Cartoon done at the ImaJinn A Romance Party.
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!
Lynne Marshall and I heading home on the FlyAway Bus from LAX. Blurry and giddy with exhaustion.
Besides all the wonderful people I saw at conference, besides the fantastic roomies and the terrific luncheon speakers and the marvelous fun of watching the Golden Heart and Rita awards ceremony (though afterward it got to be way too much for my sense of balance, sigh), there were, first and foremost, the workshops.
This year there were a LOT of workshops on self-publishing. Of which I took, oh, um, none. But I’m not worried, I know the information is out there and I have some very good friends to lean on if I decide to go that route. But the point is, RWA is changing. Yes, slowly, but they’re changing. So huge props and kudos to them.
Of the workshops that I did take, well, I just flipped through my notebook full of notes. I learned so much, and reading through it refreshed my memory – but there’s far too much to share! So I’ll just do snippets.
Christyne Butler did an awesome workshop on the “Soapy Way to Writing Category”. In a nutshell? Watch the soaps. THAT’s how to write category. Each character’s voice is distinctive (which should be true no matter what you write); don’t waste words on places that aren’t a big part of the story. Plus she quoted Jenny Cruisie’s 2003 keynote speech – “don’t be a writer, be a storyteller”. It was the last workshop time of the conference – and I won a “Save the Cat” book by Blake Snyder! Very pleased, as I’ve been wanting that book. But I REALLY enjoyed Christyne’s presentation.
Tamara Hogan and Susan Sey gave a workshop on writing villains – they urged us to “embrace our inner sociopath”. “A great villain forces you to create a great hero.” This resonated with me, seeing as how I’ve got to really ramp up my villain in my Demon series. This one wasn’t recorded, but they were very funny and I learned a lot.
Erin Quinn gave a wonderful workshop on the Simply Organic Structure, which I’m definitely going to use in my next book. She highly recommends daily goals, and to keep track for a week or so to see how much, really, that you write in a day. Because as she put it, “if you don’t know how you do what you do, how can you replicate it?” Good question. This is definitely a workshop to listen to if you have access to the CDs from the conference.
Harlequin Blaze Author Tawny Weber (one of my FAVs) and Blaze editor Brenda Chin gave an excellent workshop on “everything I learned about writing I learned from writing category romance”. The important stuff in category? The Foundation. Hooks, Plot, Character and Pacing. First, know what line you want to write. Next, character and voice are paramount – everything else can be fixed. The Blaze books are about 50/50 in both the hero and heroine’s POV. Plus, the reader must love the hero right off the bat. Remember, the heroine is just like you and me – connect with the heroine’s fears quickly. Plus the love scenes MUST move the story forward. (Okay, here my notes degenerate into scribbles. But trust me, this is a MUST LISTEN if you want to write for Blaze in particular.)
I’ve been reading a LOT of Blaze books lately, and I can tell you they are similar in one area – they are highly charged, emotional, sexy books with main characters you fall in love with. But that’s it. The field is wide open there as far as story lines go, which makes me very happy. The voice that sells the best is a light, humorous, snarky one, but they accept other voices as well.
As a side note, I got to spend some time with Brenda at conference – it felt like those first two days, we kept bumping into each other, which was fun. We chatted about kayaking and camping (neither of which I have done in too long, drat it anyway) and all in all, my editor-crush is still in full bloom. I also had a formal pitch session to her (my pitch sucked, and she called me on it, lol) and she helped me wrestle out a plot. I can’t wait to dig into it and am doing research on the sly, in between words on the current book (which MUST get done by the end of August). Seeing both her and Tawny so soon after Desert Dreams was too cool. I also got to meet Blaze author Rhonda Nelson, and I really enjoy her writing so that was neat!
I was absolutely delighted to sit in on a workshop by Yasmine Galenorn, an online friend and the author of the Otherworld series which I love. Titled “From Witches to Dragons”, she made a clear delineation between paranormal romance and urban fantasy. The goal in PR is saving the relationship. In UF, the goal is saving the world. That, right there, was a big ah ha! moment for many in the audience.
She had something to say about villains, too – she said the most interesting ones are the intelligent tricksters. And sex scenes? She says to get comfortable saying the words out loud. Make the sex scenes emotional, find that connection between the two (or more) and make the reader feel it.
Plus use the magic of “What if”!
So that’s all for now…my brain is exploding again with all the good info. Sorry there aren’t any pretty pictures. I’ve sworn off them for now while I figure out the new WANATribe picture sharing stuff.
On a SIDE Note – a book club organizer has contacted me about coming to speak to their club – they’re going to be reading DEMON HUNT next! Yay!
Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for your patience with me – I promise to get back to the wine blogs this week. Pinky-swear!