I just got back from the 2013 Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta. It’s still too soon for me to make any kind of coherent statement, but I can describe a few memories while they’re fresh.
1. Atlanta may be lovely—I don’t really know. I spent most of my time in the Marriott trying to figure out the room numbering system for workshops. This always seems to happen at conferences and it’s largely our own fault. We romance writers schedule a little free time at the beginning or end of conferences, but it’s never enough. Once the conference starts, it’s all conference all the time. The furthest I ventured from the hotel was the terrific pub where my roommate and I went to grab dinner one night, and that was maybe a block away.
2. The number of workshops at RWA is absolutely overwhelming. Even if you’re conservative and give yourself time for lunch and bathroom breaks, you’ll still reach a point where you can only groan. I wanted to go to a workshop right after my Berkley signing, but frankly I just didn’t have the stamina. I know I missed a lot of good stuff, but boy did I enjoy the ones I did manage to make.
3. There doesn’t seem to be as much promo pressure at RWA as there is at RT. Don’t get me wrong—there’s a Goody Room and I gave away three bags of book thongs. But since most attendees are writers rather than readers, you don’t have as much relentless anxiety about promoting your books all the time. You can sit in workshops as just one writer among many, listening to advice and information without feeling like you have to be out there selling every minute.
4. The famous writers tend to blend into the flow, amazingly enough. Nora Roberts dances to Bon Jovi at the Harlequin party just like everybody else. Jayne Anne Krentz rides the same elevators. Susan Elizabeth Phillips schlepps her own luggage. It’s sort of exhilarating to be reminded that not all big timers have multiple assistants and bodyguards to smooth the way.
5. On the same note, it’s reassuring to listen to famous writers describe the same dilemmas that most of us have. Nora Roberts sometimes has problems getting started. Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes way too slowly. Tessa Dare worries about disappointing her editors. You’re not alone, people! We all do it.
6. Parties are excruciating for shy people like me, but they’re also fun. I went by myself to the Berkley party and found several folks to talk to. In fact, I had a ten-minute conversation with one of my idols, Jo Beverley, which absolutely made my night.
7. You meet idiots everywhere, though. One agent asked me who I wrote for and when I said Samhain and Berkley InterMix, she observed, “But you’re not making any money.” Note to aspiring writers. If your agent is so clueless that she still thinks digital books don’t sell, you need to move on.
8. RWA is not RT—it’s more business-focused. But they still know how to party. The Samhain bash after the RITAs was a blast even though my roommate and I had to leave after an hour because of early flights the next day.
So come. Next year RWA is in San Antonio and RT is in New Orleans. It will be a great chance to see what conferences are like and enjoy vibrant cities at the same time. I’ll be there at both. Stop by and say howdy!