This Romance Writers of America Conference was a different experience for me. I’ve been going to the RWA National Conference, on and off, since 2002; this one had me in a different zone. A step up in my career. The difference, you ask?
Don’t laugh. For the very first time, building on conferences from the past 3 years, I had people to shmooze with. Relationships to nurture.
I came in 3rd with my guitar book in the ImaJinn A Romance Contest with ImaJinn Books, and got to hang a bit with my editor-crush Brenda Chin. I will most definitely work with her some day. (My chapter mate, Sarah Vance-Tompkins, won the contest and the chance to work with Brenda and I am SO thrilled for her!)
Later on the same evening, I drunk-pitched my young adult novel to a funny, fun and nice editor at a big house and got a request. (Only 2 glasses of wine, but when all you’ve had to eat is the parma ham and the tapenade and toast, that will do it.) And then I drunk-emailed the agent that’s interested in the book. (Luckily it was a clean and clear email. No gushiness nor misspelled words or bad grammar. Sheesh.)
And I hugged people. Two memorable hugs -NYTimes Bestselling Author and my dear friend Tawny Weber, who gave one of the best hugs of conference – she was sharing my joy and I’ve known her since 2003 – and Sharon Sala. If you’re a writer and you’re not following Sharon, she shares a lot about her life with her Little Mama, and usually all I can say on her posts is “sending love and hugs”. So it was beautiful that I could physically hug her (ran into her at the pharmacy in the mall) before she had to leave the conference.
Yeah, so I hugged people. Lots of people. Ran across the room to hug people. Reached over chairs to hug people. Juggled coffee to hug people. It was so cool, getting to touch people that I’ve known and loved online “for reals” and in person. I can’t even mention all of them here because I’ll forget someone and that would be bad, so if I hugged you, consider yourself hugged yet again (!) and if we didn’t connect, I’m SO sorry and please grab me next time for a hug (and I’ll be sure to interrupt your conversation to hug you!). I hugged agents and editors, longtime friends and brand new friends, and every single hug refreshed my spirit and connected me to the world just a little tighter.
Conference is about so much more than going to workshops (though I did some of that) or sitting in the bar (did some of that, too). It’s about forging working relationships and friendships. It’s about letting that agent know that you do think about her even if you didn’t recognize her (sorry, hon! Conference brain.). It’s about turning yourself into a real person for those in the industry. More than that, it’s about giving yourself the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time.
It’s about volunteering to help at the literacy signing. I got to work with Nalini Singh, prep the books for the folks in her line and yes, there were LOTS of folks in her line! Nalini and I had been in a yahoo loop way back when, called the Brainstorming Desireables, so it was terrific to reconnect, plus she’s an awesome writer.
(I can’t tell you the times I went to introduce myself, and was told, “I know who you are.” Always a thrill, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over that.)
It’s about cramming into someone’s normal-sized room to a party hosted by the Houston RWA chapter, with 50 other conference goers, and giggling and marveling at the intelligence of the woman who used the conference coffee travel mug as a cocktail shaker. Effing brilliant.
It’s about walking for a mile to get to a publisher’s dinner, and laughing, talking, and getting to know the folks sharing that particular journey. (OMG I wouldn’t have missed that walk for the world. The WORLD, I tell you.)
It was also about sharing the whole experience with two roommates, women that I trust and love. About sitting on the balcony at night in the humidity and the wind, drinking beer, and philosophizing about men, the conference, relationships, pain, and turning it around and making ourselves pee with laughing because we also talked about boobs, and menopause, and hair, and the damned humidity. From the early morning flight out to San Antonio on Tuesday, to giving sleepy hugs at 7:30am on Sunday, those two women were (and remain) my touchstones.
Going to RWA National Conference is about writing, yes, but so, so much more. My heart is full and my spirit light as I look forward to the next part of my career. Thanks, Dad, for recommending that I join RWA. Sorry I waited until 2002 to follow your advice.
And, as always, this was my conference experience. Your mileage will vary!