to afford the entry and copying fees. I recall entering two contests as an unpub. One offered feedback that was too obscure for me to make sense of (remember, I’m a self-taught writer) and the other offered encouraging words from a writer I later became good friends with–the wonderful Debbie Macomber.

I can’t give a blanket recommendation one way or another. A writer should decide whether or not a contest will help her toward her goal or not, and base her decision on that.

Contests can help in marketing, assuming it’s a prestigious award and the judges are skilled. I recently read a debut novel, According to Jane, by Marilyn Brant. Her editor sent it to me requesting an endorsement. And it’s wonderful. The author was a finalist in the Golden Heart, and I assume this helped her find a publisher.

A writer needs to decide for herself whether or not a contest is going to help her, motivate her, inspire her…or needlessly stress her out.

What do you think about entering contests? And if you know a book is an award-winner, are you more likely to give it a shot?

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June 2020