My RWA Experience
RWA Conference – Orlando, Florida July 2010
I’m back…okay, I’ve been back for awhile now, but haven’t had time to blog. Okay, I haven’t had time to blog here, yet. Is that being truthful enough? I came home with over 50 business cards and have slowly been trying to contact everyone I met to boost up my networking skills. No easy feat when I’m suffering from a severe lack of RAM and slightly challenged by all of this blog technology.
The trip over there was great. Trish and I took turns driving and it was fine until my Garmin, who will forever be called the Bitch in the Box from here on out, took us on a wild goose chase instead of bringing us to the hotel. We made it, however, and spent a wonderful four days and nights with some of the funniest, sweetest people I’ve had the privilege to meet.
It started out with a bang for me. I volunteered my time as soon as I got there on Wednesday and worked in the Barnes and Noble book store from 12:30 until 3:00. The very first thing to catch my eye inside the store was the table full of autographed Nora Roberts / J.D. Robb books. Of course, I had to buy a couple. What’s two little books? I turned just in time to see Sabrina Jeffries and Claudia Dain walk in to peruse their selection of books. These two sweet, funny women both offered to autograph books for me, so of course I had to buy a couple more. And so it began. My two wonderful co-workers behind the register began a pile for me after that. Whenever someone I didn’t know went into the store, I’d walk up to them, and ask if they needed help finding something in particular. The authors always needed assistance in finding their books and of course, I was only too happy to help them, as well as buy one of their books..which they conveniently autographed for me.
Later that evening was the book signing where all proceeds went to programs to promote literacy, an extremely worthy cause. I ran to Robyn Carr’s table – my first purchase and her first signing of the night. After reading her Virgin River series about all those retired marines, I’m a fan for life. She’s such a sweet and gracious lady. I struck up another conversation with Claudia Dain, Sabrina Jeffries, and Deb Marlowe…and bought more books. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? By the end of the night, I’d conversed with, and purchased books..all autographed..from Debbie Macomber, Shirley Jump, Rachelle Chase, Victoria Dahl, Jayne Anne Krentz, Kresley Cole, Lorraine Heath, and Farrah Rochon, just to name a few. That’s a big deal, right? I thought so too, until I discovered that several publishers would have book signings where you could go in and get free autographed books…if you were willing to stand in line and wait your turn, which I was most of the time. Needless to say, I came home with about 100 books..and yes..most were free.
We started Thursday off by meeting Shirley Jump for breakfast at the Dolphin’s Mediterranean Cafe. I’d taken her online class with several other conference attendees, and it was the perfect way to get to know women I’d only met through online posts. The same day, the beautiful Dolphin Hotel provided a delicious luncheon for us. Afterwards, we sipped our Starbuck’s coffee while our first Keynote Speaker, Nora Roberts, gave a delightful and entertaining speech.
Immediately after, we had the PRO retreat, a tremendously informative three hours worth of speakers (Donald Maass and Stephanie Faegan), spokespersons from Belle Books, Sourcebooks, Carina Press, and Avalon Press, as well as a panel of agents.
After a wonderful continental breakfast on Friday morning, we began our first full day of workshops, peppered with book signings, trips to the goody room (more free stuff…yay!), and another luncheon with keynote speaker Jayne Ann Krentz. The afternoon held more workshops, spotlights on publishing houses, and yes, free book signings. That night Trish and I drug poor Rachelle Chase out with us to the ESPN sports bar at the end of the boardwalk. It turned out that was her first venture out of the hotel since the conference started.
Saturday morning I sat with others who’d entered Rachelle’s Chase the Dream writing contest. By that time, I knew quite a few of the women seated at the table. It’s common practice to exchange business cards with everyone you meet at RWA, whether standing in line, sitting at tables, in elevators, on escalators, restaurants, workshops, book signings, or seated in the lobby of the hotel. I came home with 87 cards and gave away more than that. It’s the perfect way to keep in touch with everyone.
I need to talk a bit about the workshops I attended. My absolute favorite was Crime Scene Imagination, in which two women de-bunked the things you see on television shows like CSI and Navy NCIS. One woman, a self proclaimed lab rat, verified what Mike and I thought every time we’d see one of those shows: there are no windows in labs, people (cops) don’t just walk in whenever they want, no food, drinks (Abby’s big gulps in Navy NCIS), or animals are allowed in the lab. It is kept pristine and isolated so that the chain of evidence is never broken.
Another favorite was Doin’ it With Dialogue by Karen Rose, very helpful since my writing is dialogue driven rather than descriptive. She reaffirmed my belief that dialogue is far more important than description and more effective if it’s written correctly. If you can hear the dialogue in your head…know what the characters sound like…they become a part of you, a part of the family.
I attended one called Humor, Heat, and Hooks that I found valuable. I took several pages of notes during this class and hated to see it end. Susan Dansby, a writer for As the World Turns, spoke at one called Writing Romance that Snaps, Sizzles, and Pops. Several times I’d stay 20 minutes or so in a work shop and run to try to make it to two others that were going on simultaneously. I definitely need to buy the CD of the conference so I can hear all the workshops I missed.
The four day conference culminated in the Oscar like gala of the world of RWA, the Golden Heart and RITA awards ceremony. We dressed in our finest attire, and gathered with our newly made friends to attend yet another delicious meal provided by the Dolphin Hotel in one of its huge ballrooms. The Golden Heart trophies went to unpublished authors in several categories, while the RITA trophies were awarded to published authors in the same categories. All participants felt honored to final in such a prestigious contest. The mistress of ceremonies was Ms. Sabrina Jefferies, who stole the show with her antics and humor. As the ceremony ended, there was even more posing and picture taking outside the ballroom, as well as exchanging of business cards with some very well known people. The winners held their golden trophies close to their bodies, always fearful that Sabrina Jefferies would try to steal one if she got half the chance. : )
I spent a lot of money, made gads of new friends, spent quality time with my new daughter in law, and learned more from that four day experience than I could have by taking a year’s worth of online classes. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to go and pray that my first time at RWA won’t be my last time there.