RWA Conference Report
Everybody is still talking about it! Carolyn Hector and Jane Godman bring us their personal experiences of the yearly Romancelandia gathering at RWA Nationals in New York.
Carolyn Hector ~ The Ups & The Downs
I’m going to sum up my trip to NYC much like the elevators at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. For starters…it was clearly THE PLACE TO BE and run into folks. Forget the bar! You were more likely to run into someone waiting 10-15 minutes for the elevators to arrive!
The RITAS!! Congratulations to the winners, especially to M. Malone and Kennedy Ryan, the first two African-American winners of the prestigious RITA Award!!!
I saw a lot of standing ovations for diversity and felt like the Grinch when his heart grew 10X bigger.
Shortly after Kennedy won, a woman congratulated another African American author for her win.
LaQuette’s speech. Please find it and watch it. (Editor's Note: You can listen to both LaQuette and Radclyffe's amazing speeches here on the Big Gay Fiction Podcast from the 53.56 mark)
Shortly after my writer’s group, the Destin Diva’s managed to all wear red, we were asked by a random lady to join our gang. It was a bit cringe worthy…I’m sure she didn’t even notice.
Everyone seemed to have diversity on their minds.
While waiting forever for the elevator to come, an author commented to another about the legitimacy of a diverse author’s win.
The Eff Racism pin
Hugging Kristan Higgins, Andie J. Christopher, Mia Sosa, Nicki Night, Robin Covington, Kianna Alexander, Nita Brooks, AC Arthur, Saffire (I’m so sorry for bumping into you all the time on the dance floor), hugging my editor—Carly Silver -- and being able to sit down and fall into a conversation like we were old friends.
The flight. In order to choose your own seats on the flight, you had to pay more. So I did not pay. The first leg of the trip I flew in a little tiny plane. That did not scare me as much as the seat-belt. I mean really! I was scared they were going to kick me off. But I learned (with my husband’s help) I am not as fat as I thought I was. The belt fit. I survived the shuttle ride …shout out to the person on Twitter who mentioned she’d finalized her transportation to the hotel. I would probably still be at the airport now. We survived the shuttle ride to the hotel and it was smooth sailing getting our room. Here’s where I’m going to give my RWA insight… if you’re traveling with family members, arrive the day before so you can do the sightseeing things together. OR bring people (if not roommates attending RWA) who are willing to venture out of the hotel without you. It will give you a peace of mind while you’re out dining with your editor. Which I did! I went to Thalía’s. She was married to Tommy Motolla.. who was married to Maria Carey. I feel so close to music-royalty.
The upside of the elevator—Running into royalty. The first person I saw after I received my room key…. Brenda Jackson! I love that she knew my family right off the bat.
Adriana Herrera I believe was on my floor. I got the nerve to speak to her and say hello the second day. I had my very first book signing. It was loud and fast. Rochelle Alers signed her books directly across from me (royalty!). Seated next to her was Carrie Nichols. I met Carrie at RWA17. I got to see Danica Favorite, Reese Ryan and Christy Jeffries, I passed them one of my homemade #TiaraSquad Emergency Kits… okay yes it is corny but I have stated I am frugal. The Harlequin Party. Can I say what a blast I had? First of all, I walked in and made a beeline toward Brenda… Brenda Jackson ya know. She celebrated 100 books with Harlequin. She asked me to “go over there” and take her picture for her… so I did. Where I stood… y’all… I was in the mix of Heidi Rice and Caitlin Crews. I kept trying to duck from the professional photos because I didn’t belong there (YET). I nerdgirl/fangirl said to Heidi… “I liked your article in PHS about conferences”. And I danced. I danced my ass off. Okay.. it’s not off. It’s still there. I got to dance with Dana Nussio…who was the kind smiling face back in 2017.
I knew Day 3 was going to be a fabulous day because I rang for the elevator and the doors opened automatically. And to top that off, I was able to go all the way down without stopping. Pretty cool. Then! Then! I gave my very first pitch. First pitch of the morning… And she liked it! She really really liked it! Okay, as promised, I tried to speak to every first-timer I came across if I had the chance. I let them know that if they walk into a room and see me or my bun and want someone to sit by, to come over to me or stand by me or whatever so they didn’t feel overwhelmed. I did go to a PAN room (I felt like a kid sitting at the big people’s table at Thanksgiving). I brought my banana bread (yes ‘cause I’m cheap) and got a bit of writing done. Okay fine—I talked. My new friend and first-timer to RWA, Mel Gough, came over to the table and got to share some banana bread. The evening ended with the RWA Awards…which I started off with first.
I would like to thank anyone reading this who allowed me to be goofy and a total fangirl by taking selfies with me! PS—I’ve learned I have no idea how to take selfies!
Talk to y’all later!
Jane Godman ~ I Got To Be Part Of It!
Earlier this year, attending the Romance Writers’ of America Conference (RWA) in New York was a distant dream for me. I was in the middle of the worst year of my life, having been diagnosed with breast cancer six weeks after losing my lovely husband to a heart attack. Transatlantic travel just wasn’t on my agenda.
Even after my paranormal romance, Enticing the Dragon, was announced as one of the finalists in the National Readers Choice Awards, I didn’t feel ready to make the journey.
Then, in May, just after I’d completed chemotherapy and had surgery, I got a call from Brooke Willis, of the RWA Kiss of Death Chapter, to say that another of my books, Colton and the Single Mom (Harlequin Romantic Suspense) was a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award.
After speaking to Brooke, I started to wonder. How many times would I be in a position where two of my books were nominated for awards? Was there any way I could be at those ceremonies? With not much hope of an affirmative answer, I spoke to my oncologist.
“Can I travel to New York in five weeks time?”
“You not only can… you will!”
He arranged for my radiotherapy treatment to be started and completed before I set off. I found an amazing travel insurer who was supportive of cancer patients. My niece, a dedicated book lover who had been to New York before, agreed to be my companion and guide. Before I knew it, everything was booked. I won’t going into the boring details here of travelling with cancer medication, covering up radiotherapy burns in the New York heat, or coping with fatigue. But I might share those in a practical blog post for other cancer fighters!
New York lived up to every expectation. No amount of photographs or film footage I’d seen had captured its magic, and Times Square seemed to be drawing the entire universe into its energy and electricity.
RWA was an incredible experience. I’m still processing all the things I learned, and all the amazing people I met, some of whom I already “knew” online. Everyone was so generous with their advice and support. After the second day, my head was spinning and if I wrote for a month, I couldn’t do justice to the workshops I attended.
Oh, and Enticing the Dragon won the National Readers Choice Award!
After working and communicating with them for so long, I finally got to meet the following people:· My Harlequin editor, Carly Silver, who is as lovely, warm, and funny in real life as she is in her emails· My agent, Jill Marsal, of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, who has been such a source of support and whose knowledge of books and publishing is second to none· Malle Vallik from Harlequin, who was the first person to acquire one of my books. I’ll never forget that phone call!· Denise Zaza, the Harlequin Senior Editor who acquired my first Nocturne. Although I’m not sure our meeting counts as we passed on our way out of the restroom! I’m so sad that we didn’t have a chance to talk more.· And so many amazing writers including my fellow Harlequin Romantic Suspense authors, Geri Krotow and Addison Fox.
Things I learned from my first RWA:· Take a half empty suitcase for all the books and book swag you’ll be bringing home!· Pack for comfort, especially the shoes. It sounds like common sense, but it’s not just the walking. There is also a lot of standing around involved.· It took me the whole conference to work out the complex system for getting on the right elevator (you don’t want to know). It’s definitely worth planning in extra time in your schedule to get around. Or use the escalators.· Take business cards. I didn’t know about this and everyone seemed to expect one from me, at which point I was left feeling slightly foolish. On reflection, it makes sense and is a good way to connect with readers and other authors. Note to self…· Don’t forget wear your name badge. I did on one occasion. Not only did no one know who I was, I couldn’t get into one of the workshops.
All of the workshops I attended were useful in different ways. The best by far was the panel on Seasoned Romance (romance featuring protagonists who are over 40). It was an engaging and uplifting session. The main takeaways were:Readers want to see themselves reflected on the pages of romance novels. This very much includes age. Authors are eager to not only continue writing these books, but to reach this hungry audience.To achieve this, we all must continue to TALK about Seasoned Romance, BUY Seasoned Romance, READ Seasoned Romance, and REVIEW Seasoned Romance.·
And, finally, it’s true… Harlequin DO throw the best parties!
There was only one thing that could follow the excitement of RWA. Sightseeing in New York! It was a whirlwind five days. Would I do it again?
My vagabond shoes are already longing to stray…
Did you attend the RWA Nationals this year? If so, what were some of your personal highlights? Has not going this year made you doubly determined to get to San Francisco next year? Tell us in the comments or on social media using #ConReport and #RWA19