RWA 2010: my second time around the block (Thursday)

5 Aug

RWA-2010-alternate-logo

Thursday

Despite all my good intentions of the night before, I had a rather late-ish start—I didn’t manage to get to the parking lot until just minutes before noon (though I once again snagged a great parking space) so I basically carried my overnight backpack with me to the keynote luncheon.

Since I literally didn’t have time to find Wendy, Rosie, Kristie or anyone else I already knew, I was delighted to run into Bradford Bunch ladies Beth Williamson and Juliana Stone, who graciously invited me to sit with them.

As luck would have it, we were close enough to the front of the line that we got a table just behind the camera that was trained on the podium and projecting to the large screens strategically placed throughout the ballroom—excellent! Later we were joined by Ms Stone’s roommate, and also by Mindy Klasky, Nancy Yeager and Christina Watson.

Thursday luncheon - Juliana Stone and room mate

Juliana Stone and roommate

Thursday luncheon - Mandy Klasky, Nancy Yeager and Christina Watson

Mandy Klasky, Nancy Yeager and Christina Watson

As always when romance readers gather, there was little awkwardness and plenty of topics of conversation during lunch, up until the moment when RWA President Michelle Monkou took the stage. We were all stunned and delighted to find out that more than $55,000 was raised during the literacy signing (after taxes). This means that, over the years, RWA has donated over $687,000 to literacy efforts in cities across the country. I am sure I speak for readers everywhere when I say, thank you!

After Ms Monkou, Nora Roberts stepped up to the podium and held the crowd—all more than two thousand of us—spellbound with her speech. Two things that my conference brain remembers, very clearly: Ms Roberts is one of the few ladies who can curse, repeatedly, in front of a large audience and look as classy as a queen while doing it; and that I’m not the only one who thinks that people have been people, are people, and will be people, for a very very long time. Which means that assholes have been assholes, are assholes, and will be assholes for just as long.

Thursday luncheon - Nora Roberts is classy, even when cursing.

Nora Roberts is classy, even when cursing.

After the luncheon, I connected with SLWendy, who was kind enough to give me the extra key to the room she shared with Kristie(J), so that I could drop my overnight pack there and move around a bit more freely. Immediately after that, I managed to take in a wonderful workshop: Sex Appeal: Blurring the Boundaries Between Women’s and Men’s Fiction. I did take notes and will post more about it later, but I right now must say that I loved the interactions between the two speakers, Jack Reacher’s creator Lee Child (who is very attractive and has a to-die-for accent) and Suzanne Brockmann of Navy SEAL fiction fame. Sadly, the camera stayed in its case and there’s no photographic evidence—again. However, on Wednesday evening I managed to catch a rare life-form in pixels: the elusive Sarah Frantz.

A quick trip to the past: years ago—2002? perhaps the year before? something like that, at any rate—when I started posting to the now-defunct Suzanne Brockmann board, SarahF was one of the regulars there. Despite having been in the same vicinity last year, this is the first time we actually meet. Needless to say, it was a thrill—she’s wonderful.

Thursday - Sarah Frantz exists

Sarah Frantz exists!

The next block of time was a little blurry/confusing for me—for some reason I thought I had nothing marked in my program, so I followed Rosie and Kristie(J) to Jennifer Ashley’s workshop on Professional Jealousy. About five minutes into it, I got the feeling I was actually forgetting something, so I dug out my program, checked… and had to bolt from the room and rush to the other side of the convention rooms to catch the Writing in Multiple Subgenres: the Pros and Cons of Branching Out workshop, with Ann Aguirre, Cynthia Eden, Beth Kery, Elizabeth Naughton, Juliana Stone and Beth Williamson.

I hope to write more about this one as well, because I found it really interesting, but the one thing that came across, clear as a bell, is: every writer’s process is perfect—for s/he. Therefore, while it is always interesting to know what works for others, it is by no means a fail-proof recipe for success; everyone has to find the process that works for him/her.

After the workshop was over, Kristie(J), SLWendy and I headed over to the lobby of the Swan to meet with Angela James (Carina Press) and Malle Vallik (Harlequin) for their blogger/reviewer dinner, which was off-site, and is a whole story in its own right.

Carina Press blogger/reviewer dinner

A total of fifteen women managed to cram themselves into a big-ass van, right outside the lobby of the Swan, for a fifteen minute ride to International Drive. The destination: The Oceanaire Seafood Room Orlando. I don’t think I’ve been to a more sophisticated restaurant in my life—jes’ sayin’. Once again, conversation flowed freely around the table, though given the size of the group it was more than two to three (and occasionally four) conversations going on at the same time. A great time was had by all—and the food wasn’t too shabby either :wink:

At dinner I finally met several people that I hadn’t had a chance to introduce myself to during the Bloggers Bar Bashes: Blythe, Lynn and Sandy from All About Romance; Barbara Vey from Beyond Her Book; Sabrina Heise from Cheeky Reads. I also finally met Malle Vallik from Harlequin digital side, who is scary smart and very, very funny.

Thursday - Carina Press blogger and reviewer dinner 2 (Jayne Hoogenberk, AAR Lynn, Barbara Vey, Malle Vallik and Kristie (J)

Jayne Hoogenberk, AAR Lynn, Barbara Vey, Malle Vallik and Kristie (J)

Thursday - Carina Press blogger and reviewer dinner 1 (Joyce Ann, Blythe, Sabrina, Wendy, ..., Angela James and SBSarah

Joyce Ann, Blythe, Sabrina, Wendy, …, Angela James and SBSarah

This great experience was enhanced by our wonderful server, who is most definitely hero material: on top of being handsome and personable, he cooks, cleans and does laundry.

Thursday - Carina Press blogger and reviewer dinner 3 (hero material!)

(Once again, apologies for the crappy image quality–he really is hero material!)

I was unable to stay to the end (missed dessert, which I’m positive was amazing), because I had promised to hang out with Beth Williamson at the Moonlight Madness Bazaar until midnight, so I caught a ride back to the resort with Jayne Hoogenberk and Barbara Vey around nine pm. Once again, conversation was immediate, entertaining and engrossing. Unfortunately for us, our cab driver had no clue where we were going—apparently when a person in Orlando says, “We are going to the Dolphin at Disney,” the destination is not clear.

After I realized we were entering the parking lot of a downtown Orlando Marriott hotel, I mentioned to my companions that we were quite likely lost—to which the driver answered that he knew precisely where we were, but that he was attempting a short cut to bypass traffic. Color me skeptical, as he spent more time on his cell phone, giving our location and asking for more instructions (in Crêole) than he did answering our concerns.

Sexist or not, I still feel the need to expostulate: men! (picture hands raised in frustration)

Very long story short, we got to the hotel an hour after leaving the restaurant, and the stuffy cab, along with the turns, starts and stops, gave poor Ms Vey a bad case of carsickness. Luckily I had with me the Carina Press water bottle that came with the books and other goodies in the conference tote bags—I had filled this with ice just before going down to the lobby to meet the party, so it was still quite cold three hours later, and holding it to her cheeks and forehead seemed to help Ms Vey a bit, at least until we finally got out of the car. Ms Hoogenberk had to rush up to her room and then back down to the convention rooms, to set up for Harlequin’s Pajama Party, so I walked Ms Vey up to her room, then rushed back down myself to find where the Bazaar had been set up.

Thursday - Beth Williamson at Moonlight Madness Bazaar

Beth Williamson at Moonlight Madness Bazaar

For those who don’t know, Ms Williamson’s husband makes the most amazing sterling silver chainmail jewelry—from breezy, sassy earrings to incredibly elegant necklaces, I was once again amazed at his artistry. (To see examples of this wonderful and original jewelry, visit Little River Jewelers.) After a couple of sales :grin: I helped Ms Williamson pack the rest up.

(Aside: on one of those ‘people you’ll meet everywhere at RWA Nationals’ twists1, the next table was occupied by Sarah Frantz on behalf of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance.)

SLWendy and Kristie(J) were kind enough to offer me shelter for the night, so I trudged my tired ass upstairs for some shut-eye, and found Wendy blogging (shocker there *chuckle*) and Kristie gone, to the Harlequin pajama party. Not much later, I had crashed on Wendy’s bed, and didn’t move until sometime after six am the next morning, when my beloved called me. Which brings me to…

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1 Last year it was Tessa Dare, this year Sarah Frantz was one of them—which is hilarious, considering we just met in person after some eight years of online acquaintance.
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