The coup de gr√¢ce for all Romance Writers of America (RWA¬Æ) conferences is the presentation of the Golden Hearts for best romance manuscript and the RITA¬Æ Awards for best book.
This year’s RITA winners, announced on Friday, July 1, include two of my favorite authors in my most preferred romance subgenre: the historical. Sherry Thomas (pictured at right) burst on the scene in 2008 with her debut novel, Private Arrangements. We interviewed her that year in what was likely her first professional media exposure. She won the 2011 Historical Romance honor for His at Night, her second RITA in two years. In accepting the award, she referred to this year’s competition as the category of death, including as it did Joanna Bourne, Loretta Chase, and Eloisa James, among others.
The RITA¬Æ for Regency Historical Romance went to Lauren Willig (pictured at left) for The Mischief of the Mistletoe, a side step in her spy series begun with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Her hero in Mischief is Turnip Fitzhugh, a character from the earlier Pinks who served as both comic relief and red herring. Her readers, however, clamored for his story. Upon winning her first RITA, Willig remarked that she should have written about vegetables sooner.
A prelude to the evening’s festivities was a quieter get-together held Friday afternoon. In Reading Your Way to Creating a Great Novel, reviewer for the Chicago Tribune and Arizona librarian John Charles, Sourcebooks editor Leah Hultenschmidt, and librarian emerita at Cal State‚ East Bay and LJ‘s own Romance columnist, Kristin Ramsdell, read excerpts from some of their favorite works (romance and otherwise) to reveal lessons for those hoping to make it in the business. Among the treasures explored were Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm, Barbara Michaels’s Wait for What Will Come, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, anything by P.G. Wodehouse (Leah’s delivery was worth it all; she calls Wodehouse’s works chick lit for boys), and almost everything by Georgette Heyer (but specifically These Old Shades and An Infamous Army).
The attendees sighed their approval, with each one eager to share her own favorites. Why come to a panel on reading at a writer’s conference? As one would-be author stated, with all the info on proposal letters, agent interviews, and word counts, she considered this workshop her guilty pleasure. Indeed.