Monday, August 6, 2012

Unpacking My #RWA12 Inspiration and Memories

Somebody wise said, plans seldom survive the first engagement.

Not that RWA12 was a battlefield or anything. But yes, nothing went as I imagined it would.

Still, I was originally totally nervous about it, feeling too shy (as a newbie) to ask anyone to ride down with me. Fate took care of me, and I ended up carpooling with my LARA chapter sisters Caro Kinkead and Cara King, both of whom had attended oodles of RWA conferences. I felt like a young girl being prepared for her wedding night by the wise elder women, all except for the young virgin part.  (And the "them being older" part, too.)

Are free books a gateway drug?

If so, I'm hooked. So many dealers, so many gorgeous books, little space. I brought a HUGE, mostly empty suitcase. I ended up taking it home, FULL of books and swag, while my clothes got stuffed into the very roomy RWA/Harlequin bag.

I started out VERY organized. Loved the bag, the initial books.

Only a FEW books, to get us hooked.... and then the real binge began.
(Also note patterned carpet on right side.)
The rooms at the Anaheim Marriott were very nice; clean, restful. As I mentioned previously, there were plugs everywhere, for every kind of electrical device. The beds had down comforters with very clean, white duvet covers - I loved the sanitary aspect of it.

It did occur to me, as I was on the floor doing some yoga moves one morning, that the carpet with its maroon red leaf pattern, would be convenient for disguising blood stains, but I didn't actually notice any.  (See, story ideas can come to you anywhere!)

The conference location, a W.I.P., how apropos is that?
It was slightly (but not horribly) confusing finding my way in to the hotel. The construction seems much more orderly viewed from above than from street level.

Much like my own writing journey, full of odd detours and strange turns


I forgot several things. Most importantly, my glasses, although that wasn't too horrible - only a few minutes stumbling around the hotel room, till I got my contacts in.

Female sanitary supplies. Didn't end up needing them, but I might have. Someone pointed out to me gently, as I was fretting about this, that if it became necessary, with 2,000+ women around, prolly somebody there would be able to cover me in need.

I did bring a swimsuit, thinking I would be able to get into the jacuzzi with someone at some point, but when I asked, I couldn't find any woman willing to wear a bathing suit even if she was covered with Harry Potter's Cloak of Invisibility.

I also brought a big bag of grapes, figuring they would be a nice healthy snack and diet supplement. Then once I washed snapped off a handful and washed them, I realized I had neglected to bring a bowl, plate, or other dish to put them on. Facial tissue and my bare, dripping fingers did not turn out to be a good option.  So I made a grocery store run and scored some paper plates. Later someone suggested I could have put my grapes into the little water glasses they provide for each room.

D'uh!  Well, I also picked up breath spray at the store, which was prolly a good call.

Fake It Till You Make It

So Tuesday night, following the advice of my LARA sisters, I made my wobbly way to the main bar area. I asked NY Times best-selling author Lauren Dane, who guested on my blog last year, if I could join their group of confident, beautiful writers at a central table, including RITA nominee (& also NY Times best-selling author ) Courtney Milan, Lauren Hawkeye (mentioned in Time magazine!), and agent Laura Bradford, who'd spoken to my LARA chapter a few months back, and several other VIA's (Very Impressive Authors). They were warm, friendly, and welcoming, while I did my best to ditch my deer-in-the-headlights look and act like a grown-up writer wearing her big girl panties.

Wednesday morning, same dealie - I didn't cling to the safe familiar faces, but breakfasted alone on the patio, and met another woman who just happens to be another NY Times best-selling author and RITA nominee. After we struck up a conversation, she filled me in on some of the details about her editor and publishing house, and generously offered to read pages of my latest novel and tell me frankly if she thinks it sucks. This was a recurring theme; over and over again, I met fabulous, successful authors who were more than willing to give support and encouragement.

One beef about the Marriott - no way you could make your elevator pitch in an actual elevator. I think it went from my floor to the lobby in 4.5 seconds, just long enough to say, "Hi, my name is-"  Bing!

Blowing the Roof Off the Convention Center

Wednesday night. First ever Literacy Signing. First volunteer shift.
The Literacy signing was on the third floor ballroom of the Anaheim Convention Center.
Tremendously striking place, outside and in.

I know nothing about architecture, but I know what I like.
I like.
So as I'm standing just inside the ballroom, with several other confused volunteers, I spot a familiar nametag.  It's the editor with whom I have a Saturday pitch scheduled! Oddly enough, she looks warm and friendly, not like she eats small children for breakfast!

I walk up to her and say hello, strike up a very brief conversation, telling her we have a pitch on Saturday, and in response to her question, give her my brief elevator pitch and then change the conversation to pronunciation of names and other small talk.  Then, spotting what seems to be a gathering place for volunteers, I head over in that direction.

I help set up calculators and go through a brief training, make friends with some of the other volunteers.  And then...
Right before the madness. Authors in place, cashiers (that's me!) in place, fans still outside.
Those empty red lines were filled to overflowing with eager readers waiting to pay for books.

Wild and Wonderful

Everybody said I would love the Literacy Signing, and I did, though I was working it. (I have a feeling I will love it more when - not if - I am one of the peeps signing books for my adoring fans.)

Connie Cox gave a fabulous First Timers' Orientation. The Pro Retreat on Thursday morning was mondo helpful, and by putting my card into a draw, I won a Friday lunch date with Regency author Valerie Bowman. Her debut book (which looks awesome) comes out in September and I am trying to lure her for a visit here on Writing with Flow.

I can't begin to mention all the absolutely beautiful and gracious writers I met. (Especially the ones I met in the bars at days' end, while I was drinking 68 Degrees and Nightingales. Though those from the Friday night group will probably never forget the crit group story I shared about the racehorse and the woman who loved him.) I will be e-mailing and Following and blowing kisses to everyone as soon as I get my stack o' cards organized.

Lisa Hendrix and Maisey Yates, whose home turf I invaded last summer, also looked out for me and made sure I got over my impulse to play mouse at a cat show. I got to meet Roni Loren, a true fangirl moment. My fabulous LARA mentor, Christine Ashworth, came up and gave me hugs from time to time, just what I needed. Another thrill was getting to meet and chat with WANA queen herself, Kristen Lamb.

Then there was me and Jayne Ann Krentz

So Friday morning, I'm walking down the corridor to the continental breakfast, alone except for a lovely, slender, red-haired woman. She asks me about the breakfast, I told her what it had been on Thursday.

Then I burble, holding out my nametag: "This is my first conference, hi, my name is Beverly." I look for her nametag, and not seeing hers, I offer helpfully, "Everyone told me I was supposed to wear this at all times."

She laughs a little, pulls hers out of her purse and puts it on.  Jayne Ann Krentz. I am ready to sink into the floor with embarrassment. I mumble something along the lines of, "I guess maybe it's easier for you if you don't wear your nametag at all times."

She replies, graciously, "It's all right. The worst is when somebody comes up to me, all excited and says, 'I'm so thrilled to meet you. You're my mother's favorite author.'"


Lovely, lovely woman. I am sure she excuses my lame newbie conference brain.

All that Glitters

Fancy dresses. Olivia Gates in her sparkly blouses. Gini Koch's cowboy hats. Incredible shoes.
Jackie Ivie and her gorgeous sparkly shoes, because at only 6'3" in her bare feet she needs the added height.
Why not another picture of the stunning author?
I did take one, but did not have the wit to take one with my own camera.

Amazing, competitive shoe porn throughout the whole conference.
Sparky shoes, killer pedis, stilettos and rhinestone sandals ...
and me representing the Sisterhood of the Butt-Ugly Shoes because of my pinched nerve..
Because I didn't want to appear too fangirlish, I failed to take pictures of the many beautiful writers as they exited the various parties. (Next time!) And since I was ushering for the Golden Heart/RITA awards, it didn't seem right to snap pics of people there, either, but...

Volunteering Really Pays Off

I decided to do one thing each day, a way to contribute substantially and yet not become overwhelmed. On Friday morning, I helped with the agent/editor appointments.

Because I did that, I was familiar with the flow, with what the lineup procedure was - and having already met my editor, I was much less nervous than I would've been, going in cold. I met with her, she actually remembered me from Wednesday night, I pitched, and she requested a full!

The various volunteer stints I did gave me an an opportunity to chat with other newbies and veterans more in depth - you can swap cards at the various workshops, and I did, but that's not the same thing as actually getting to talk to someone. And then I would see their faces in the hallways and smile and feel much more like part of a big RWA family.

The RWA staff itself - Carol Ritter and all - were amazing and incredibly organized. Kudos to them all.

And More Swag

Swag covered every possibility. And chocolate, especially chocolate.
I saw so many interesting and fun swaggy things. Nail files - always handy. Lip balm, bookmarks, and chocolate, more free books, imaginative displays... I came away filled with all kinds of good ideas for when my turn comes. Inspiration. Kinetic energy. Books for decades. Friends for life.

With a great supportive group like RWA behind me, I would have to try really hard to fail.

A P.S. - Lauren Hawkeye has started a petition for the RWA to add an Erotic Romance category for the RITA's.  I've signed, and here's why:

A good story is about characters who learn, grow, change. Erotic romance explores emotional changes that occur primarily as a part of sexual activity (which is generally the way it works in Real Life). Sex can sink or save a romantic relationship, depending on if it's horrible or amazing; we all know this. However, not everyone is comfortable reading or judging material that delves this deeply. Giving ER its own category would both acknowledge the value of this material, and not foist it on judges who feel uncomfortable reading it.

If you agree, go HERE to sign:

Did you get to RWA12? Other conferences?
(I won't be able to go to all the RWA conferences, but I'm so glad I got to this one.)
Got any good (or even better, bad) stories?

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