In March, 1999, a small band of writers, mostly unknown to each other at the time, became finalists in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® contest for unpublished writers. One of our group created an email loop for the finalists and many of us quickly became acquaintances, then friends, and finally family. There are approximately 32 members still active on the loop. We lost one of our sisters, Jeannie Gray, to cancer, in March of 2004.

Jeannie Gray, Golden Heart Finalist 1999

Jeannie was a lovely, giving person, and a talented writer. She finaled twice in the Golden Heart®, and had one of those manuscripts under consideration at the time of her passing. She was a high honors graduate of Portland State University with a degree in speech communications, a degree she sought after her three children were grown. When her children were small, she traveled with her husband Gary, serving as a missionary, living out of a backpack at times. A soft, caring woman who gave great hugs, she was also amazingly strong. She once fended off a carjacker alone. To those who knew her, her most beloved quality was her optimism. She once wrote, “I like to say that I am Directionally Challenged. Can’t find my way out of a revolving door. I have been known, while following specific directions, to drive 100 miles on the right highway — in the wrong direction.” But Jeannie was always looking for the silver lining. “Actually,” she wrote, “I consider it a gift instead of a burden. I’ve seen so many wonderful places I never would have seen if I hadn’t been wandering around lost.”

To honor this incredible woman and gifted writer who was brought into our lives through her writing, we, her 99er sisters and her family, have created The Jeannie Gray Golden Friendship Award to help other writers enter the Golden Heart® contest so they may reach for their dreams as Jeannie strove towards hers.

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