MELBOURNE -- - Noted author Roxanne St. Claire of Melbourne and aspiring writer Kristen Painter of Rockledge were chosen as finalists among 3,000 entrants in the Romance Writers of America's national awards.
St. Claire, nominated for two novellas -- "Tis the Silly Season," published by Harlequin Enterprises, and "You Can Count on Me," published by Pocket Books -- took home the golden RITA statuette for "Tis the Silly Season." The prize came with a NASCAR holiday.
"Every girl deserves a night like the one I had on Saturday, July 14, in Dallas. I'd been to six RITA ceremonies in my career up to that point and even enjoyed the thrill of being a nominee in 2005. But, this one was magical," St. Claire said.
Perhaps, her excitement was heightened by winning the coveted Daphne Du Maurier Award for "Thrill Me to Death" in the Best Romantic Suspense category earlier the same week.
St. Claire's next project is a Bullet Catcher (bodyguard) trilogy for Pocket Books due out in 2008. "First You Run" will be in stores in April, "Then You Hide" in July and "Now You Die" three months later.
Painter's "All Fired Up," based loosely on the legend of the Phoenix, was a finalist for the Golden Heart Award in the paranormal category. Although she didn't win, she considered it a coup to reach the finalist round among more than a thousand entries.
"For me, being a Golden Heart finalist gives me a sense of validation that what I'm writing is connecting with people. I don't think there's a greater feeling for a writer than knowing someone enjoyed your story enough to award it that kind of recognition," Painter said.
Her next project is a young adult series. She is represented by Elaine Spencer of the Knight Agency.
The RITA is named for the Romance Writers of America's first president, Rita Clay Estrada. It is presented annually on the last night of the organization's national conference to the author of the best published romance in 13 categories. One hundred entrants are chosen as finalists.
Similarly, the Golden Heart's entrants are winnowed down to 100 finalists in 13 categories. The final round is judged by editors from romance publishing houses.
To be termed a romance, two basic elements are needed: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.
Romance Writers of America holds a national conference in a different American city each July. More than 100 workshops are offered with topics ranging from the craft of writing to the business side of being a working author.
The organization, began in 1980 with 37 writers, now boasts 9,500 members and 140 chapters.
Painter and St. Claire belong to Spacecoast Authors of Romance (STAR).