A Culture of Love
Just back from San Francisco, where I attended the annual national conference of the Romance Writers of America, along with well over 2,000 authors, aspiring authors, and industry professionals. The change in weather, from 100 steamy degrees near Houston to the low sixties in San Francisco, was worth the trip, but as usual, it's RWA's "culture of love" that left me most impressed.
Oh, yeah. I know that sounds sappy, but the truth is that RWA members, more than any other writer's organization to which I've belonged, are quick to lend a helping hand and offer emotional support. Friends share up-to-the-minute, helpful industry info, even posting blog entries and loop e-mails for those unable to attend. I've seen New York Times bestsellers mentoring less experienced authors (raising hand on the latter), multipublished authors helping unpublished friends, including complete strangers, practice their editor/agent pitches, and just about everyone reaching out to attendees wearing "First Timer" or "First Sale" ribbons on their badges. It's not at all uncommon to see conference veterans sit down near anyone looking lost and ask where the other person's from and what she (or occasionally he) is writing. Many, many lifelong friendships have begun that way, and very few members seem to forget what it's like to feel overwhelmed and intimidated.
With so many attendees, the conference can be a whole lot to handle. I had fan-girl palpitations meeting writing idol Linda Howard, still stare like a fool every time I see Nora Roberts (both of these women are hilarious, by the way) and nearly keel over when anyone in the industry knows who I am or compliments my last book. But everywhere I went, I ran into old friends or met new ones, was impressed by the enthusiasm of the good folks from Dorchester Publishing (in the photo, I'm pictured with Erin Galloway, Left, Dorchester publicist and dynamite person), or pinching myself to be with an agent as smart and experienced as Karen Solem. But this year, I paced myself pretty well, got a decent amount of sleep, and took a late flight out so I could actually enjoy a bit of the beautiful host city this year.
Here's my scorecard for the year, based on ten years of conference attendance:
Flights with Continental: A+ (on time, served actual, edible food, good service)
Marriott Hotel: A (easy check in/out, clean, comfortable facility, short elevator waits, pretty good food with short waits, could've had a few more furniture groupings set up for conversation
Workshops: B+. Varied, as always, but I really enjoyed "Save the Cat" by screenwriter Blake Snyder and Linda Howard's Q&A in the PAN sessions. Nice variety of interesting topics available, appealing to a variety of experience level. One presenter didn't show, some workshops were overcrowded, and others were scheduled at tough times, but there was nearly always something of interest.
All in all, it was a great experience, and I'm really glad to have attended.