Author RITA CLAY ESTRADA is RWAâ€™s first president and the co-founder of OCC whose contributions to the romance genre led the national organization to name its highest honor â€“ the RITA Award â€“ in her honor.
Q â€“ When we think of The Rita, we think of you, but when I told you how honored I was to watch this yearâ€™s ceremony with you, The Rita, you said, â€œItâ€™s really my mom.â€
When you see RITA, who do you see? Or, what is RITA to you?
A â€“ My mother was a very strong and vibrant woman in her youth and at a time when travel wasnâ€™t the norm, she had me from one coast to another several times. In later years, she became my best friend. I will always admire and miss her but I must give her credit for making me being who I am and doing what I do.
The Rita Award is the reward for best of writing for everyone – readers and writers alike. I see The Rita and recognize the honor bestowed upon me for it having my name. But thatâ€™s now the awardâ€™s name.
I see Ms. Clayâ€™s thoughtful design (no relation) I see all the winners and Iâ€™m humbled by what five women accomplished and nine thousand plus women all over the world continue to embrace and sustain.
Iâ€™m no different than any other writer, Iâ€™m awed by â€œThe Rita.â€ Q â€“ Which was your favorite RITA ceremony? Why?
A â€“ I love all of them. The first conference awards â€“ not yet the Rita but the Golden Medallion –was my own brainchild and so I walked through it with nerve endings singing.
Iâ€™m most thrilled with that one because it was our first and it went off without too many hitches considering we had no script to follow. That year everything was done on a wing and a prayer.
Q – What did you love about this yearâ€™s RITA ceremony?
A â€“ Nora Roberts did an excellent job. Doesnâ€™t she always? But I loved the acceptance speeches. Winner shared their glory with friends and families. They kin to dedications in books â€“ theyâ€™re so telling!
And I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips as a person, a teacher and one of my favorite writers. She has given so much and deserved receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award years ago.
For more of the interview with Rita, see the October issue of Orange Blossom. And join us at our 25th Anniversary Party on Oct. 14 for a chance to thank this romance legend.
Dana Diamond is the OCC/RWA Secretary, a columnist for OCC’s award-winning newsletter Orange Blossom, a contributor to A Slice of Orange, and hard at work on her next book.