RWA 2009: the experience (long and full of pictures)

25 Jul

The best month ever! July 2009 goes down as the best month of my life, bar none. Here are some reasons:

  • My firstborn turned 21—which perhaps should make me feel a bit old (and in truth, it occasionally does) but hey! He’s a productive member of society who’s earned a full scholarship to CalTech (California Institute of Technology for those who don’t know) for the third year in a row.
  • My second and youngest talked her way into two summer medical programs for the second straight year, with minimal financial help from her father. For a kid who struggled like you wouldn’t believe in 8th grade, this young woman has managed a sea change in her studies in the past two years. She wants to be a surgeon and by golly, no one and nothing will get in her way!
  • I spent 20 days in Maryland and DC with the love of my life. It’s true that he had to work during the week, but that meant I got to sightsee and read at my leisure, and we spent every second we could together. I am so in love with him, it’s probably sickening to see—not that I care, mind 😀

On top of that, said love of my life did two of the sweetest things ever done:

First one: he kept tabs on Nora Roberts’ signings at Turn the Page, and took me to Boonsboro on the 11th for the signing held to celebrate the store’s 14th anniversary. You can imagine, I think, my reaction when he told me of this plan.

July 11th - Turn the Page Bookstore (squee) 2

The store is tiny—but probably perfectly sized for the town itself; after all, it’s not as if these shindigs are held every weekend. The lines were ohmygod long—but chatting about books and romance and Nora with the people in front and behind you can make the time fly, even as you sweat buckets. Met Linda Howard—who recognized my screen handle, huge squeeeeeee!!! as she signed my copy of Burn. Met Nora Roberts, who also recognized my screen handle, even huger squeeeeeeeeeeee!!! (Of course, I now lose all online cred when I confess that I was so flustered (my shaking voice was mentioned, in fact) that I forgot to tell Ms Roberts that Karen sent her, her love. *head desk* Karen, my dear, please do forgive me?)

July 11th - Inn Boonsbory (and I was there!) 2

July 11th - signing at Turn the Page (huge humongous squee) 2

July 11th - the loot! 2

Second one: he registered me for this year’s RWA National Conference, and then, he made it possible for me to actually, you know, attend it.

And here’s where things got so surreal I would think I imagined the whole thing if it weren’t for the photographic evidence—not only in my own camera but in other people’s blogs. I mean, I have followed the goings on at National for years, pretty much since I started reading the Smart Bitches blog—which was just a few short months after they started it, by the way. I love learning about the inner workings of writing, the writer/agent/publisher relationships, publishing, the trends… you name it, I’m curious about it.

But I never expected to attend an RWA Conference. It was not just the money (which dude, it’s a huge deterrent for me on a good day—I iz not frugal, I iz perennially broke) but also the sense that this was a club I didn’t belong to. First, I’m a reader who has no ambition to write. Second, I’m not a blogger— hell, until Karen asked me last year to post reviews in her blog, I was just someone who hogged comment real estate everywhere she could.

RWA 09 logo

So even after everyone I met there was so kind to me at RT in April, I wasn’t prepared for what happened in DC. (And I confess that as I write this I feel a bit uncomfortable, like I’m both tooting my own horn and fishing for validation—but I feel that it would unfair to all the people who were so incredibly kind to me if I didn’t say it, so…)

People—writers and bloggers—recognized my name. I mean, there were a number of writers and bloggers who I expected to accost… erm, meet—Kristie(J) and Wendy Super Librarian for starters, as well as Ann Aguirre, Lauren Dane, Beth Williamson and several others. I have, after all, exchanged emails and comments with them, in some cases for quite a few years. But I’m still amazed that Virginia Kantra, Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas, Anna Campbell, Pam Rosenthal, AnimeJune, Silver James, K.A. Mitchell and so many others would exclaim, “Azteclady!” and smile warmly upon meeting me.

I don’t have the words to convey what their warmth and  acceptance means to me—at least, not words that won’t come across as corny. Enough, I think, to say that by week’s end I was ready to burst into tears of happiness at the least excuse—and equally likely to laugh uncontrollably almost without provocation, to the point of tears (again).

The serious stuff:

The workshops I attended were quite interesting. As a reader-who-doesn’t-want-to-ever-be-a-writer, some of the stuff seemed to me a bit “use common sense here” (but then, I imagine that writers sometimes can be so close to their own work as to need someone to poke at them from the outside and give them some perspective). Then there were moments when writers explained how they pull off this or that effect in their writing that had me going, “oh, so that’s it!”

High octane kisses workshop Ann Aguirre, Carrie Lofty, Laura Bradford and Cynthia Eden (for Elizabeth Naughton) 2

I hope to God and all other celestial beings that RWA will see the light and incorporate digital publishing workshops in the agenda for next year—the Rogue Digital Workshop on Thursday morning was packed, and the presenters, as well as the two invited authors (Maya Banks and Lauren Dane) clearly know their topic. The interest is there, and the need is there—RWA needs to educate all of its members on this clearly burgeoning market.

Audience at the Rogue Digital Conference 2

There are authors who should not attempt public speaking—we all should know our limitations.

On the other hand, listening to Linda Howard speak was a gift from the heavens.

Bad picture of the screen - Linda Howard, Keynote Speak 2

Ditto for Eloisa James.

Hearing Nora Roberts talk is always a complete pleasure.

Same goes for Carrie Lofty, Cynthia Eden and Ann Aguirre (loved their High Octane Kisses workshop, can you tell?)

The Goodie Room was wonderful in its own right, even though there were comparatively few books. Not so much the free swag (though that’s wonderful indeed) but the fact that it—the swag—so clearly portrays the authors it promotes. Personal favorite, this bumper magnet:

Jessica Trap bumper magnet 2

This conference is seriously well organized—from the streamlined registration process to the program, to the signs posted everywhere and the helpful hotel personnel ready to direct one to the appropriate room, it all went like clockwork.

Now, those many signs and people directing conference attendees were actually essential, for the Marriott, while beautiful and beautifully appointed, resembles nothing more than a rabbit warren. Sitting on a hill, its three towers all have different street levels, connected by the lobby level of the center tower and a maze of corridors, rooms, lifts and passages apt to get the most seasoned girl scout lost.

The publishers’ signings had their great moments (should I confess to the embarrassingly large number of books I hauled back home? … … nah) and their “what on earth were they thinking?” moments (other bloggers have already commented on the head-scratching Berkley signing, wherein people were in line outside without being told that a) there were no more books inside, and b) that many of the authors had already left, leaving behind empty tables with, perhaps, some bookmarks. Allow me to express my own astonishment at this. Bad form! And that applies to Ballantine and NAL as well.)

A big issue for many of us was that the wifi in the hotel lobby was not free (although I was told on Saturday afternoon that there was free wifi on the central tower’s tenth floor—too late for RWA attendees to take advantage of, but worth knowing for a potential stay or visit). Considering the cost per attendee, I’m more than a bit perplexed by this. Seriously, $13 per day just for wifi? And since I’m on the topic of costs, I didn’t care to learn that there was a surcharge of $10 at the shipping stations in the hotel.

The funny stuff:

Despite my black stained nails, I really don’t work in a coal mine (free fashion tip: black corduroys continue to bleed after multiple washings; hence, it’s better to avoid wearing them when you want to look presentable and, you know, adult).

The neon blue flip flops I was sporting at the literacy signing were the direct result of my tendency to have footwear accidents whenever I aim to look well. The cute black platform sandals I was wearing that day literally fell apart (with bits flying to the side) as I was rushing across the humongous ballroom to give Ann Aguirre her swag for the signing.

Most of the conference attendees won’t blink when asked for a picture—even by a crazy looking woman during a ten second elevator ride.

Farrah Rochon, who didn't mind having her picture taken in an elevator 2

Finding the perfect shoes for the Ritas, even if it means going to three different stores, is absolutely worth it—more so if a fellow blogger has the exact same shoes for the occasion! 😀

On the left, Barbara's shoe. On the right, my shoe. The difference is one and a half size less 2

Interestingly, it seems that people expected me to be serious (!!!) Huh?

Even more interestingly, some of them were quite surprised I have a name (hello, real person here, not the construct of someone’s imagination—at least, I think I am a real person…)

And looking like a ragamuffin most of the week will not result in getting your girl-card revoked if you can curl your eyelashes with a spoon for the main event of the conference (sadly, no photographic evidence of this—but I have witnesses!)

The freaky stuff:

I stayed in the DC area since July 3rd to the 20th and for each one of those days I found a penny—or more; on one memorable day I found six pennies at various times.

lucky pennies 2

I don’t know about anyone else but I love finding coins, pennies especially. They make me smile, and I always take them as a sign that things will look up, that no matter how tight the money side of my life is, there are always good things in the whole, and that more good things are coming my way.

I had mentioned this to Kristie(J) who laughingly said that, should I visit Canada, perhaps I should aim for a higher denomination (one or two dollars, if I remember correctly). The next day, as we wandered outside for a little break, I found two more pennies about six inches from where she was sitting. Upon which she exclaimed, “You are freaky!”

She doesn’t know the half of it!

On Saturday evening, after the awards ceremony, feeling more than half sad that the conference was over, I jokingly told my beloved that the day had been a bust—I hadn’t found a penny, woe was me! No sooner had I said that, than I found not one but two pennies, inside the sealed case of one of the chocolate sculptures that were scattered through the hotel.

Lucky pennies found on Saturday night 2Lucky pennies found on Saturday night, closer 2

Yeah, talk about freaky!

The verdict:

It is the people attending who make RWA National Conference the amazing, unique, wonderful, memorable experience that it is. The writers, both published and working towards publication, veterans and newbies, speakers, moderators, volunteers. The editors and agents who make themselves available for pitches and panels. The readers and bloggers who attend out of love of reading romance.

And I’m already starting to save those pennies I found all over DC and Maryland, to attend next year’s National Conference in Nashville.

RWA 2010 logo 2

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3 Responses to “RWA 2009: the experience (long and full of pictures)”

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