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Valerie Parv's

AWARD TO THE WISE

A mentor stands to gain as much, if not more, than the person they mentor, Jennifer Crusie told the RW Australia conference in Sydney. Having mentored perhaps a dozen writers through the Valerie Parv Award, I must agree. The satisfaction of giving back to the profession is beyond measure. Even more exciting is the joy of seeing these talented new writers scale ever increasing heights of achievement.

This yearís VPA finalists were an impressive group from a large and varied field ranging from a vampire saga to modern humour and medical romance. Reality TV got a look in along with a flying winemaker, supermodels and socialites. With a minimum of polishing, some entries would be ready for submission to an editor, making my choice of a winner hugely challenging.

In the end, the award went to Barbara Jeffcott Geris of New Zealand, whose partial for Sense and Surrender was well targeted, strongly conceived, with good characters and well thought-out motivation. Congratulations to second and third placegetters, Amanda MacPherson and Sharon Arkell, and highly commended finalists, Rachael Blair, Susanna Rogers and Alison Van Vreumingen.

The last year has been extraordinary for past and present VPA winners. Bronwyn Clarke and Melanie Scott both finalled in Romance Writers of Americaís prestige Golden Heart Awards for unpublished novels, with Bronwyn bringing home the prize for best suspense novel, Falling into Darkness.

Melanie scooped third place in the North Texas RWA fantasy and futuristic section, going on to win RW Australiaís Single Title and Loving It award, with Bronwyn taking second and third places. Melanie also won the hotly contested Single Title section of the Emerald Award. Rachel Robinson, last yearís VPA winner, walked away with the category section of the same award.

Kelly Hunter, also a one-time VPA winner, continues to dazzle readers with her unique style, being recognised with CataRomanceís Best First Romance of 2006. Double finalist, Paula Roeís debut novel, Forgotten Marriage, a September 2007 Silhouette Desire, was already chalking up best-seller statistics before hitting the stands.

While I donít take the credit for these remarkable successes, I feel winning an award like the VPA can open doors, boost confidence and create opportunities for talent to bloom, ample reason for setting your sights on entering this and other RWA contests in the coming year.

In the meantime, itís a real pleasure to open Hearts Talk each month and discover what new heights the VPA winners have scaled. And while itís a pleasure to be honoured by Romance Writers of Australia in having this award bear my name, my greatest joy is working with these talented winners during the year of their award. Jenny Crusie sure knew what she was talking about.