Wednesday night I’m cooking dinner for my family—a nice winter vegetable soup with feta cheese and fresh basil—and the only thing I’m paying attention to is my laptop on the counter. The results for the Rainbow Awards are posting. Up they come, one category at a time, until the Best Lesbian Contemporary & Erotic Romance pops on the screen. Heartwood, my second novel, is 4th! Right behind some of the best authors in the business. And then the Best Lesbian Book Category appears. I’m so new to the award circuit that I didn’t even know this was an award. OMG! Seriously? I’m a runner-up on this list too?
I stand there alone in the kitchen, letting this amazing news sink in, before I run to tell my family. On my way to the other side of the house, I realize that, really, I was a winner the moment I entered my book. As you might already know, the Rainbow Awards are special. Elisa, who devotes most of her free time for ten months to run the awards, wants “to spread the spirit of giving throughout all the awards”. She tries to spotlight as many submissions as she can by posting about honorable mentions, finalists, runner-ups and winners. More significantly, however, there is no submission fee. She’s created a list of LGBT non-profit charitable organizations, and since she doesn’t want to be the one who decides where the money goes, she trusts the authors to find the charity which speaks to them. This year alone, she raised over $14,000 for these worthy causes. A win-win for everyone.
This summer when I was looking to enter Heartwood, I scanned the list and found the Los Angeles LGBT center. There were so many worthwhile organizations that it was hard to choose, but this one is in my backyard and so, in the end, it was easy to make a donation. I quickly fell into the community. I joined the near 90,000 followers on Facebook, found out two of my close friends were high-level sponsors, and attended a recent volunteer orientation to see how I could get more involved. Yes, I had won long before Elisa posted her 2016 lists.
Participation in the awards invites authors everywhere to pay it forward to our community. This is the real pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow Awards. No matter what I write, I’ll be entering the contest every year from now on!