This is me at the awards ceremony with the fabulous chicks from the Chick Lit chapter.
I arrived on Tuesday evening full of excitement (and nerves). I'd never done anything like this before - gone to a professional conference and I wasn't sure what to expect. The hotel was super (and huge!) and all but taken over by folks in the romance biz. They were identifiable by the RWA badges, but most everyone you passed in the halls, the lobby, etc. was sporting a friendly smile along with a badge. The energy was seriously buzzing. I ran into Heidi Rice in the elevator that first night and took it as a good omen. :-)
On Wednesday I signed up for the Women's Fiction mini conference and I'm so glad I did. Margie Lawson led the morning session with tips and techniques on Deep Editing. I am thrilled that I got to sit in on this. Am starting to think of Margie Lawson as Queen Midas, given the number of Margie graduates who go on to snag RITA awards... After the technical portion, the WF mini con arranged for an author panel, and agent and editor panel and later a marketing expert. So much great information! In addition to padding my knowledge on all aspects of the biz, I got to meet some wonderful women including Laura Drake - the chapter president, Lucie Simone - who I already knew in the virtual world and was so psyched to meet in real life, and Victoria Russell - who is fabulous. More on her in a bit.
During the break, I headed over to the Literacy Signing where I met more people I've only known online up to now, including some of my all-time fave HMB authors: Fiona Harper, Kimberly Lang and Louisa George, AND some of my friends from the Absolute Write Water Cooler: Sandy James and Joanna Bourne AND some of my fellow Musa authors: Lisa Sherwood-Fabre and Donna Del Oro. It was pretty surreal to put real live people with all these online personalities.
Here's the goody room. So much fab stuff there.
The next day I hit several workshops, all of which were informative and helpful. And I also discovered the goody room. This picture isn't so great. It hardly captures what that room really looked like - rows and rows of fun stuff (sparkly pens, chapter excerpts, little bottles of perfume, etc.) Somewhere in my pile of booty, I've got a "do-not-disturb" door hanger thingie with an image of a historical novel cover and the words "Her ladyship cannot be disturbed" or something like that. Too hilarious.
The RWA held a keynote luncheon featuring author, Stephanie Laurens, whose speech was fabulously inspirational. (The chicken was not so good though.) In the afternoon, I met up with Joanna Bourne, Sandy James and Victoria (not sure of her last name) from Absolute Write. It was such a great experience. We chatted for a nice spell. They're great gals, all of them.
A little later, I found Heidi Rice at the Harlequin book signing, and it was so fabulous to catch up with her. I was fortunate enough to have met Heidi a couple of times before back in England and we chatted like old pals. Later that evening, I met up with the warm and wonderful Tari Lynn Jewett, one of the writers behind the fabulous From Fact to Fiction blog, and later I hung out with the lovely Victoria Russell and we practiced pitching our stories to each other. The pitch sessions were looming and the nerves were definitely tightening... I'm SO glad Victoria and I pitched to each other, though. You can only rehearse alone so many times.
On Friday I eased up on the workshops a bit. I think I only attended two as I had my agent pitch that day and definitely wanted to seem fresh, not burned out. After another RWA luncheon with another amazing orator (Robyn Carr) and sadly more dry chicken, AND after a few outfit changes, I went down to the ballroom for my agent pitch.
Oh boy. Walking through the lobby and into the ballroom, I honestly felt like I was walking towards the gallows. But the pitch wasn't painful at all. I don't really want to say much on this - don't want to jinx myself or anything. Sorry. Believe me, I'll be shouting it from the rooftops if this pans out. :-) Anyway...
Saturday was more of the same. Workshops, an editor pitch and lots of chatting with some fascinating authors at all stages of their careers. I spent time getting to know RITA winners, writers who were just getting started on breaking into the industry and everyone in between.
Just a random sign indicating the workshop inside. These were everywhere.
One thing I have to say is that despite all the forewarnings about sore feet, that was definitely not an issue for me. Course I didn't spent a whole lot of time standing in line and I had fairly comfortable shoes on - not the most comfortable ones I own, but definitely not my spiky heels or anything. Another thing I have to remark on is the incredible amount of books they give away during the conference! I had to mail a small box home to myself and, believe me, I was pretty conservative about picking up books. I'd have loved to go the whole hog, but I was concerned with when I'd find time to read them all!
And then it was Saturday night and time for the awards banquet. I sat with the lovely ladies from the Chick Lit chapter of RWA and we had a great time before the awards began. About the awards... in a word... wow. Oh my goodness. If you took all the excitement and energy of the previous few days and multiplied it by ten, then you'll get some idea of the atmosphere that night. Each and every one of the Golden Heart and RITA winners was overwhelmed with her win, and the speeches were so touching, I felt myself almost starting to tear up a few times. The incredibly talented Joanna Bourne - if you recall, one of the authors from Absolute Write that I'd met up with earlier - took home a RITA for Best Historical novel. Cool, huh? Naturally I indulged in a few fantasies that night. Is it possible that someday I might be up on stage getting an award? You never know...
Haha, when I started this blog, I'd planned on quickly summarizing what happened at the conference. Fat chance! But to wrap this up, I'll just say:
Amazing energy, inspiration, encouragement, support, sisterhood and camaraderie, seeing/meeting my idols, learning that dreams can come true.