RWA National in San Francisco – August 1 & 2

Friday and Saturday posts slipped away in a flurry of conference bustle. After the sensational awards ceremony (see August 3rd), this wrap-up summary may be anti-climatic, but I wanted to post before the memories slip away.

Both days opened with continental breakfasts outside the Yerba Buena Ballroom. Tables of pastries, juice, fruit, coffee and tea helped jump-start our day. We sat at the ballroom tables with our plates and cups, planning, chatting, or just zoning out.

At some point early on Friday, I discovered that the Marriott had a rooftop garden on the 5th floor, a haven of rest amid the bustle of the conference. Multi-published Regency Author (and fellow WisRWA member) Victoria Hinshaw wandered out there as I was contemplating the palms and the sky. We had a very nice chat. Part of the pure joy of RWA National is the unexpected conversations with other writers.

There were some incredible workshops this year, held over the three day conference. Somewhere I saw there were over 100 to choose from. Here are a few of my favorites:

Brenda Hiatt gave an update on her popular presentation called Show Me the Money, compiled from anonymous surveys, showing how much publishers really pay for romance novels. In addition to dollar amounts, she gave advice on what to do when you get the call, about rights, contract clauses and a myriad of other helpful facts. Her updated Show Me the Money survey is available on her website (click her name, above).

Integrated Marketing was a panel presentation by Saturday night’s RITA winner Madeline Hunter, marketing specialist Shannon Aviles, and media specialist Trish Claussen. They discussed the importance of using media to create an integrated marketing plan and create buzz for your name, thereby increasing your sales. Since I first heard her speak several years ago, I’ve been wowed by Ms. Hunter’s professional knowledge and business savvy. This workshop was no exception.

Stephanie Bond gave another practical, down-to-earth presentation – How to Make a Living Writing Romance. She talked about forming strategies to make a business plan and determining your writing goals. Writing five new pages a day for 350 days a year, she said, will generate 1,750 pages – the equivalent of two single titles, 3 categories, and 2 novellas. FYI – Ms. Bond has a link to her writing articles on her website.

Multi-RITA finalist Virginia Kantra gave another helpful workshop – Voice: What are they Talking About? By using examples from best-selling authors she talked about factors influencing voice and how to define and refine your own voice. Very helpful.

Most of the workshops will be available on CD at Bill Stephen’s Productions, within a few weeks. Currently only 2006 and 2007 are listed. The first ones I mentioned (Money, Marketing, and Making a Living) weren’t recorded but I urge you to seek out the speakers/topics at future conferences.

My compliments to whoever came up with the small, wire-bound RWA Conference Journal. The size and design made it an easy fit into any handbag. The front held a Schedule at a Glance, and the many lined blank pages were more than sufficient for my conference notes. Good, functional design, and well-used!

Throughout the last day, writers lined up for the free books at the publisher sponsored book signings. The Marriott established a special Shipping Center near the Golden Gate Suites to ship books home. In this age of limited allowed luggage on airlines, this shipping center made for a much appreciated convenience.

Later this week I will post about things learned at this year’s conference. Please check back!

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?