I’m in Atlanta this week at the Romance Writers of America national conference. I know from past experience that the conference is too insanely busy for me to even attempt to blog, so I’m writing this blog on Sunday afternoon, during the calm before the storm.
I talk about the RWA conference every year and post pictures, but I realized I’ve never really explained much about it to my non-romance-writing friends. So, while I’m SO KEYED UP about this year’s conference, I thought I’d attempt to banish the beliefs that the conference is one long party where a bunch of introverted writers emerge from their writing caves for the week, squint against the bright sunshine, and do nothing but chatter and drink.
I’ll be driving from Wisconsin to Georgia with two writer friends. It’s a long drive that promises to fly by, as we will be plotting multiple stories on the way down as we go. Tuesday night, upon arrival, we’ll hit the bar to recover from the drive, and then hopefully we can sleep in a bit on Wednesday.
The conference always starts on a Wednesday and goes through late Saturday night. Annual events include the Librarians’ Day Event and the Literacy Signing, which is when 400+ authors gather and the doors are opened to the public for a ginormous book signing to benefit literacy causes. If you’re a reader planning to go to this year’s (tonight! July 17th, from 5:30-7:30pm at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atrium Ballrooms A-C…no admission charge), my advice is to check out the list of authors signing in advance (scroll to the bottom of that page to see the names) and make a list of the ones you MUST SEE, and then a list of others you’d like to meet, and maybe also a list of recent books by these authors that you already have, or maybe a list of the ones you want. That sounds over-anal, but the truth is that it is overwhelming and huge. There are rows and rows of authors, many of whom you’ll know, many of whom would be new-to-you. And there’s not enough time to meet everybody, and probably not enough money to buy books from everybody, so a plan is a good thing. (Speaking from experience from years I chose not to sign and just enjoyed the event as a reader.) Please add me to your list!
Wednesday night, the hotel bar is the place to be. It sounds like a drunk-fest, but in fact, it is the absolute best way to network, and networking is vital. The things you learn in the bar at a conference are the juicy bits. The Real Truth you don’t see on blogs or in publications.
Thursday, the workshops get underway, and there’s the Annual General Meeting for all members. The Thursday luncheon includes the keynote speaker. (This year it’s Cathy Maxwell, who is a smart, funny lady. Can’t wait.) My personal schedule for Thursday this year includes the PAN (Published Author Network) keynote speaker, Ann Kulze, who is giving an inspirational speech, a workshop on self-publishing given by representatives from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords, and a workshop about writing contemporary romance with Jill Shalvis, Robyn Carr, and Kristan Higgins. I’ll be meeting a reader friend for a drink in the afternoon and then meeting Karen Reid, the newest editor of Harlequin’s Superromance line. Thursday night I’m meeting my former editor, and after dinner, I’ll either drop by the Harlequin Pajama Party, the local Atlanta RWA chapter’s Gothic Soiree, or the bar for more networking.
Friday includes the Harlequin Book Signing, which I’m participating in, other publishers’ book signings (where all the books are F-R-E-E if you have the wherewithal to stand in line and fight the crowds…and I do!), the Awards Luncheon, where Kristan Higgins is the speaker, a workshop on character psychology (if I remember right) but well-known screen writer Michael Hauge, and workshops on everything from self-publishing to marketing, including a focus on Amazon. Friday night is my favorite event, the Harlequin party, which is open only to Harlequin authors and is an excuse to dress up, consume amazing desserts and cocktails, and dance the night away. (Everyone dances. Every. One.)
Saturday is more workshops…some of the ones on my schedule include creating a multi-author series without killing each other, metadata, keywords and back matter for self-published authors, the lowdown on special forces, from weapons and extractions to mission planning (COOL!), and a couple others I couldn’t decide upon yet. (There are about 8 workshops to choose from during every hour slot, so lots of decisions. ) Plus more publisher book signings (with more free books) plus a couple of meetings with good friends to catch up (and make sure we actually sit down and talk instead of just passing like ships in the night.)
And then the grand finale of the conference, the Rita and Golden Heart Ceremony, where Ritas are given out to winners in each of about 20 categories for best published books of the year, and Golden Heart awards are given out in the same categories for best unpublished manuscripts. It’s another chance to dress to the hilt, to have cocktails like grown ups, and to consume yet more calories in the form of desserts. The after-reception usually lasts until midnight, which doesn’t sound too late, but after a week of constantly masquerading as an extrovert, by this time, most writers are ready to collapse.
Sunday is the drive home for me and two friends…from Atlanta to Wisconsin, yep, straight through.
Monday will be recovery and laundry day, because then on Tuesday, I’m turning around and flying to San Diego for a family vacation.
So…I’ll be working my tail off for the next week while having more fun than should be legal, and then I’ll just be switching to the straight fun part after that (during which, the husband and I have agreed on a hiatus in our blog challenge…so no more blogs from me until August). Hopefully then I’ll have pictures to share and stories to tell…if I have any energy left whatsoever. In the meantime, be good, and happy reading!