Spotlight on Barbara Dawson Smith   By Cheryl Bolen

Over the past few years, Cheryl Bolen has been publishing a Spotlight series of biographical sketches of a number of romance writers at her web site. She has graciously allowed us to re-post those biographical sketches here at the Beau Monde blog.

Today, we begin with a biographical sketch of award-winning romance author, Barbara Dawson Smith …

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When Barbara Dawson Smith went to her first RWA conference (on the Queen Mary) in 1982, "as a starry-eyed newbie [I] watched published authors go up to collect their awards, and decided that someday I would win top honors from my peers," she said. "It only took me 20 years to get that Rita statue!"

And, as everyone in our chapter knows, Barbara picked up that Rita in Denver this summer for her 18th published book, Tempt Me Twice, which won in the short historical category.

This year was the fifth time one of Barbara’s historical books has been a Rita finalist. She received her first nomination in 1990 for Dreamspinner; other nominees included Fire on the Wind, 1992; Once Upon a Scandal, 1997; and Too Wicked to Love, 1999.

Barbara said she owes the Rita to her editor, Jennifer Enderlin at St. Martin’s, who has been her editor for eight years. "She’s a marvelous editor, not only because of her superior editing skills, but also because she involves me in the publishing process."

Barbara joined RWA in 1981 — about six months after the group was founded. Her first sale followed three years later. That first sale was Defiant Embrace (Zebra), but her second sale two months later, No Regrets (Silhouette), was actually her first book published.

She said No Regrets was purchased by a Silhouette editor who read it when it was Golden Heart finalist in 1983. She offered to buy it even though another Silhouette editor had previously rejected it. Defiant Embrace was also a Golden Heart finalist.

Her first book to make a bestseller list was Silver Splendor in 1989, which reached number 20 on the B. Dalton mass market list. "Since the USA Today list was instituted, my books have usually appeared on it," she said. She has also made the Waldonbooks list and NY Times extended list. "Since tracking these lists can make you crazy, I try not to pay too much attention to them."

Since 1987 she has been in a critique group with Joyce Bell, Betty Gynes and Christina Dodd. "I also critique long distance with Susan Wiggs."

Mel Berger at the William Morris Agency is her agent. Because Barbara has daughters ages 12 and 16, she said she limits herself to one book a year, and it usually takes her a year to write that book. She writes all day while the girls are at school. When she is on deadline (as she is now), she also writes on the weekend.

When she finishes a book, she gives herself a week off. During that time she watches movies, plays computer games and goes out to eat with friends. Once she’s got that book off, then she turns her thoughts to the next proposal. Her first sale to Enderlin was on the basis of a synopsis and two chapters. Since then, she has sold on proposal only.

A graduate in journalism from the University of Michigan, Barbara came to Texas after college, met Texan Ralph Smith, and married him. Now she has lived in Texas more years than she lived in Michigan.

Ralph is a food photographer whose work appears in cookbooks. Barbara and Ralph are serious about wine, belong to a wine group and recently visited wineries in Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Barbara also enjoys growing orchids and playing computer games with her daughters, Stephanie (a seventh-grader), and Jessica, who is in high school.

Barbara has advice for wannabe writers: "Work hard, dream big, and develop a thick skin." She encourages newbies to try to learn something from each rejection and be willing to revise their books. "Without persistence and hard work, talent is worthless."

© 2002 – 2012 Cheryl Bolen
This article was first published in 2002 at Cheryl Bolen’s web site as part of her Spotlight Series on romance writers.
Posted at The Beau Monde by permission of the author.

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