Wednesday & Thursday at RWA National

The days at RWA National are passing in an exhilarating haze punctuated with moments of crystalline clarity. This is an amazing time for writers and the energy is evident everywhere here in New York City.

Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen

Early Wednesday, three NY Times best-selling authors – Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon, and Tess Gerritsen officially launched RWA’s 2011 Bright Lights, Big Stories Conference with a 90-minute chat about their careers.  Their ease, candor and camaraderie set the tone for the coming days.

The Annual General Meeting of RWA’s Board of Directors (aka AGM) followed. My volunteer assignment was handing out budget summaries to attending members. When the doors closed, we took our seats. After a few brief reports, the meeting adjourned. Although 2,100 are attending the conference, no quorum meant no business could be conducted. Reason enough for members to return their proxies.

Madeline Hunter’s candid keynote luncheon address Wednesday was all I expected and more. “In the past year,” she said, “writers have exhaled one long sigh…I’m excited and scared to see what comes next.” In taking us on her writer’s journey, she offered a guidebook for our own journeys.  “We expose ourselves in our writing,” she continued.  “Our voice is all about that exposure. We find our voice by embracing the exposure but we cannot back off.  We cannot pull punches.”  Wow!

Sherrilyn Kenyon

Sherrilyn Kenyon‘s award luncheon keynote on Thursday took us on an emotional roller coaster bringing tears and laughter to the audience of 2,000+ writers in the Broadway Ballroom.  Another amazing, no holds barred speaker.

Phenomenal workshops!  Each hour, eight separate tracks let us hone in on a valuable area. While there are only a few scheduled that address e-publishing and self-publishing (no longer called “vanity”) those are the words heard everywhere and speakers are addressing this amazing writer’s evolution.  Perhaps the word “revolution” is more appropriate.

KOD's "Death by Chocolate" Party

The chance to meet and chat with fellow writers abounds in workshops, at evening parties, in elevators, and lounges.   This year the conference is spread out from floors 4 through 9 of the Marriott Marquis. For the first time in memory, ladies’ restrooms don’t have long lines. Escalators or the smart elevators are quick, efficient.  So is the friendly staff.

Last night I met my niece for dinner.  A Tulane student, she’s in NYC on a summer publishing internship.  (Personal note to editors or literary agents looking for a hard-working, loves-to-read assistant in May 2012…Casey’s your girl!)  Last time we met was on our Charleston trip and before that in Paris when she studied abroad in Vienna. Our paths cross in the most amazing places.

As dawn broke this morning, I lay beneath the comforter with words racing through my mind. On this last day part of me can’t wait to get back into the bustle of Conference. But I have stories to write, and characters whose voices grow ever louder. Someone, can’t remember who, said that networking at conference is important but that writing is critical. We are not writers unless we write.  Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

Last day ahead, and tonight are the RITA’s and Golden Heart awards.  More about that tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I invite all writers attending to share your insights, or links to your blog about this amazing conference.  What was your favorite part of RWA National 2011? 

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.