The Valerie Parv Award was the first competition I ever entered when I discovered Romance Writers of Australia. It promised the world. Or at least a twelve-month mentorship with Valerie Parv, a noted best-selling author of Mills & Boons. As my dream was to become a Mills & Boon author (I didn’t really know much about the Harlequin thing at that point) I figured this would be my goal.
In the meantime, I discovered Valerie Parv was the featured author at a writing retreat at a Pacific Island resort. Naturally, I signed up. This was back when I actually had an income. DH could do his photography thing while I bathed in Valerie’s wisdom.
Sadly, it never happened. They didn’t get the numbers to make the writer’s retreat possible. You are all cursing about now because it was a missed opportunity that will never come again. I have never forgiven those unnamed people who did not sacrifice themselves to my need.
I first met Valerie Parv in person at the Gold Coast conference ten years ago. I also met Presents great, Helen Bianchin so it was a red letter conference. The funny thing is that I don’t remember reading Valerie’s books when she was first published. I desperately wanted to travel so I looked for books set mostly in Europe and Britain and the American outlier, Janet Dailey. I have since made up for that initial lapse by collecting and reading dozens of her books. They are fabulous and apart from the phone thing, have worn well.
I did discover at that conference that Valerie’s winners became her Minions and that became my primary ambition. To become a Minion far outweighed the whole being published thing. My plan? Become a Minion and then get published.
My interactions with Valerie continued over the years, on her blog, on social media and at conferences. Peak Valerie experience was receiving a VPA Highly Commended for my book “Tell Me No Lies” at the 2017 conference. When I spoke to her afterwards, she joked that it was probably just as well I didn’t win as she suspected we would butt heads all year.
I had one more attempt at minionhood the following year but after receiving flack for entering while having several novellas published, I sadly set aside that ambition and self-published my 60k VPA finalist thus making me no longer eligible to enter and removing all temptation. Had I known there would only be two more Valerie presided competitions, I might have made a different choice.
I last spoke to Valerie in person at the 2019 conference. She would often in her speeches or seminars, mention how she was embarrassed at having the award named for her. I told her at the time and later in a post that she put in the work and she should own it. She contacted me last year to ask if she could include my comments in her autobiography, “34 Million Books”. Naturally I said yes and there I am on page 216.
So, I may never have become a minion, but I’m in her book. Not a bad alternative.
It is the end of an amazing era and she will be sadly missed.
Vale Valerie Parv.