RWA National – Kick-off!

Wednesday, 7 am. Registration for RWA National.  Volunteers distributed badges, nametags, ribbons, schedules, and books!  Along with 5 paperbacks and a hardcover, we received a flash drive from Harlequin that holds conference handouts, a 14-page pdf file of Harlequin covers from 1949-2009, and 3 more complete books.  Cool!  At registration, I saw some old friends and met a few new fellow writers.  Some will sightsee today.  Some will be busy with board matters or other events.  Today is Librarians’ Day and the Chapter Leadership Event.

After a pleasant breakfast at the Stone’s Throw Washington DC 2009 RWA 079 Restaurant in the Marriott, my husband and I left for the Metro and more touring.  Out the back service door, down the hill, then across 24th Street and we were at the entrance.  We bought our fare cards and were carried down, and down, and down the escalators.  Mind the GapThe last time I rode the subway (aka/underground or tube) was in London a few years ago.  While Washington’s system is just as efficient, I sorta missed the sultry British voice reminding me to “Mind the Gap” as I stepped aboard.

The Library of Congress was our first destination.  Washington DC 2009 RWA 054My goal was some genealogy research and learning how the system works.  Before accessing books, I had to register for a Reader Card in the Madison Building of the Library, then walk back through the tunnel to the Jefferson Building.  Interesting.  The Jefferson Building is gorgeous, inside and out.  The intricate paintings and carvings on the ceilings are awe-inspiring.

Early afternoon we hopped back on the Metro for a quick ride to the “Federal Triangle” and a visit to the National Museum of American History.  The exhibit honoring the First Ladies held a special appeal, from Mary Todd Lincolns’ tiny waisted gown worn in 1861 to Jacqueline Kennedy’s classic pale sheath a hundred years later.  So much to see in Washington, D.C.!

When we returned to the hotel it seemed it had made a shift from teachers to writers.  A quick change and I was downstairs for the “Readers for Life Literacy Autographing.” Five hundred romance authors lined up at tables to sign, and at least triple that number looking to meet their favorites make a lasting impression.  Washington DC 2009 RWA 084

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Terri Brisbin talks with fan at the Literacy Booksigning.

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Beth Ciotta shows off EVIE EVER AFTER at RWA's Literacy Booksigning.

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Carla Cassidy signs LAST GASP.

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Where to begin?  

Of Conferences & Courage

Last weekend I sat in the golden glow of a hotel meeting room in Green Bay, Wisconsin.   Along with 90 or so fellow writers, I listened intently WisRWA Write Touch June 5-7 2009 004as agents and editors revealed market trends and what they, as publishing professionals, were looking for from authors.  The workshop was part of the grand celebration of WisRWA’s 25th Anniversary.

It started Friday. Registration in the Radisson’s comfortable lobby let us greet old friends and chat with new.  Later, in our first workshop, ever-helpful Publisher Raelene Gorlinsky presented When Bad Covers Happen to Good People – an informative and amusing behind-the-scenes look at book covers.  The evening ended with a gourmet dessert reception.  Amid chocolate fountains and luscious desserts we visited, ate, drank, and visited some more.

Saturday. An early breakfast buffet and general meeting were followed by the Agent/Editor Q & A Panel.  Mid-morning, Karen Tabke spoke on It’s Just Business, Don’t Take it Personal. Following Karen’s talk, Executive Editor Birgit Davis-Todd presented Diamond Opportunities–Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Writing for Harlequin.  Throughout the day, authors pitched their books in 10-minute private appointments with attending editors and agents.

Noon lunch was a delicious Slice of Italy. Contest winners for The Write Touch and Fab 5 were announced.  First Sale roses were presented to six WisRWA members who sold their first book since last year’s conference.  WisRWA Write Touch June 5-7 2009 025A special rose was given to WisRWA’s Golden Heart finalist Virginia McCullough.  Special recognition was also given to the five wonderful women who organized this celebratory conference – Donna Kowalczyk, Stacey Netzel, Barbara Raffin, Gini Athey, and Lori Kriescher (see picture).  And, in a heartfelt presentation, Shirley Cayer and Conference Chair Donna Kowalkczyk presented two 2008 Chapter Service Awards – to Mary Jo Scheibl (aka Casey Clifford) and to Sandra Turriff (aka Meg Hennessy).  Both Mary Jo and Sandy had also received roses for their first sales.  What a day!

The afternoon session began with WisRWA’s Got Talent III.  Author Shari Anton read attendees’ first pages while Hilary Sares and agent Laurie McLean WisRWA Write Touch June 5-7 2009 052gave incredibly insightful one-minute critiques.  Author Trish Milburn followed with her workshop Making Your Setting Come Alive. A late afternoon Literacy Book Signing gave us a chance to chat with authors and purchase personally autographed books, including those by best-selling author Sherrilyn Kenyon. (See picture.) At the 25th Anniversary plated dinner, Sherrilyn gave a heartrending Keynote Address that had us both crying and laughing.

Sunday. Following another satisfying breakfast buffet, Ann Voss Peterson spoke on A Word Nerd’s Guide to Pacing.    Barbara Raffin’s workshop, The Story is in the Details showed how critical details are in every aspect of our writing.  Lori Devoti presented the last workshop – Get Where You Want to Go–Setting Goals to Keep You on Track, a most important wrap-up to the weekend.

For the past week, as I returned to my real life – home, family, day job – I’ve been pondering.  I’ve come to realize that it takes raw courage to write a book then strive for publication.  Courage to bare your soul as the authors did in WisRWA’s Got Talent.  Courage to meet face-to-face with an editor to pitch one’s book.  Courage to submit that work for publication, and probable rejection.  Then to do it again and again and again.

Last weekend I was privileged to meet with fellow authors in all stages of their careers, from those writing the first chapter of a first book to a NY Times Bestselling Author whose books are read world wide.   Each one shelters a courageous soul. ∞

RWA National in San Francisco – July 31

On Wednesday evening I attended The Beau Monde & Hearts Through History Soiree. It was a culmination of the all day History Conference within a conference. Most attending wore Regency styled gowns as they followed the Dancemaster’s instructions and learned the dances of the Regency period. I felt a bit out of place in my slacks and blouse but greatly enjoyed the skill of the dancers as they danced to the sometimes lively, sometimes tranquil live music.

Thursday – July 31 was the first official day of the RWA 2008 Conference. This year’s theme is appropriate to San Francisco: Romance – Bridging the World.

The Hearts Through History Chapter held our general meeting this morning from 7 to 9 am with a continental breakfast and a panel of published historical authors.

Motivational speaker Theresa Behenna gave a dynamic opening presentation for RWA National – speaking, song, and piano. We especially enjoyed her many writer analogies. RWA’s AGM (Annual General Meeting) followed where RWA Board Members conducted the business of the organization.

Upstairs on the 5th floor, author Jill Shalvis and her fellow Blaze authors signed books donated by Harlequin for conference attendees. This year, Harlequin also sponsored the name badges.

At lunch, RWA President Sherry Lewis announced the winner of this year’s Emma Merritt Service award for continued service to RWA – Linda Winstead Jones. She also announced that Wednesday evening’s Literacy Book Signing raised over $58,000 for Literacy.

Keynote Speaker Victoria Alexander delivered a down-to-earth, practical, and incredibly funny luncheon address. Nearly 2,000 attendees viewed the event on four large screens above the stage.

After lunch, we broke for workshops. PAN (published authors) and PRO (aspiring authors who have completed and submitted) held their afternoon retreats. Meanwhile the first 25 or so other workshops were held during three afternoon time slots. So many choices, all of them good! And this is just the first of three days.

Before I left for dinner, I spoke with one of the few male writers at RWA National. Raz Steel is a fellow Pennsylvanian who has been writing for about fifteen years, focusing on romance for the past six. Raz wore a first sale ribbon. His book, LOVE WITHOUT BLOOD, is a paranormal romance scheduled for release from Dorchester Publishing on December 30, 2008. Please visit his website by clicking on his name.

Online chapter From the Heart Romance Writers celebrated our tenth anniversary with a special Meet & Greet from 7 to 9 pm. Food, goodies, door prizes and merriment were in abundance.

The evening culminated with the ever popular Moonlight Madness Bazaar, held from 8 pm to 12 midnight. The bazaar provides a marketplace for RWA Chapters to peddle writing related items, jewelry and other fun stuff as fundraisers. From Maumee Valley RWA’s Fairy Muses to Valley Forge RWA’s Paper, Postage, Printing, Selling T-Shirts to Oklahoma RWA’s Diversions Jewelry, I found browsing and chatting a pleasant way to unwind from the busy day. I hope you’ll visit each of these chapters by clicking on their links (above).

Please return tomorrow for more about RWA National!