My first conference, EVER!!! Yep, I am very excited. I have written a bit about the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Conference that is coming up this next week a few times, but wanted to talk a bit more about it. It is being held at the Wardman Park Marriott in Washington DC from July 15 to 18. First, just a bit of history and information:The RWA was chartered in 1981 to “advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy.” The organization consists of writers, obviously, but also librarians, publishers, agents, booksellers, and other professionals in the field. The benefits to belonging to this excellent organization are plentiful. The annual conference held for the past 28 years and hosted by cities all over the US is the BIG event, but certainly not the only way to connect and learn. Local chapters are all over the place, giving anyone interested in the romance field of writing, whether published or just hopeful, an intimate venue to grow.
I joined the RWA nearly one year ago, after traveling to San Francisco to meet with my editor who was attending and speaking at last year’s conference. At the time I was so new to the game, as those of you who have been with me for a while know. I was still learning what it meant to be a writer, let alone a romance writer! The truth is, I write historical fiction literature with high romantic elements, and in my ignorant mind did not think that qualified me as a “romance” writer because I erroneously believed that true romance was only bodice-ripping Harlequin stuff! Or at least your typical boy-meets-girl, etc. storyline. Of course, it is largely that and there is nothing wrong with either. But the romance category encompasses so much. A great number of novels filed under the literature section of your bookstore, such as mine, are very romantic. Jane Austen would be classified as a romantic novelist if she lived today! Even authors who write sci-fi or young adult or mystery – with or without romantic elements – benefit from belonging to the RWA.
Now I happily embrace my title as a romance novelist. Not only because my old prejudices of what constitutes “romance” have been eradicated but also because I wholly understand the draw to reading a romantic, happily-ever-after story. I have spoken of this before, so will not belabor the point, but let me just say that this world needs more love. Thank God there are thousands of writers out there who aren’t afraid to believe in it and promote it!
So on Tuesday, July 14 I will be leaving on a jet plane, traveling to Washington DC for four crazy days of workshops and adventure. Naturally I will be taking my trusty laptop with me and I do hope to find time here and there to share tidbits of what is happening. That plan may not materialize as I understand the conference action is fairly non-stop! But I shall try. If not possible, I will be talking about it after I return. For now, I wanted to give some hints of what is on my agenda, although I am trying to suppress my natural tendency to plot and plan down to the merest second so that I can be flexible. You now know Darcy gets that trait from me!
Wednesday is technically a pre-conference day. It is devoted to registration/orientation as people arrive, and to librarians and literacy programs. I plan to do a fair amount of wandering about! Hopefully I will meet up with some of my fellow authors as they arrive. I know I will be meeting with my publicist, the fantastic and adorable Danielle, to discuss strategy for marketing Loving Mr. Darcy. I signed up for the Librarian Network event that includes a luncheon with writer Stella Cameron speaking. One workshop I would like to attend is “Our Favorite Flavors” where Gaelen Foley and other bestselling authors talk about a writer’s life. In the afternoon there is the meet-and-greet portion, so I can practice making idle chitchat! Think of Darcy doing this and you will understand how tough that is for me! But I am determined, so wish me luck! The Readers for Life Literacy Autographing is in the evening and I will definitely be attending. My first book signing! This event is open to the public and the proceeds from all books purchased are donated to ProLiteracy Worldwide.
Thursday begins the conference in earnest. The opening session is with author Janet Evanovich and the luncheon features Linda Howard. Workshops high on my list include – How to File Returns and Survive an Audit (I am thinking rationally here!); How to Live in Another Century or Just Sound Like You Did by Laura Willig; and Emotion: the Heart of the Novel by Brenda Novak. That evening is the Moonlight Madness Bazaar where endless goodies can be bought from writers and RWA chapters all over. I have also been invited to attend the Romance Banditas Bash and would not miss that for the world!
Friday is more workshops. There are so many that I know I will be buying some DVDs! Must-sees – The Serendipitous Spark; Online Promotion: B(u)y The Book with Sourcebooks’ own Danielle Jackson; Why We Love Mr. Darcy: Insiders Tips on the Historical Market with Julia Quinn (just because I HAVE to!); and Sex Throughout History (Ha! You know you are dying to hear about that one!). During the day there are numerous book signings for the various publishing houses, another luncheon with Eloisa James, and the Published Authors Network retreat. That evening is the Sourcebooks authors’ dinner with all of us who are going to be there along with Deb, our editor, Danielle, and Dominique Raccah, our publisher. Good food and high jinks will ensue!
Saturday workshop highlights – Lessons of Firefly: Learning from the Works of Joss Whedon (because I am a totally geeky fan and am still hoping Nathan Fillion will pop in!); Prioritizing Life, Setting Goals and Time Management (boy do I need this one); Making the Most of Online Marketing; and High-Octane Heroes. That day is also the Spotlight on Sourcebooks seminar and our specific book signing. I am SO looking forward to sitting with my Casablanca sisters, signing Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy for (she prays) many interested people, and having a blast! Truly, this is the big event for me. That night is the formal award’s ceremony and reception.
Whew! Doubt if I will make it outside the hotel much, even though it would be beyond cool to tour the Smithsonian. Oh well, another time. Deciding my goals and prime motivations is a large part of what occupies my thoughts. Yes, I want to learn as much as possible about the career aspect of being a writer. But I also want to have fun with my friends, make new ones, establish connections, and get my name out there. I intend to keep it loose, go with the flow to use an 80s slang, be breezy, etc. Wish me luck! You will be hearing from me!