RWA Emma Merritt Service Award

The RWA Emma Merritt Service Award is presented for the accumulated body of work a member has contributed as a volunteer to RWA. The award is not only for service to individual chapters, but is intended to honor major commitments of service to RWA. A member may receive the RWA Emma Merritt Service Award only once in a lifetime. In the past, the RWA Emma Merritt Service Award has also been known as the Golden Rose and the National Service Award.

To nominate a member for the RWA Emma Merritt Service Award, click here or email


2018 RWA Emma Merritt Service Award

Leslie Kelly

Leslie Kelly 

Leslie Kelly has been publishing sexy contemporary romance and dark romantic suspense for nearly twenty years. After attending her first RWA conference, she sold her first book to Harlequin. She has always credited that conference—and RWA—with helping her make that first sale.

Leslie’s determination to give back to the organization she loves inspired her to help found a new chapter, the Space Coast Authors of Romance. In 2010, she ran for a seat on the RWA Board of Directors. After five years as a board member, she was elected President Elect of the organization.

Under her leadership, RWA’s Board dove in hard to tackle several problems, sometimes easy and exciting, sometimes difficult and stressful. She says she is most proud about furthering the drive to improve RWA’s efforts to include every writer of romance, pushing the organization toward becoming a vividly diverse one.

Living right here in the Denver area with her husband, her youngest daughter, and her two dogs—the Queen Bee and the Coyote Warrior—Leslie is hard at work on her latest series…and is still volunteering with RWA.


Past Emma Merritt Service Award Recipients

  • 2017: Cindy Kirk
  • 2016: Nikki Enlow
  • 2015: Lorraine Heath
  • 2014: Trish Milburn
  • 2013: Nancy Haddock
  • 2012: Laura Hayden
  • 2011: Michelle Monkou
  • 2010: Jennifer Crusie
  • 2009: Sherry Lewis
  • 2008: Linda Winstead Jones
  • 2007: Gayle Wilson
  • 2006: Shirley Hailstock
  • 2005: Carol Prescott
  • 2004: Alicia Rasley
  • 2003: Debra Dixon
  • 2001: Libby Hall
  • 2000: Claudia Yates
  • 1999: Janis Reams Hudson
  • 1998: Robin Lee Hatcher
  • 1997: JoAnn Ferguson
  • 1996: Christine Pacheco
  • 1995: Rita Gallagher, Cathie Linz, Debbie Macomber, & Karan Richardson
  • 1994: Margaret Brownley, Patt Marr, & Maggie Osborne
  • 1993: Darlene Layman, Harold Lowry, aka Leigh Greenwood, & Nora Simpson
  • 1992: Emma Merritt
  • 1991: Kathy Clark & Jeanne Triner
  • 1990: Marian Jones
  • 1989: Jan Milella
  • 1988: Jasmine Cresswell & Selwyn Young
  • 1987: Linda Nusser
  • 1986: JoAnn Ross
  • 1985: Marianne Willman

Historical Note: from 1985 through 1989 the award was known as the Golden Rose. From 1990 through 1995 it was known as the National Service Award.