Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Romance Writers of American National Conference in Anaheim ended Saturday night and most of us flew home on Sunday--exhausted, energized, inspired, and in some rare cases a little hungover. For me, this was a time to get away from my day-job identity and be a full time writer.

My two wonderful roommates, historical author Shana Galen and YA author Tera Lynn Childs, both had book deadlines looming (okay, Tera’s was stalking and ready to pounce) and needed to spend time working during the conference. Nevertheless, they took the time to attend workshops, greet readers, participate in signings and meet with their agents and editors. And we all did a bit of partying, especially at the Saturday night awards ceremony where we cheered on our friends and favorite authors.

What impresses me most about RWA is the generosity of published authors in helping those of us still on the journey to publication. These women—for almost all of them are women—share their knowledge through workshops on craft, career and the business of publishing. No other group in this industry or any other I know of offers the kind of in depth support and education for a newcomer who wants to learn the ropes. Seeing the hopeful faces of the people in line for agent and editor appointments, I remembered the nervous terror of my first pitch several years ago (a semi-disaster kindly endured by an agent who sent my partial a gentle pass letter) and was grateful to have passed that milestone in signing with my wonderful agent, Becca.

There’s always gossip, of course--who signed with whom, new imprints and e-publishers, what editors have moved/retired/been promoted, movie deals and encounters of the fangirl variety. There’s always some book buzz—this year’s star seemed to be the suspenseful GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn so I downloaded it in the airport. The first few pages grabbed me but since I couldn’t read on my Kindle during takeoff, I opened THE TAKER by Alma Katsu  (it was in our goodie bag) and have been engrossed in it since. Alma presented a workshop I attended on making unlikable characters sympathetic—she did exactly what she was talking about in her book and I was hooked.

Kay Hudson, Sarah Andre & Dee Gist
As for the awards fete—once again it was a sparkling evening. Imagine a room full of a couple thousand women dressed to the nines in formal and cocktail attire waiting to hear whether they or their friends would go home with a Golden Heart or Rita. (According to Keiran Kramer's FB posts, five woman wore the exact same dress!!) Even the yummy desserts were overlooked in the excitement.

There were plenty of nominees and finalists from West Houston to cheer as their names were announced. Tera (previous Rita winner) presented the Best First Book Rita to one of my favorite authors, Darynda Jones for her debut FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT. And nobody was surprised when J. D. Robb took the suspense Rita.  Here’s a list of all the winners…check it out!

It was an inspiring, fun-filled week--seeing old friends and making new. And now it’s time to apply what I learned, get back to finishing my almost complete WIP and get it to my agent to send out in the world, knowing I’m not on this journey alone.

Anyone want to share you conference experiences, remark on past conferences or just comment about anything writing related in general?


Sarah Andre said...

I think it was the best conference yet for me. My first one (2006, Atlanta) was such a disaster...didn't know the lingo, was lost in the maze of all the events, spot lights, signings, free stuff available to us, had just joined both NW and WH chapters so I felt uncomfortable clinging to the same handful of people I knew, so I wandered around lonely in a crowd of 2,500...

Fast forward to the 4th time and I know SO many ppl, not only chapter members but online friends, published authors and instructors.

I know the ins and outs of the business, I know how much I can pack into my schedule in a day without spending all my energy in the first 2 days and I enjoyed catching up with my agent face-to-face and discussing my career.

And who doesn't love dressing up like we're going to the Oscars? (Which it is...for us!)

Today? Tired, need loads of quiet time, but I wouldn't have traded those days for anything.

Colleen Thompson said...

So glad you had a great time! You, Dee, and Kay look stunning!

I always need to sleep for about a week after conference, but my brain's buzzing, so it's impossible. Missed it this year, but I hope to be there in Atlanta.

Diana Belchase said...

Great article -- I felt the same way my first time, alone in a sea of thousands. Now, I have so many friends (all three in that photo as a matter of fact -- and doesn't Sarah look like a super model?) and am so glad I took a chance on going to RWA the first time out.

Thanks for sharing!

Lark Howard said...

We know why your first conference was a nightmare, Sarah. A lesson well learned. :-)

And you looked fabulous at the party! It'll be hard to out-do that ensemble next year but we'll go shopping early.

Lark Howard said...

The stunning blonde is Sarah, Colleen, not me. I wasn't nearly as glamorous.

We missed you this year. Hope you make it to Atlanta!

Lark Howard said...

Sorry I didn't get to talk to you, Diana. There's always next year, right?

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

I'm energized and inspired after reading your report, Lark, and the photo of Kay, Sarah, and Dee is a stunner.

You mentioned Kieran Kramer's post about dresses, but where's the lowdown on shoes? Wait, are you planning to report on awards' night shoes next week?

Good luck (not that you need it) with the WIP.

Kay Hudson said...

Oh, my, a bit of a shock to open this up and see myself looking back. Well, I recognize the outfit, not so sure about the face. I had a great time, but I'm still trying to catch up. The laundry seems to be sliding farther down the to-do list every day. And I'll move my copy of The Taker up on the ever-expanding TBR pile. I lost count of how many books I brought home--and it's probably better that way.

Louise Behiel said...

I love nationals, but couldn't go this year. sighhh. sounds like another winner

Lark Howard said...

I thought it was a nice photo, Kay. Hope you don't mind me posting it.

I understand the catching up issue. There's always the weekend!

Lark Howard said...

Hope to see you in Atlanta, Louise!

Sarah Andre said...

Thanks to Kay's generous invitation I got to be a 'VIP' and sit a table away from Nora at the Awards ceremony. I was star-struck, and not by her high heels! She had 6 inch, gold, sparkly, open-toed, to-die-for, spectacular high heels.

Thanks everyone for all the dress compliments, but I'd never have seen it on the rack (or chosen it if I had)if Lark hadn't thrown it on a pile of 20 others and hustled me into a dressing room. Talk about exhausting! I'm more of a buy-the-first-one-that-fits girl.

I thought everyone looked fabulous! It's so fun getting all dolled up for such an exciting evening.

Lark Howard said...

Nora's FB fan page posted all her outfits and shoes, Sarah. Those sparklers were Jimmy Choos, available in the Galleria, I'm sure.

Shopping was fun, though, wasn't it? Like lots of things, it's better when you do it with a pro. :-)