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Kiwi writers selected as finalists for international awards

Kiwi writers selected as finalists for international awards

Two New Zealand writers have been selected as finalists in the Romance Writers of America (RWA) awards which recognise excellence in published romance fiction. The pair head to New York later in July to attend the awards’ ceremony in front of around two thousand fellow writers, editors and agents.

Campbells Bay author Louise Groarke, writing as Louisa George, is a finalist in the short contemporary romance section of the RITA®, the highest international award of distinction for romance fiction. Groarke’s RITA finalist novel, Enemies with Benefits, is one of 11 novels she has published to date with Harlequin Mills & Boon, a subsidiary of HarperCollins and the world’s largest publisher of romance fiction.

Hibiscus Coast writer Bronwyn Sell, writing as Brynn Kelly, finalled in the ultra-competitive Golden Heart awards for unpublished romance manuscripts with her romantic suspense, Deception Island, which has already been picked up for publication mid-2016 in hardcover by HQN Books, an imprint of Harlequin.

The RITA award is named after the first RWA president, Rita Clay Estrada, up to 2,000 romance novels are entered in the RITA competition each year before the winners are announced at the RWA annual conference.

Both Groarke and Sell are travelling to New York to attend the awards’ ceremony, which is part of the huge RWA conference running 22 to 25 July, and are joined by a contingent of around a dozen fellow Romance Writers of New Zealand members.

Groarke says: “The RITAs are described as the Oscars of romance writing, so it is a huge honour and very exciting. It's also a great confidence boost and validation of my writing.”

Groarke is looking forward to the opportunities to network with editors, agents and industry professionals from around the world.

“It’s a very large conference with around 2,500 attendees, so it will be great to also meet up with other authors and readers I’ve met on social media,” says Groarke. “I also have the opportunity to do a book signing along with hundreds of other romance writers and the proceeds go to a literacy charity in USA. There are lots of workshops covering a myriad of subjects from all aspects of honing craft, self-publishing, screenwriting, etc. so I’ll be making the most of these learning opportunities to benefit my writing and publishing career.”

Sell, an award-winning journalist and freelance writer with four non-fiction books to her credit, is equally excited to have her first fiction book final for the Golden Heart award.

“This is the first time I’ve entered the Golden Heart. In the same week I was advised Deception Island was a finalist in the Golden Heart, it sold in a two-book deal to HQN,” Sell says.

“Going to New York is a thrill all round. As well as being a buzzing city to visit, it’s the international capital of the publishing industry. The RWA conference is one of the best writing conferences in the world, covering a mindboggling range of topics, from craft tips to publication industry insights. There’s even a session about hostage negotiating – just in case you decide to write about a kidnap crisis! And it’s a very social conference. Not only are about a dozen New Zealand writers going, but also a bunch of my writer friends from around the world, most of whom I’ve never met in person, but have been an invaluable source of encouragement and advice. Usually, we writers shut ourselves away in a quiet room, so it’s great to get together with people who are on the same journey, albeit at different stages.”

Both Groarke and Sell are invited to their publisher’s legendary black and white ball in the Starlight Roof of the historic Waldorf Astoria, near Central Park.

“For someone who’s always wanted to be a novelist, it’s surreal to have an entry in my diary that reads: dinner with my agent and editor in New York,” adds Sell.

Both authors pay credit to the role that their local romance writing organisation, Romance Writers of New Zealand (RWNZ), has played in their writing careers to date.

Groarke, who last year won the inaugural Koru, RWNZ’s award of excellence, says: “RWNZ has been hugely instrumental in shaping my writing career. It is where I found a group of like-minded people who knew much more about writing craft and business than I could ever have learnt online. RWNZ members are endlessly supportive of each other and I have made some great friends. I volunteered as the organisation’s secretary for two years recently and still love to volunteer at the annual conference which has given me confidence to speak to industry professionals from around the world. Without RWNZ, I would never have achieved what I have in the last four years.”

Sell says she has been writing fiction since childhood. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I went into journalism because I loved writing, and I’ve made a career out of playing with words. I’ve spent the last decade or so learning the craft of fiction, while juggling my two jobs: parenting and freelancing. In the process of learning the craft, I’ve gravitated toward writing stories like Deception Island that are equal parts action-adventure thrillers and love stories. They seem to suit my voice. Though I’m not solely a romance writer, I joined RWNZ a few years ago because it’s one of the most supportive and active writing networks in New Zealand. RWNZ is great because the many experienced authors are so generous in helping out the newbies. It’s a great source of advice and support.”

Winning the RWNZ Great Beginnings contest, for the first three chapters of a romance manuscript, helped Sell sign with her American agent which then lead to her two-book deal with HQN.

RWNZ president Kamy Chatty says: “It’s fantastic to see Kiwi talent recognised on the world stage like this and added to the previous RWNZ members who have been RITA and Golden Heart finalists over the years, we are very proud of their efforts to succeed in the world’s biggest genre fiction category.”

Other RWNZ members who were finalists at RWA’s ‘Oscars’ of romance writing are:

• Red Beach’s Karina Bliss won the Golden Heart in 2005 in the best short contemporary romance category.

• Auckland-based super star author Nalini Singh has finalled in the RITA five times for her best-selling paranormal romances.

• Auckland historical romance writer Frances Housden was a RITA finalist last year.

• Australian RWNZ members Kylie Griffin and Trish Morey have finalled in the Golden Heart. Morey has also finalled in the RITA.

Both authors acknowledge RWNZ’s annual conference as offering all kinds of learning and networking opportunities for aspiring and established writers.

“I'm so looking forward to this year's conference at the end of August,” Groarke says. “As usual we have international speakers, editors and agents who are sharing their wealth of knowledge and experience across the publishing spectrum. There's something for everyone, whether looking to indie publish or pitching to a traditional publisher or agent, plus the art and craft of writing. It's also a time to catch up with old friends and celebrate achievements – RWNZ has many prolific and award-winning bestselling authors!”

Sell agrees: “It’s rare for New Zealand writers to get an opportunity to meet and pitch to editors from leading international publishing houses, and literary agencies, without leaving the country. And if you’re a budding writer, you’re guaranteed to come away buzzing with ideas and motivation.”

The 2015 RWNZ annual conference, Love Thrills, takes place at Auckland’s Waipuna Conference and Events Centre from 28 to 30 August. More information is available via the website


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