I meant to do a full RWA Annual Conference trip report shortly after coming back from NYC, but a funny thing happened on my flight home. The conference left me feeling too inspired, and I had more important things to focus on first. Jotting notes down (old school style on a Jet Blue cocktail napkin), I decided to embark on a rewrite of the beginning portion of my manuscript. The weeks (months…) following RWA were focused on said rewrite and then sending out query letters to literary agents.
So now that I have a little breather space, I thought I’d post about Nationals. I hadn’t been to NYC for a few years, and so it was exciting to be back in the hustle and bustle. Living in South Florida, I forgot how congested the streets near Time Square can get, but having lived up North years ago, I was insistent on feeling like a city girl again and taking the subway in from La Guardia versus a shuttle. It was a fun challenge wheeling my suitcase around, but I was a woman on a mission. Once I saw the Marriott Marquis, a huge smile took over my face and I no longer cared about towing my luggage. I felt like Mary Tyler Moore in her show’s opening sequence when she spins and tosses her knit hat in the air. I had arrived!
This was my first time at RWA (and at any writing conference). I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in the lobby. Everyone seemed to know one another and had a zillion pins on their badges to prove their non-newbie status. When I finally checked in, I was greeted warmly and received a few of my own pins. It was funny trying to figure out how to apply the Golden Heart Finalist and First Timer tags to my badge. I caught a few smiles as people seemed to sense my struggle. There was no hiding that I was an RWA virgin! At least this wasn’t like attending a viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time.
We all received a bag filled with lots of loot. As time went on, that bag was refilled several times over with books and other swag. People had warned me that I was going to come home with a whole new library, and they weren’t joking. I still have several books to crack open.
That first day, I finally met my friend and crit partner, Tara Sue Me. I’ve been friends with her for years and meeting her was just the best! While she went off to the big book signing, I ventured out of the hotel and down the street toward Madison Square Garden.
Sure I made this trip for RWA, but with my favorite four Irishmen just down the road, there was no way I was going to miss out on seeing them. The U2IE show did not disappoint, and now my 20th U2 concert is in the bag!
The next day, I turned my attention (momentarily) away from music and to the business of writing, promoting, and seeking representation. The workshops were wonderful, and I found myself taking many notes. For those going in the future who are PRO members, I highly recommend the PRO workshop. We had three mini sessions, and I learned invaluable information about taglines, self-promotion, and synopsis writing in such a brief period of time. I also recommend any legal workshops. I learned some vital information about contracts and copyright law.
For my 9-5 job, I go to conferences that revolve around issues of victimization. Only months earlier, I was sitting in a similar conference room learning about human trafficking, so it was refreshing to take a break from such gut-wrenching topics and listen in on a workshop about choosing the right cover for your book. A powerpoint filled with pictures of hot men was a welcome diversion from my day job.
That night, I decided to be bad again and step away from the conference. Hedwig & The Angry Inch was playing only a block away, and I needed to see the Broadway production (having last seen it off-Broadway years and years ago.)
The show was fantastic, and afterward, I got to meet Taye Diggs. See how he’s staring at me? Uh huh. I think I might have found a model for a future book cover. Or perhaps he’ll simply let me use this photograph?
The next day, I really got to experience how it is to go to Nationals as a Golden Heart finalist. We had our champagne reception which ended up being a “pinch me” moment as the RITA finalists attended as well. (Oh hi, Tiffany Reisz, Lynda Aicher, and Courtney Milan.) During the event, we received our finalist certificates.
At the reception, I finally got to meet most of the 46 2015 Golden Heart finalist (Dragonflies). I’d been speaking to these lovely ladies for the past three months, and it was wonderful getting to hug and pose for pictures. I was so fortunate to go to my first RWA conference as a finalist because I automatically had a group of friends to sit with at workshops, meet for drinks late at night, or to calm my nerves when preparing to pitch face-to-face to an agent and editor.
Later that night, some of us headed over to the Passionate Ink party. PI is the online RWA chapter for erotic romance. As you can imagine, they had one of the wilder parties at the conference, including male models, burlesque dancers, and naughty giveaways. I had a great time meeting fellow erotic romance authors and readers, especially after indulging in one (err two) dirty martinis. Of course, there’s an emphasis on “dirty” when at this party!
The last full day of Nationals were a blur. I hadn’t been too nervous about the award ceremony until we had to attend rehearsals. The organizers had us say our name at the podium, and it was then I realized just how big that ballroom really was! Oh, and, of course, having them remind us that the awards were being webcast for the first time only added to the jitters.
Still, it was so much fun getting all dolled up for the night and attending the ceremony with Tara and sitting with Tiffany Reisz (who was up for and won the RITA in erotic romance) and my two Golden Heart sisters nominated in the same category as me. I couldn’t have been more fortunate to be in “competition” with Caroline Bradley and Michele Arris. Talk about some amazing ladies. And when Michele won, I couldn’t have been prouder. As you hear at Hollywood award shows (and sometimes may roll your eyes at), it truly was an honor just to be nominated. Also, the webcast wasn’t bad. It was quite awesome having my friends watching from home and sending me encouraging texts. I felt like they were sitting right there with me, too.
RWA was everything I hoped for and more. I left NYC armed with new skills, friends, and a sense of purpose. As a new writer, it affirmed that romance writing is more that just a hobby for me. It’s something I want to pursue. I look forward to attending Nationals in the future and will also seek out conferences closer to home. No matter where you are in your writing career, there is something for everyone at this conference.
One last note for those thinking about attending Nationals in the future who may not know anyone to share a hotel room. Don’t let that shy you away from attending. RWA has a message board to help people find roommates. I ended up pairing with Irene Hannon. It was almost comical that I, the erotic romance and writing newbie, ended up rooming with Irene. I mean, she’s a seven-time RITA finalist! I thought I didn’t deserve to room with her. She was truly wonderful and offered great advice and supportive words for continuing on my writing journey. During the award ceremony, I proudly stood up for her as she accepted her third RITA and became a member of the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame.