Avon Books is pleased to announce that aspiring author and Golden Heart® finalist Valen Cox is the first recipient of the Beverly Jenkins Diverse Voices Sponsorship.

The sponsorship, named after author Beverly Jenkins, a romance trailblazer and one of the most active supporters for diverse authors, includes registration fee, travel and lodging (up to $2,500). The winner also receives a one-on-one meeting with a member of the Avon Books editorial team and an invitation to several exclusive Avon events during the annual conference. The opportunity to enter the Beverly Jenkins Diverse Voices Sponsorship was made available to current members of the RWA who entered the Golden Heart or RITA® Award Contests and were verified by the RWA as meeting RWA’s definition of being from a diverse background. The active fostering of diverse voices in Romance is the current top priority for the genre, and Avon Books has made an initial commitment to support this sponsorship for five years, from 2019 through 2023.

Cox, a 2019 Golden Heart® finalist in the paranormal romance category, noted in her application that she is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese descent. In her essay, she detailed the history of her family, as well as the pride in her diverse ancestry: “The amazing strength and perseverance of my peoples for what they withstood is in every fiber of my being. To share my stories as an author coming from such enduring people would be a lifetime dream.”

After Cox was selected, she was informed via a personal phone call by Beverly Jenkins. “We played telephone tag a few times before connecting,” said Jenkins. “Once we did and I told her she’d won, we were both in tears. Many thanks to Avon for providing this incredible opportunity.”

“For some time now, I have admired Beverly Jenkins from afar as she has actively stepped into the limelight to represent the under-represented,” said Valen Cox, in response to her selection. Cox continued, “She has done it all with grace, dignity, and an inclusiveness that should be emulated by us all. To receive Beverly’s call, notifying me of my selection to receive a sponsorship named in her honor, will always stand as a highlight in my life.”

“I’m thrilled we have our first recipient of the Beverly Jenkins Diverse Voices Scholarship,” says Avon Editorial Director Erika Tsang, “Valen’s personal background, along with the strides she’s already making with her writing, makes me extremely excited to meet her. I’m eager to help her along on her journey to becoming a published author.”

The 2019 RWA Conference will take place in New York City from July 24 to July 27th, 2019.


As a child of mixed race descent–Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese–I was named Valen Kamaokalani Auna. When I married, I took my husband’s name-Cox. In my face can be seen my paternal grandfather’s Chinese eyes, my paternal grandmother’s Hawaiian nose and olive skin, and my maternal grandmother’s dark Portuguese eyes and hair. I feel both an amazing humility and pride in being an individual of such amazing ethnicity.

But, I have also suffered the hurt, shame, and animosity deliberately directed at me for being an individual who is just different enough to elicit such persecution, some of it even life-threatening. The Hawaiian people lost not only the rights to their own homeland, but very nearly lost their culture as it was aggressively suppressed by its conquerors. In 1993, President Bill Clinton apologized to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for its involvement, but it is little consolation when we can barely afford to live in our ancestral homelands-even to this day. My line of Chinese and Portuguese ancestors also suffered for they were shipped into the Hawaiian Islands as menial labor to work the sugar cane and pineapple plantations. They were herded into ethnic “camps” and barely managed to live at subsistence levels. Their stories, too, of immigration and work and living conditions are ones of suppression, degradation, and oppression barely to be imagined.

Today, I am very proud of my diverse ancestry, the amazing strength and perseverance of my peoples for what they withstood is in every fiber of my being. To share my stories as an author coming from such enduring people would be a lifetime dream.

For an unpublished author, I know that the benefits and opportunities provided for self-improvement and networking are immeasurable at an RWA conference. I feel that my writing has grown tremendously, and I am on the verge of making a breakthrough. The last two years, two of my manuscripts have finalled and placed in several contests to include The Daphne, twice. To be able to attend the 2019 RWA Conference in New York would grant me an immense opportunity to continue my active pursuit of publication.