Cheryl Holt Banner

In One Ear --- A happy ending...

By Jill Foreman

Novelist CHERYL HOLT of Seaside was recently honored by the National Readers' Choice Awards for writing the "BEST NOVELLA OF 2000."

A novella is a shorter novel in a collection with several other theme-related titles. The book, "Meg's Secret Admirer," appeared in the holiday anthology, "Be My Valentine."

The award was presented to Holt at the national convention of Romance Writers of America, which was held in New Orleans earlier this month. RWA is a professional writers organization with more than 8,000 members.

The readers' choice competition, in its 10th year, is sponsored by the Oklahoma chapter of the RWA. Most writing contests are judged by editors or published authors, but the National Readers' Choice Award winners are selected by readers from all 50 states.

"The contest is unique because the judges are fans, so the win is extremely special," Holt said.

Holt, a lawyer and mother, has written five novels for Zebra Books, and are of Kensington Publishing.

Her second novel, "My Only Love," has been nominated by Romantic Times magazine as a "Best Book" of 2000. She shares her category with titans of the industry Connie Mason, Bertrice Small and Christina Dodd. Winners will be announced at the magazine's annual November conference in Orlando.

Holt has changed publishers to St. Martin's Press. Her sixth novel, "Love Lessons," is scheduled for release in October.

Author has heady experience

Seaside author Cheryl Holt has the distinction of selling four novels in one year. The books, three historical and one contemporary romance, will be published by New York's Kensington Publishing. Its Zebra books division is the second largest publisher of romance in the world.

Holt, a stay-at-home mom, spent five years trying to break into the publishing industry writing everything from cookbooks to cop stories before turning her hand to romance.

"I always knew I was good enough, but I just needed somebody to take a serious look at my stuff," she said. That somebody turned out to be Zebra Executive Editor Ann LaFarge, and Holt managed to sell her work without the assistance of a literary agent.

Now she is represented by Ethan Ellenberg, who is marketing one of Holt's suspense novels as well as more romances.

Holt's first book, "The Way of the Heart," and "Meg's Secret Admirer" - part of a Valentine's Day anthology - are scheduled to hit stores in January. Her third novel, "My Only Love," debuts in April. The fourth will be published in January 2001.

"I expected to succeed eventually, but I never imagined anything like this," Holt said. "It's a heady experience for a mom from Seaside."

Perseverance spelled success for Cheryl Holt.

By Brad Bolchunos

A former prosecutor in Colorado, she turned her focus to a long-held dream of writing a novel when she moved to Seaside three years ago with her husband, Randy, and their two young children.

After an arduous process replete with rejections, she recently sold her first book.

I'm still amazed," she said. From thousands of manuscripts submitted by thousands of writers, her work - crafted day by day in the scant hours when her children, Molly and Sean, were napping or at school - managed to spark the interest of a New Yourk publisher.

But the path was not easy, and discouragement arrived early.

One publisher offered to buy her vegetarian cookbook only to reject it before the contract was final and returned the manuscript incomplete.

Holt wrote three "cop novel" manuscripts and consulted 45 prospective literary agents. She said one simply sold her name to a mailing list' she wound up firing another for incompetency and another told her, "You don't have what it takes."

But she refused to quit.

Following advice to read and write what sells, she switched to historical romance. She researched the 1811-20 Regency period in England popular for romances as a setting of decadence and poverty, when women did not have the right to refuse marriage until 21.

She began sending query letters and manuscripts, unsolicited.

"You do need thick skin," she said. "One day I went to the mailbox and I had eight rejections in there."

Earlier this year, she had a glimmer of hope when two companies expressed interest in seeing more of her sixth manuscript after reading sample chapters.

One of them, based in London, proceeded to reject it. "I was so depressed," Holt said.

But less than 12 hours later, she was contacted by editors at the other publishing company, Zebra. They said they wanted to buy it.

In fact, they bought two of her works - "Secret Admirer" and Ways of the Heart." One is a novella to be part of a set. The other will be published alone. They will appear on shelves in February and March 2000 and are to be translated into other languages, Holt said.

She used her advance to celebrate with a trip to Hawaii last month.

The publisher already has approved another proposal based on two chapters, and Holt, 43, is fast at work. She wants to use her success in the "romance suspense" genre to garner interest in a crime novel.

She said she had talked about writing for 25 years, but discovering she could actually do it has proved that persistence pays and some hopes actually can be fulfilled.

"I could just feel this was a path opening up for me," she said.