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Stuff 'N Nonsense Being Part Of The Process
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In past columns, I've talked about the national conference hosted by the Romance Writers of America held each year in various cities throughout the United States and you may have heard me mention the RITA contest where the best of the best in romantic fiction are honored for their work.

Well, I've been selected as a judge for the preliminary round of the RITA contest and I have to tell you, I'm completely jazzed and excited to be a part of this process.

My RITA books arrived last week and you should've seen me squealing like a teenage girl when I saw that UPS package on my kitchen table. I danced around as I ripped the box open, delighting as the books spilled into my hands. Yeah, I was that excited.

So what's with the hullabaloo, you ask. What's the big deal?

Well, the RITAs are like the romantic fiction market equivalent to the Oscars. To win one is quite an accomplishment and the competition is fierce. I nearly jumped out of my seat when Helen Brenna, a fellow Superromance author, took home a RITA last year for her debut book, Treasure, because it was just so awesome that she was up there competing against the big guns in romance. Helen is in my "graduating class" so to speak, as in we were new authors together in the same line. She's awesome, by the way, and I was only a tad bit jealous that her debut book was so much better than mine! Anyway, she deserved it and I was delighted to share that moment with her even if I was just cheering from my seat.

To be a part of that "jury" is such an honor and I take the responsibility seriously. I received six books, all of which must be read and judged by March 1. (Hmm, I do have a deadline of April 1 for my next book...that may pose a problem. Oh dear.) And because I can't judge books in the same category as any book I've entered (you bet your sweet petunias I entered all three of my 2008 books!) I chose historical and paranormal for my genre preference.

Now, let's talk about the books that were in my shipment. They range from very interesting to not something I would ever buy but even still, I'm entering this judging thing with an open mind. I'm willing to be wowed by something I've never tried and eager to discover a new favorite author.

I started with a book that I wouldn't consider to be in my particular tastes as far as reading pleasure goes and I will finish with a book that I think sounds really good judging by the back blurb.

After I've finished reading and judging the books I will donate them to our local library (unless one of them turns out to be something I absolutely must have on my keeper shelf but I confess, that shelf is already groaning under the weight of what I have stacked there already) therefore passing on the love of books to someone else who will appreciate them.

What gives me goosebumps is the knowledge that someone - a judge - somewhere is cracking open one of my three entries. Will they love it? Hate it? Give it a good enough mark to send onto the final round? Or tank it with a zero so that it sinks to the bottom with no chance of moving on? These are the things I think about when I should be working on my next proposal.

I can only hope that the judge who is reading my entries is taking their job as seriously as I'm taking mine and going into this thing with a sense of fairness and an open mind. I feel good about my entries; my 2008 books were strong but it's times like these that insecurities start to set in. Was my ending too abrupt? Did I tie up all the loose ends? Arrghh, why didn't I add another scene with the hero and heroine?

So knowing that I am likely not alone in my late-night panic attacks about something that at this point, cannot be changed, I've vowed to give my judging responsibility due diligence because I'm critiquing somebody's baby - and somewhere my babies are in the hands of someone else.

I will keep you posted on my progress. My friends who've been RITA judges before have chuckled at my enthusiasm, much like an older, much wiser sister who's been around the block a few times more than I have, and I have to wonder if the bloom will wear off the rose by the time I reach the bottom of my judging pile.

I hope not. But who knows?

Until then, I'm eager, excited, and ready to start reading.

Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.