Hooboy, another F-word…

Kari Cole is one of my special Rebelle peeps–she’s also a finalist in the Paranormal category (YAY PARANORMAL!), and here she shares what being a Golden Heart® finalists means to her, and how to firmly deal with another kind of F-word. ❤ 

Last week on this blog, C.R. Grissom wrote about thinking it was some sort of fluke that her YA story, Mouthful, had earned a spot among the other finalists. I totally get that feeling, and would like to add another F-word: Fraud.

Merriam-Webster defines a fraud as: a person who is not what he or she pretends to be. You know, a scammer. A con artist. A sham. Cue the huge, blinking arrow pointing right at me.

This is my second ride on the Golden Heart Tilt-a-Whirl. Constant Craving, was a finalist last year, too. (It didn’t win.) Now, I should probably fess up that Constant Craving has made the rounds of the contest circuit. I think I submitted its first iteration as a short story to Writer’s Digest way back in December 2013. Oh, all right, it was probably more like in 2003 to The Buffalo News, but I had a kid who didn’t sleep for more than two hours at a time and I don’t really remember what I did back then. Okay? Jeez!

Any who, while iron butterflies dive-bombed in my stomach, I sent my book out to agents and editors, and waited. Responses trickled in, all playing some version of the Thanks, but… song. See? That proved it. Constant Craving stink, stank, stunk. That’s why it didn’t win, and didn’t sell. And therefore, I am a big, fat, effing phony. A fraud. It didn’t matter that Constant Craving and another story I wrote had already finaled in more contests than not. I was an imposter.

Hmm… Hadn’t I heard that somewhere before? Oh, yeah, right at the 2016 RWA national conference in San Diego, where the Golden Heart awards ceremony was. As the luncheon keynote speaker, Dr. Valerie Young, told us about Imposter Syndrome. How it zaps your confidence. How even the most accomplished women will chalk their successes up to luck rather than skill. Cue that damn blinking arrow again.

I remember sitting there, with my mouth hanging open, as I looked around the packed ballroom and saw several hundred women—many of them New York Times bestselling authors—all nodding their heads, too. How is this possible?

It took me a few weeks to process Dr. Young’s message, and figure out what it meant for my own writing. What did I learn? That like many women, my subconscious is full of mean, nasty, self-critical bulls**t. And what did I do about it? The same thing I’d do if a real person told me the things my own subconscious did—I flipped it the bird and told it to go covfefe itself.

Then, I edited my book. Again. With love in my heart for the characters who had become my friends. And I sent it out. Again. To the Golden Heart contest. But wait, my tale of self-doubt isn’t done. I liked my book. My critique partners liked my book. Hell, even my teenage son like it. But I knew that the judges wouldn’t. (Stupid, jerk-face inner voice.) So, the morning the Golden Heart calls were being made, I dillydallied getting started for the day and hopped in the shower. I had time after all. No one was going to call me. I had a nice lather going in my hair when my phone rang. Farrah Rochon is lucky she didn’t try to FaceTime with me.

Something clicked in my goofy brain as I ran around the house in nothing but a towel, screaming, and dripping shampoo suds all over the place: I’m not a fraud. I’m a writer. The only way I could be an imposter is if I don’t write. That’s what becoming a finalist this year has meant for me. Call it validation if you want, or even justification for not getting a “real” job. But me, I’m going to call it being a Rebelle.


Kari is a two-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® finalist, winner of both the 2015 Daphne du Maurier award and the Toronto Romance Writers’ Catherine. She lives in Upstate New York with her college-sweetheart, two way-too-smart-for-their-own-good sons, and a ridiculous labradoodle named for the bravest of Star Wars heroes, Artoo. She has a MBA from the State University of New York at Buffalo and has worked in sales, marketing, and human resources.

Kari writes paranormal romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is a member of several RWA chapters, including: Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal; Kiss of Death; the Golden Network; and the Capital Region Romance Writers, where she serves as Treasurer.