Thursday, June 26, 2008

Local author is national finalist

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Denise Meinstad of East Bethel has been named a finalist in the national 2008 Golden Hearts competition. By Elyse Kaner Staff writer Denise Meinstad can’t imagine writing a book without including a romance. The East Bethel author is poised for her big breakthrough after she recently received good news. The Romance Writers of America has selected Denise’s manuscript “This Time Forever” as a finalist in the 2008 Golden Heart competition. No small feat, considering more than 1,000 manuscripts were entered in the contest. Denise, 57, entered in the inspirational romance category. “Oh, my God, Oh, my God, Oh, my God,” Denise said on first hearing the news. “I was just coming unglued. It’s a really big contest.” The Golden Heart Awards recognize excellence in unpublished romance fiction manuscripts. Fellow authors judged the manuscripts in 10 categories. Seventy finalists were selected among the nationwide entries.

The plot

“This Time Forever” is about 16-year-old Libby Cunningham, who becomes pregnant and gives up her child for adoption. She never got over the pain or guilt of losing her daughter. But she always dreamed of seeing her again some day.After years of searching, Libby learns her daughter is in the custody of her natural father, Cash MacKenzie.Libby’s dream turns to a nightmare when she asks for visiting rights. Cash does not welcome her interference in raising their daughter. He is afraid of losing her.

Young author

As a child when Denise finished reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book “Little House in the Big Woods,” she cried. She wished the little girl in the story was real and that they could be friends. Denise was 8 years old at the time. “That’s how connected I was with books,” she said.Years later she visited her Oregon cousins who were writing a mystery. That’s when she first realized that anyone could write a book. She plotted her story on the train ride home and wrote her first book “Mystery in the Granary.” She was age 13. But it wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she came across a writing group, Midwest Fiction Writers in Edina. “I thought I must have died and gone to heaven,” she said. Before joining, she had the notion that one had to be a Danielle Steel to write. Denise also meets twice a month with two friends who are fellow writers. They have been critiquing each others’ works for 12 years. When it comes to writing, Denise likes the creative process best. “You just start and you let your imagination mushroom,” she said. “Eventually, you hit on something and it really fits.” But Denise’s writing goes beyond imagination. Research is what sets the story apart. For instance in “This Time Forever,” she researched the adoption process to feel connected with the heroine. “The characters have to be real people in my mind,” she said. “I have to see what they see and feel what they feel.” Denise started the manuscript 10 years ago. She entered 12 writing contests and won or placed in six. But the manuscript sat untouched for years – until two years ago, when Denise decided to rework the story. That’s when she entered and took first-place in RWA’s 2006 Winter Rose Contest of Ft. Worth, Texas, in the inspirational category. In addition to writing, Denise enjoys reading, movies, music and gardening. She also likes making crafts and collecting books. Her favorite movie and book is “Gone With the Wind.” She enjoys reading romantic suspense. Jill Barnett is Denise’s favorite romance author. Being named a Golden Heart finalist could open doors for Denise. Finalists get their work in front of editors. Seventy percent of the finalists get their manuscripts published within two or three years, according to Denise. For the time being, Denise works as an administrative assistant for the Transportation Security Administration, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. But her goal is to be a full-time writer.

The Awards

Golden Heart winners will be announced Aug. 2 at an awards ceremony, which will be held at Romance Writers Association’s 28th Annual National Conference in San Francisco, Calif. This will be Denise’s 16th national convention. Her goal is to sell her book to a publisher. She lives by the philosophy, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. “I really believe it,” she said. For a list of 2008 Golden Heart finalists, visit . For more on Denise, visit .Elyse Kaner is at