RWA National in San Francisco – July 30

The San Francisco Marriott is buzzing with the sound of women’s voices. Conference Registration opened at 7:00 this morning and by 8 o’clock the lines were long. RWA is here and in full Conference mode!

Today I attended the First Annual Historical Conference, a conference within a conference, sponsored by The Beau Monde and Hearts Through History Chapters. We started the morning with a continental breakfast after which Jo Ann Fergusen (aka Jocelyn Kelley) gave an emotion-filled keynote speech on The Quest for the Holy Sale. She punctuated her talk with the lines from the movie Galaxy Quest – “Never give up. Never surrender.”

After Jo Ann’s speech we broke for workshops. The many sessions offered throughout the day included Women’s Property Rights in England (1770-1900), Arms & Armor, Selling that Historical (Hilary Sares and Michelle Buonfiglio), and special sessions on historical foods and on costuming in Medieval, Georgian, and Regency time periods, among others.

The historical conference featured both a lunch and an afternoon tea (complete with tea and cucumber sandwiches!) and a silent auction. During mealtimes we talked with old friends, and met new ones. Tonight there will be a Evening Soiree with a dance master.

Other RWA events occurring Wednesday included Librarian’s Day, the Chapter Leadership Seminar, and a first timer’s Orientation. A few other chapters were also scheduled to hold mini-conferences.

This evening, RWA’s annual Literacy Book Signing was held in the Yerba Buena Ballroom. Over 500 authors signed books donated by publishers with proceeds going to various charities. During the book signing, chapter-donated baskets, books, and gift cards were raffled to raise additional money for Literacy.

Despite the wonderful workshops and events today, during the break times I found myself wandering again and again toward the hotel’s front door. The weather was cool with blue skies and sunshine again today…unbelievably beautiful!  Guess I must still be in vacation mode. Either that or I’ve fallen in love with San Francisco’s fair weather along with the relaxed atmosphere of this City on the Bay. Not a hard thing to do.

Thanks to all who continue to read and send comments, public or private. Please check back again tomorrow for more.

Now, I’m off to a Soiree.

San Francisco – July 29

On Tuesday, I woke early and headed down to Starbucks for some needed caffeine, and to post July 28th’s blog. On the way, I met Tina Murray from Naples, Florida. Tina is a member of Southwest Florida Romance Writers. We started talking and I quickly learned that ArcheBooks Publishing has just released Tina’s first book, A CHANCE TO SAY YES. In fact, minutes earlier she’d had a telephone interview with a Naples radio station and was now in need of coffee. We had a delightful talk. Please click on Tina’s name to visit her blog. Congratulations, Tina!

During the next hour as I posted my blog several other RWA members wandered in. Shelley Freydont (aka Gemma Bruce) and Pearl Wolfe sat next to me to have a bite before they left on their Kiss of Death Pre-Conference Tour to the San Francisco Airport U.S. Customs. Other Kiss of Death members began lining up for coffee and a morning muffin. Soon after, Madeline Hunter came in. And the lobby came to life.

A short while later, my husband and I headed west across San Francisco on Bus 38, on our way to the Legion of Honor museum. The museum is set on a hill in Lincoln Park with a spectacular view of the ocean.

Ever since we’d arrived, we had been seeing ads for the Woman Impressionists Special Exhibit at the Legion of Honor Museum. This exhibit featured four women’s work – Berthe Morisot, Eva Gonzales, Marie Bracquemond, and my favorite, Mary Cassatt. We thoroughly enjoyed it all. In addition to the special exhibit, the museum also features several Renoirs, nearly 100 Rodins (including The Kiss), and many, many other notable works of art. World class, and well worth a visit!

After visiting the museum, we bussed back down Geary Street, heading toward Chinatown. As we studied the map, a local businessman assisted us with the proper transfer. We had a pleasant chat.

What can I say about San Francisco’s Chinatown? Well, while there in a Chinese gift shop, I received a phone call from my dear aunt in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. It was a surreal moment. Just a year ago she and I were together in a gift shop in New York City. So, I went outside and on the bustling sidewalk we talked for a few minutes. I wished she was with me. Ah, but what of Chinatown? It’s late and time is short so I offer a picture, and a link to help show you, just a little. Beyond that, I hope you all have the opportunity to visit. One word…it is hilly so wear your most comfortable walking shoes.

This evening we went up to the View, a lounge on the 39th floor of the Marriott for drinks and superb appetizers. It is another place I hope everyone at the Conference has a chance to visit.

No wireless in the hotel rooms, only on first floor, so my husband and I are now sitting in a lounge just off the lobby catching up on our emails and listening to the loud buzz of women’s voices fill air.

RWA is here!

Wednesday promises to be a busy day. Please check back early Thursday morning for my next post.

San Francisco – July 28

Monday was housekeeping day. Early morning I visited the laundromat, followed by repacking. We left our son’s apartment and taxied up to the San Francisco Marriott. Regular check-in is at 4 pm but our room was ready so we were able to get in and unpacked by 1 pm. Friendly staff and a smooth check-in.

We walked over to Mel’s Drive-In, a retro restaurant on Mission Street, less than a block from the Marriott. Burgers, vanilla shake, and a cherry coke. Mel’s was crowded. There is a government union conference going on at the Hilton and at the Moscone Conference Center – thousands of union members.

Shopping abounds around the hotel. I discovered The Container Store, two-stories of every type of container you can imagine. It’s a fun store to browse and is just across the street from the Marriott.

Old Navy also sits across the street, corner of Market and 4th. Walk a few hundred feet more and you’ll find the Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre, home to Nordstroms and many other fine stores. Walgreen’s and Rite Aid are also nearby, both within a block, a less expensive source for conference necessities.

The Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre also has an upscale food court on the lower level. Our son joined us for a simple dinner there Monday night. The San Francisco Soup Company offered hearty bowls of soup. Dessert was at The Melt for mouth-watering gelato.

At the hotel, the RWA Board has had two days of meetings. The hotel is becoming lively as other excited RWA members check in.

On Tuesday, Kiss of Death tours U.S. Customs. Meanwhile my husband and I bus to the Legion of Honor Museum for a Woman Impressionist exhibit then back to Chinatown in the afternoon.

Thanks to all for your comments, both posted and private. I’m glad you are enjoying this.

Check back tomorrow!

San Francisco – July 27

From now until the RWA National Conference ends August 3, I’m posting daily about events here in San Francisco. If the mood strikes, please take a minute to comment. To other writers attending, please share a link to your own blog posts about RWA National.

Years from now, long after senility sets in, I will still recall Sunday in San Francisco and the feel of the whipping wind as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.

It started peacefully. Early afternoon, after a savory brunch at The Crepe House, we boarded an open-top double-decker bus for a sightseeing tour of the city. Sunday’s weather was cloudy and in the low 50s. Sitting in seats atop the red bus, cool air brushed our faces. Up and down the hilly streets we rode, passing the Seven Sisters at Alamo Square, skirting Golden Gate Park. We traveled through the Presidio, listening to a recorded guide tell us of its history. And on we rode, to the Golden Gate Bridge.

The driver pulled into a parking lot and offered us the opportunity to walk the 1.2 miles across the bridge. I declined. My husband offered me the opportunity to go to the seats below. “It will be windy up here,” he said. Remembering our breathtaking sail the night before, again I declined. Walking might be out, but I could surely ride in the open air. We pulled out of the parking lot and into a settling mist.

We were only a few hundred feet onto the bridge before I felt the rushing cold. The bridge pillars and supports stood shrouded in fog. Down on the Bay, daring sailboats skimmed over the water. We watched wide-eyed as one boat tilted, and tilted. With sails nearly touching the water, the valiant on board, ant-like from our height, scrambled to keep her upright. On we went.

On the walkways, brave walkers, bundled in hoods and jackets, moved quickly. The bridge is no place for a leisurely stroll. I tucked my hands into my pockets, and fervently wished for gloves.

Suddenly we reached Vista Point North. We sat for a while, passing around cameras, taking pictures of the view and each other, watching waves of fog roll down the mountainside, talking about our lives. (One of the other tourists on board, a Suzanne Brockman groupie, is coming to RWA’s Literacy signing on Wednesday!) Finally we turned and headed south, on the west side of the bridge, the ocean side where the cold wind originates.

We stepped off at Fisherman’s Wharf and dined at Alioto’s, where we had an upstairs window seat with a perfect view of moored fishing boats (see photo). Rockfish and salmon, scalloped potatoes, wine, all delicious. Prolonging our meal, we ordered coffee and dessert, and sat some more.

We hopped back on the bus and rode by the Wells Fargo Museum, the Cafe Zoetrope, Chinatown, around Union Square, the hotel district, the Asian Art Museum, and on.

The entire bus loop takes 90 minutes but most of the varying lines are hop on, hop off so it can easily become an all day adventure. The bus we rode runs from 9 am to 5 pm, but we saw mention evening tours. The trips are not cheap, but they offer a great way to view the city as a whole.

Check back tomorrow for more!

San Francisco – July 26

From now until the RWA National Conference ends August 3, I plan to post daily about events here in San Francisco. If the mood strikes, please take a minute or two to comment. To other writers attending, please share a link to your own blog posts about RWA National.

I had mentioned to my son that we wanted to walk along the Pacific.On Saturday the four of us drove to Santa Cruz.An hour and a half drive down Highway 280 took us along the San Andreas fault line, a pretty drive through winding mountain roads.

We arrived at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk around 10 am. The ocean called and our feet sunk into the soft sand.We dipped our toes into the frigid water.Waves rolled in and we breathed in the gentle salt air.Not many people actually swim in the Pacific; it’s too cold.But as the day progressed, the beach filled and some brave souls waded in. (Photo by Urso Chappell.)

We took a long walk out on the pier to visit shops and the sea lions.The large animals rest on the supports beneath the pier and their barking echoed through the air.We left the pier and the Boardwalk and drove into downtown Santa Cruz for lunch at the Saturn Café, a delightfully funky vegetarian restaurant, then visited a few shops before driving back to San Francisco.

We made it to the City in time to change into warmer clothing then race for the trolley.It took us down Market Street to Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39.There we boarded a catamaran for our sunset cruise of the San Francisco Bay.

The Captain took us out into Bay, around Alcatraz Island, then on toward the Golden Gate Bridge.Despite the cold, our jackets, cups of hot chocolate, and the sheer exhilaration of the cruise kept us feeling warm.

If you are attending this year’s RWA Conference, try to work in a Bay Cruise on the Adventure Cat. Truly memorable. You will need to make advance reservations at their site.

Hot soup in sourdough bread bowls at Boudin’s and a stroll through Pier 39’s shops wound up our day.

Weather remains in the 60’s and sunny. Here’s the updated ten-day forecast.

Oh, just received a link from Blogging National. In it, Jude lists other posts discussing RWA’s Conference. Looks like LOTS of helpful info for conference attendees!

Please check back here tomorrow.

San Francisco – July 25

From now until the RWA National Conference ends August 3, I plan to post daily about events here in San Francisco. If the mood strikes, please take a minute or two to comment. To other writers attending – please share a link to your own blog posts about RWA National.

Friday morning we visited the award-winning Stack’s Restaurant where, against the backdrop of red impatiens and beneath blue skies, we savored our eggs, orange juice, and steaming coffee. Going out for breakfast has always been a pleasant date. Doing so outside in the cool, sun-drenched San Francisco air turned mere pleasant into memorable.

After breakfast, we took the bus to the Golden Gate Park. Built on a rectangular site on the city’s west side, the 1,017 acre park is larger than New York City’s Central Park.

The DeYoung art museum is located just inside the park. The closest entrance to the museum is at Fulton and 8th Streets. We bought our tickets and immediately took the elevator to the 9th floor viewing tower. Here is a view as seen from the tower. Off to the right you can see the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Again, click pictures twice & wait for larger view.)

Inside the museum were a wealth paintings, sculpture, furniture, and glassware. I especially enjoyed the 19th century Impressionists. The cafe had both inside and outside dining next to a lawn filled with sculptures. Tourists and locals sat soaking up the peace and sunshine. Moms played with their little ones on the lawn.

The Shakespeare Garden is said to contain every flower and herb mentioned in Shakespeare’s work. It’s not large but the setting is serene (or will be again once the construction is complete on the Academy of Sciences building.) Yesterday when I visited, a wedding rehearsal was taking place. Imagine, being married in Shakespeare’s garden!

The Japanese Tea Garden sits next to the DeYoung. Admission is $4, well worth the price. Inside, along its winding paths and gardens, another bride and groom were posing for formal pictures. San Francisco truly defines romance!

Last night we dined on Sushi in JapanTown then found a shop that sold Dreyer’s Ice Cream and other yummy sweets.

The weather remains sunny and cool – and perfect!

Today, we’re off to Santa Cruz. Hope you stop back tomorrow for more updates.

San Francisco – July 24

From now until the RWA National Conference ends August 3, I plan to post daily about events here in San Francisco. If the mood strikes, please take a minute or two to comment. To other writers attending – please share a link to your own blog posts about RWA National.

Our oldest son lives in San Francisco. Visiting him was the only excuse I needed to combine a family visit with the 2008 RWA National Conference. This was one National I would not, could not, miss.

Although the conference officially starts next week, like many others my husband and I flew in early. From summer thunderstorms in Newark to the cool blue skies over San Francisco, we flew non-stop for close to six hours. On board I read Madeline Hunter’s SECRETS OF SURRENDER, a great start for any RWA Conference. (BTW, this is one you absolutely must read! Whew!)

We were greeted at the airport by our sandaled, red-bearded son. A happy reunion. He settled us into his apartment in the Civic Center/Hayes region of the city then went into work. Two aging boomers on our own in San Francisco. Delightful!

We started the afternoon by strolling through the neighborhood around his apartment, looking for lunch. Didn’t have to look far. We passed restaurants on every block, eclectic and colorful.

We chose Flipper’s Gourmet Hamburgers, and ate outside on the fenced garden patio. Gourmet barbecue burger, a delicious chicken crepe, both with green garden salad. Fresh, tasty, and superb as only San Francisco food can be!

A park across the street from Flipper’s seemed to typify the relaxed beauty of this city. I’ve learned that it rests on the site an old two-decker highway. Artwork is rotated. The current sculpture near the far end is a monkey or ape, enjoying the park with his human companions. (Click on the pictures then wait for a larger view.)

San Francisco’s temperature today is in the low 60’s but sunny with brilliant skies. The ten-day weather forecast calls for temps in the mid 60’s, sunny to mostly sunny.

Word to the wise if you are coming to National – bay breezes can be chilly. Bring a jacket!

Check back tomorrow evening for more.

Scribbles and Images

I changed my laptop wallpaper a few days ago. In the process I made a small discovery.

Last year we drove up to Rhode Island to see the Newport Mansions. On our second day there, my husband suggested a sail on the Narragansett Bay. That’s where I shot this picture, the one I placed on my wallpaper.

…..a sunset cruise, a small sailboat…sky graying with impending rain. The boat’s motor pulls us from the wharf. Beyond the Tall Ships, the Captain unfurls sails and his boat skims the water. Mist touches our cheeks and our lips taste of salt. We do not speak as his craggy New England voice spins stories. As we near the ocean the distant sky darkens. Thunder booms from afar. The Captain frowns…checks the radar once, twice. Lightening flashes, a spectacular sight that will remain forever distant as we turn about….

I hoard pictures, more so now that we’ve gone digital. I also collect scribblings. Buried somewhere in my files are notes about a creepy laugh overheard at a restaurant, and the feel of the air just before a tornado touched down mere blocks from our home. So many images. So many scribbles.

So what is my discovery? Mainly that these images are more vivid and enduring because they are preserved. They prompt otherwise lost memories and let them slip into our stories. Such tiny details help to enrich, to make our books come alive.

Many writers collect such scribblings and images. Do you find yourself using them in your writing? And, how do you keep them organized?

I hear voices

For me, it all starts with a voice. Soon others chime in. Before I can bring my characters to life, I must hear them speak and think.

HEARTS IN WINTER, my current wip, was conceived at three o’clock on an early winter’s morn. A woman’s thoughts stepped into my dreams and nudged me awake. From my husband’s side in our warm bed, I arose and stumbled barefoot across the cold floor to my work place. There, bathed in the artificial blue glow of my computer screen, I began to type.

She’d been dead nearly a year now.

Through all my edits that voice, Clarissa’s sad musing as she sat in her dusky sewing room, has never changed.

I hear Clarissa’s voice as soft as funeral satin. Jebediah, her former lover and the father of her child, speaks in a warm Virginia drawl. Karl sounds like a gravel road, rocky and rough.

Whether my readers will eventually hear my characters as I do does not really matter, as long as they hear them clearly. Through their accents, tone, and words, voices give life to the people in our stories. They help shape them, and push them from the page.

Do you hear voices, too? How do they sound to you?

Stringing Beads

I’m a writer. I have been most of my life, at least since I learned such a creature existed. That identification has been both a burden as I struggled to write, and a joy as I put substance to imagined lives.

The problem is I’ve found a lot of distractions along the way. Almost four books finished, many more half way, and I’m still unpublished.

Am I afraid to succeed? Maybe, but I’ve come to see that my fear of failure runs deeper still.

Brenda Ueland wrote, I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.”

One bead–one word, one page, one chapter after another. Eventually a book is born.

It’s a strong image. And so, in this new home, I have re-named my fledgling blog “Stringing Beads.” A constant reminder to me of how to write. Word by word, bead by bead.

So, it’s back to the book.