Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Winning the Gold

Kathleen here. It's been many years since I heard my name announced as the winner of RWA's Golden Heart Award for unpublished writers, but I can still feel the excitement when I recall that moment. I've invited two 2010 GH winners--both members of Midwest Fiction Writers, my local RWA chapter--to share their experiences. Next week you'll meet Lizbeth Selvig, winner in the Best Contemporary Single Title category.

Now meet Cat Schield, recipient of the Golden Heart for Best Contemporary Series Romance, whose HEA story is only the beginning...

I’m very excited to be wi th you today to talk about my journey to publication. In my mind, it’s a lot like sailing. Both can be fun. Both can be scary. You get bruised. You can’t control the wind or the publishing industry. You can only adjust your sails or what you are writing to take advantage of the environment.

Rarely can you get directly from point A to point B. Both journeys might require a series of direction changes in order to draw ever closer to your goal. Most of the time, long periods go by where nothing appears to be happening, but you’re making headway. Interspersed with the waiting are short burst of frantic activity when you change the boat’s direction or do a quick polish on that requested manuscript.

Why am I making this comparison? Because if it wasn’t for sailing, I never would have sold my first book.

In 2006 a sailing buddy of mine, Erik Westgard, pestered me to write an article on our sailing adventure in the British Virgin Islands. He’d been writing for magazines for years, but had his eye on the glossy pages of International Yacht Charters and Vacations. To my shock, they chose my article for their June 2006 issue. I was going to be published.

Despite having tried and failed to sell a book at various times over the previous two decades, this pub credit gave me reason to believe in my chances of become a published author. My voice had matured. My dedication had ballooned. This time around I was going to sell or die trying.

I knew contests were a good way to get feedback and bypass the slush pile. In the fall of 2006 I’d finished two manuscripts and started entering them in contests. A lot of contests. To my delight, I made the finals in the the first two contests I entered. I was on my way. Or not. The next few gave me some eye opening feedback. Undaunted, I fixed my problems and got my first request for a full in the summer of 2007. And my first rejection. Slow pacing and not enough conflict.

I began to study craft and revise. More contests gave me more feedback and more full requests. Late 2008, after receiving great feedback on all my rejections letters, I got a form rejection. At a loss for how to move forward, I decided a change of genre was in order. So, I started writing YA. But I never lost my dream of selling to Silhouette Desire.

When I pitched to Kevan Lyon at the 2009 Nationals, I had a book at Harlequin and a two time requested manuscript I’d never submitted. She looked at both. And signed me. The editor who’d asked to see A Case of Meddling, my Silhouette Desire targeted book, had left by this time, but the new associate editor was happy to take a look. And to provide revision notes three weeks later. Believing this might be the one, I quickly turned around a revised manuscript.

To keep myself distracted while I waited to hear something, I entered the Golden Heart. In the past I hadn’t had much luck, but this year proved different. Of the two manuscripts I entered, I thought A Case of Meddling had the best shot. I was wrong. The book that finaled was Fake Fiancee, Real Love. And to my shock, it went on to win the Golden Heart for series contemporary romance.

A month later, Kevan called to tell me we had an offer. A Case of Meddling will hit the shelves as a Silhouette Desire in July 2011. Dreams do come true. Sometimes you just have to be patient and believe.

Cat Schield lives in Minnesota with her daughter, Emily, and their Burmese cat. Winner of the Romance Writers of America 2010 Golden Heart® for series contemporary romance, when she’s not writing sexy, romantic stories for Silhouette Desire, she can be found sailing with friends on the St. Croix River or more exotic locales like the Caribbean and Europe. Contact her at www.catschield.com.

43 comments:

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Cat!
I never tire of hearing your story--I'm so pleased for you! And, I'm so glad to be your contemporary--here's to a long and successful career, for you just like all the ladies here at RWTTD. Congrats again on the contract. I'll be one of the first in line next July!

Betina Krahn said...

Wow, Cat, congratulations! You've worked long and hard for these great successes and deserve every bit of joy and exhilaration they can bring!

And hey-- would I love to have been on that sailboat (or is it called a yacht at that size?) in the lower picture! What fun that must be-- sailing in exotic foreign ports. Do your experiences end up in your books?

Helen Brenna said...

Hey Cat - Congrats on both the GH win and, most importantly, the sale! So glad you stuck with it!

Playground Monitor said...

I was there when you won the Golden Heart but hadn't heard about your sale to Desire. Congratulations! What a terrific story with a HEA.

Marilyn

amy said...

I can't wait to read it...I love hearing the story behind the story...ahhhh.
amy

Michele Hauf said...

Love that first sale story. Congrats, Cat! And welcome to the wild and wacky world of publishing!

Leanne said...

Huge Congrats Cat! Your persistence paid off! And oh, you make sailing look so good.:)

Edie Ramer said...

I love hearing first sale stories. Thanks for sharing!

Stephie Smith said...

Cat, that's a great fist sale story...very inspiring!!

Cat Schield said...

My first post disappeared into the ether. So, here goes again. I'm nothing if not determined.

Liz, one of the best things about finaling in the Golden Heart was meeting you. I can't wait to celebrate your first sale.

Betina, great "seeing" you. I think I'm enjoying my sale all the more for having waited so long to get there. And yes, I do incorporate my sailing trips into my writing. One book in particular I based on the BVI trip. Someday I hope to see it in print.

Captain Erik is always looking for crew for our adventures. The sailboat in the British Virgin Islands was a 50'er. 4 cabins. 8 people. It was a little snug, but we had a blast. 2012 we're going back to Greece. I'm just throwing it out there...

Helen, your success has inspired me to keep at it. Thanks!

Hi Marilyn, I'm a huge fan of HEA. And the harder the characters struggle, the sweeter the happy ending. I gotta say, I'm delighted to finally get mine.

Amy, I love call stories. Especially the ones where it took someone a while. They kept me going during those long months of no news. Thanks for stopping by.

Michele, I'm so darned giddy about being here. Haven't stopped grinning in 1-1/2 months.

Leanne, thanks! Love being a part of the Desire group. It's been my dream since the mid-nineties. Can't believe I finally made it.

Edie, thanks for stopping by. Good luck with your book. It's wonderful.

Cat Schield said...

Hi Stephie, good to see you! I miss you on the Contest Divas loop. Hope you're well!!

Angi Morgan said...

Love the analogy, Cat. "You can only adjust your sails."

Ain't that the truth for everything?

~~Angi

Keri Ford said...

What a wonderful story!! I haven't been on a sailboat in years. and too be honest, I was so seasick I'm not sure I'd want to go back! You have a tummy of steel.

congrats on the sale!

Cat Schield said...

Angi, sailing can be very frustrating, especially when you need to get somewhere fast and the wind isn't cooperating.

Keri, where we sail in Minnesota, it's pretty mellow, but get out in the open water in the Caribbean and things can get a bit rough. Especially if you've indulged in one too many Painkillers the night before!

Shea Berkley said...

I didn't know you were an avid boater, Cat. I'm glad it inspired you to chase your dreams of publication. It's funny how one area of your life can touch off an adventure in a totally different area. Congratulations on the sale!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, Cat, take me with you to Greece!
I've never been sea sick, and, boy, do I know how to adjust!

lois greiman said...

Huge congratulations, Cat!! And thanks for joining us. It's so great to hear when dedication and talent come together and pay off big.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Cat, by the time you won the GH you'd already sold. Do you think RWA made that A to B journey any more direct for you?

Cat Schield said...

Shea, I started sailing when I was ten or eleven. Small boats, 18 feet, mostly at camp. In the 80s I lived in Florida where I raced with a couple friends. We were always dead last, but had such a great handicap that we always one. Drove our captain's ex-husband (and fellow competitor) crazy.

These days, we have a 31 foot Hunter on the St. Croix River. It's a party boat. We sail. We eat and drink. If it's warm enough we swim. Pretty low key.

Kathleen, you are welcome to join us in Greece. And I'm not just saying that. Come sailing with us this summer and meet some of the crew. It's all women and Captain Erik.

And I didn't sell before the Golden Heart, but a month after. It had been with Desire for 8 months. I really don't know how anyone sells without RWA. Between the contests, the conferences, the local chapters, connections to other writers. I got my agent from a pitch at National. I got my request to sub my book from an RWA sponsered contest. I have a friend who writes children's books. He is blown away by all the opportunities out there for romance writers.

Lois, thanks! I'm grateful to all the pubbed MFW members who've inspired me to stay the course.

Elisa Beatty said...

Such a wonderful story, Cat! And I LOVE the analogy between sailing and trying to get published! You're so right: we can't control the wind, but we can keep working our sails! Congrats to you!

Cat Schield said...

Thanks Elisa! I have high hopes for your future. You are a wonderful writer on the brink of being "discovered".

Jacqui Nelson said...

Loved your blog, Cat, and your sailing stories and pictures, too! When you said, "Most of the time, long periods go by where nothing appears to be happening, but you’re making headway" really caught my attention. How true!
If you ever need a sailing crew, I'm in :-)

Cat Schield said...

Thanks Jacqui! I'd love to have you come sailing with us. We have a great time. Wish I had more time and money for international travel. We've talked Australia and Croatia sailing trips in the future.

Sandy said...

Cat,
Once my hubby and I had the dream of traveling by boat in the Caribbean. Now we're too old.

Good luck with your book.

Cat Schield said...

Thanks Sandy! Try one of those cruise ships with the sails. We saw one in the BVIs. Luxury travel to exotic ports.

Sandra Hyatt said...

Hi Cat

Congratulations on the Desire sale. Can't wait to read it. Love the sailing analogy - so true.

Cindy Gerard said...

What a great story, Cat! And wow, do I SO envy you and your sail boat.
Put me down on the Greece list with Kathy, okay??

Gillian Layne said...

It's always a comfort to hear that hard work and perseverance does pay off! Congratulations. :)

Cat Schield said...

Hi Sandra! Love your books. It's amazing to be published alongside the my favorite authors.

Cindy, I will definitely add you to the list. The more, the merrier.

Debra Dixon said...

Cat-- Congratulations! I love the concept of "being patient" with one's self. We hear about believing in ourselves so often but we also need to be patient or we'll take all the pleasure out of the process.

We have to love what we do because this is a hard business.

Wildheart said...

My dear friend, Cat. I'm so glad we connected again at the WisRWA conference in Green Bay a few years ago. I am, and was, so glad to hear you'd gone back to writing! I've read your stuff and knew it was just a matter of time before you "made" it. Each of us has own life work to do, and yours is to be a writer. Many, many blessings to you on achieving your goal. And may you have much success. ~Ann Curtis

Cat Schield said...

Hi Gillian! Thanks for coming by. I wonder how many people quit right before they get published. I'll bet it's quite a few.

Hi Deb! Like everyone else I'm a huge fan. Your GMC book changed my life.

I was telling a writing friend that good things began to happen for me when I learned to let go of the outcome and focused on the journey. Of course, easier said than done!

Cat Schield said...

Ann, sometimes the universe just makes things happen. It's awesome when it does. Reconnecting with you in Green Bay was fabulous! Thanks for your kind words. You've been a great friend!

Kathleen Eagle said...

I'll be heading out soon to teach my class at the Loft with Mary Bracho--last class for this fall in our "Book In a Month" class, which has been very popular. (We're offering it again in the spring.) One thing people learn is that very few people can write a book in a month, but they can get a good start or pick themselves up on a project and work toward the finish. I'm going to share Cat's story tonight. Perseverance pays!

Cat Schield said...

Kathleen, that's wonderful. Good luck with the class tonight. I did NaNo for the first time last year. It was hard, but rewarding. Thanks for having me here today. I had a blast!

Alexa Bourne said...

Great story, Cat! I enjoy learning more about you!

Lynda Bailey said...

Cat~
Great post!
I relate to your comment "long periods go by where nothing appears to be happening." Ain't that the truth about writing? At times I feel like Roger Rabbit; my legs are going a million miles a second and I'm soooo not moving. Yet I am. Might be baby steps, but steps nonetheless.
So happy and proud to know you!
Lynda

Christie Ridgway said...

Congratulations, Cat! Does sailing have a place in your stories? Would love to see that.

Thanks for riding with us today, too.

Cat Schield said...

Hey Lexi, It's funny how you keep learning things about your friends.

Hi Lynda, I'm such an impatient person. Trying not to go crazy waiting for news has been tough to master. I'm getting better at filing the down time with writing instead of stress.

Hi Christie, I love warm climates and water. In my mind, at least one of my characters has a boat or something having to do with the water. Even if it never makes it into the book, it's part of who they are. I'm definitely going to do more sailing adventures for my characters. If for no other reason than to do the research.

Nan Dixon said...

Oh my - I'm so late. Love the pics and the story. Perseverence and learning the craft - Congratulations.

Cat Schield said...

Thanks Nan! I know your sale story will be coming soon. You have everything it takes to get there. Talent and determination in spades. You go girl!

Mira Lyn Kelly said...

Great story Cat! Congratulations!!

mackenzie said...

Great pictures. I wish I could travel. I really want to go Croatia sailing.