Sunday, July 31, 2005

RWA National Conference

Captain's Log, Stardate 07.31.2005

WARNING: BOOK-LENGTH TALL TALES

Just got back today from RWA National Conference held in Reno, Nevada. Good conference, although a bit overwhelming because of the sheer number of people--around 2,200 attendees.

I drove up with Marilyn Hilton, who's in the ACFW San Jose group, and her friend Anne Kim, a technical writer who used to work with Marilyn and lives in San Jose as well. Anne writes Asian Chicklit, with a bent toward Mainstream Literary fiction.

We had a real "Thelma and Louise" weekend, the three of us. The drive to and from Reno went quickly as we talked. We met up to eat meals together and somehow never had a problem finding three seats at the tables despite the large number of attendees. I couldn't imagine going to National by myself. It was fun to laugh and exchange opinions.

I met up with one of the "Fab Four," Cheryl Wyatt. It was great to talk to her again. I met her husband Billy, easygoing and fun to talk to. I also saw Dream from the Steeple Hill discussion boards, and met her husband and children. I was stoked to see Barbour author Janet Spaeth again and give her a hug.

Marilyn knows Wendy Lawton, so we sat with her at lunch on Friday. I had to do something else, so I was supposed to meet them in the dining room. It was utter Godwork that I managed to find their table.

The only clue I had was that Wendy wore a bright green blazer. I just started wandering and praying (remember, it's 2,200 attendees sitting at about 200 tables in this massive ballroom).

Suddenly I turned my head and thought I saw a woman who looked like Wendy. I approached the table, and lo and behold, it's them. Pure, unadulterated miracle.

Who's sitting next to Wendy? Oh, just Debbie Macomber, one of the keynote speakers.

I sat down at the only empty chair and formally met Wendy, who remembered my face from the Mt. Hermon conference. Wendy piped up, "Oh, and Camy, you're sitting next to an editor, so be dazzling." (or something like that)

I turned to my right and introduced myself to Hilary Sares from Kensington. My tongue had turned into a big flapping piece of felt. Lovely.

Things got better as the meal progressed. Hilary had to speak to the girl sitting next to her for a few minutes, so I had time to compose myself after the double-whammy of Best-Selling Author and Important Editor.

I posed a few rather intelligent questions about the Kensington lines, namely, "So why did Kensington get rid of the Regencies?" (Insert some cheese with my whine)

Hilary graciously explained the fact that publishing is a business (Gasp! Imagine that! You should have known that, Lamebrain, before you asked her). However, despite my stupidity, she generously offered to send me a few of the last of the Regency line.

Score! I couldn't say yes fast enough, or say thank you often enough.

Anne, sitting on the other side of me, had the supreme courage to actually ask Hilary if Kensington was interested in multicultural Chicklit. (I found out later that Marilyn and Wendy had threatened to beat her up if she didn't pitch to Hilary.)

Hilary gave a resounding yes. Anne mentioned she wrote Asian Chicklit, and the darling girl also added that I did as well (who needs working vocal chords with friends like that?). Hilary gave us her contact information and said for us to send our manuscripts to her. Is that cool or what?

I did get up the gumption to ask about the Christian elements in my writing, and she said she was open to it. Dude, that rocks!

I talked with several Steeple Hill authors--Margaret Daley, Marta Perry, Ramona Richards, Brenda Coulter, Dana Corbit, Lenora Worth, Debbie Clopton. I also got a chance to speak briefly to the three editors, Krista Stroever, Diane Dietz and Melissa Endlich.

My editor appointment was with Melissa, who was super-nice even though I talked too fast and screwed up my Hawaii Chicklit/Suspense pitch right in the middle. I told her my agent was sending my suspense to Steeple Hill and she said she was looking forward to seeing my writing.

I saw Shelley Bates, another San Jose ACFWer, whose book won the RITA for Best Inspirational Romance. Marilyn and I were so thrilled, we were screaming and hollering in the back of the theater on the night of the awards ceremony. Shelley wore a gorgeous period costume with antique jewelry that made her look absolutely stunning.

I met the founders of RomanceDivas.com, Jax and Kristen, a totally fun combination. They recognized my name from the forums and it was cool to talk face to face. I also met another Diva, Sela Carson (SusanC), then promptly forgot and reintroduced myself in the bathroom. Talk about embarrassing. Sela is gracious, however, even though I don't have anything like age or hormones to blame on my bad memory.

Cheryl and I manned the Faith, Hope, Love booth at the Midnight Madness Bazaar on Thursday night, and I made a fool of myself when I met several authors.

One of them was Karen Harbaugh, who writes paranormal historicals, and whose Regency romances I had read years ago. This friendly author spent time talking with me about the writer's life, it was great. She also loved the concept of Asian Chicklit Suspense and encouraged me in my writing.

I happened to see Sophia Nash's nametag and screamed my head off. "Oh, you're Sophia Nash! I love your Regencies!" Yes, Camy needs decorum lessons. To top it off, I caught the nametag on the tall woman next to her and shrieked, "You're Kathryn Caskie! I love your books, too!"

Being Regency romance authors, they behaved with a great deal more self-control than I.

These wonderful women spent time chatting with me. Both were finals in the RITA--Sophia for Best Regency, Kathryn for Best Short Historical. Sophia won a RITA on Saturday night at the awards ceremony. They were so encouraging to me and made me promise to email them about how things went with my manuscript when my agent sent it out.

One thing I did not expect was the amount of free books. The publishers host author booksignings and give books away, but you have to line up early to get into the room before the books run out. I went to the Avon/Pocket signing and the Warner/NAL signing. I was so glad we had driven to Reno, because I only had to stuff the books into bags and throw them into the car trunk. I'm thrilled with the terrific titles I got, many of which I've been wanting for a while but hadn't gotten yet.

The conference was a great way to get marketing ideas from savvy authors. I found out Debbie Macomber dedicates about 25% of her earnings toward marketing. It must work because she's done great with sales. She gave everyone (and I mean all 2000+ of us) a copy of her latest hardcover and a copy of her latest mass market paperback.

Several authors and RWA chapters had great ideas on giveaways and raffles. It made me think about what kinds of useful but memorable promo items I could look into if I get published. Cheryl and I were also brainstorming what the FHL chapter could do for promotional items and things to sell at the Bazaar table.

I met Norah Conors, Victoria Johnson and Sonya Dow from the Silicon Valley chapter that meets in Milpitas. It was great to talk to these ladies and learn about my local chapter. I'm thinking I'll join, even though it doesn't look like there are any other Inspirational authors there.

They're hosting a great conference in May next year, called "Prepare to Pitch!" with a stellar keynote speaker lineup and opportunities to pitch to editors and agents--more opportunities than RWA National because of the smaller size of this conference and a new "Speed Dating" pitch session.

For me, the workshops at the conference were okay. One by Kelle Riley was terrific--she's a black belt in Karate (and by the way, folks, the Japanese pronounce it KAH-RAH-TAY, not Ker-rah-tee) and taught a workshop "Creating Realistic Kick-Butt Characters." She demonstrated moves and tactics for a heroine's self-defense against an attacker--it was incredibly helpful and well done.

The other workshops, while also well-done, mostly talked about things I already knew. The classes were for unpublished authors, so I suppose they covered more of the basics. Also, it could be that I just didn't choose the right workshops.

Anyway, I had hoped for more new craft and business information, but was disappointed. If I get published, I can join the PAN workshops for published authors, and maybe I'd get more out of those. I also ordered the MP3 files of all the workshops, and hopefully I'll be able to glean more info from the workshops I didn't attend.

I also got mistaken for an editor. I was asking for a friend by the Pony Express statue when an older woman walked up and said in a sweet country drawl, "I'm not your friend, but I would like to know about the e*rotica manuscript I sent to you . . ."

I looked at her blankly.

She grabbed my nametag and squinted. "Oh, I see. I was looking for T-S-A-N-G, you're T-A-N-G."

Marilyn and Anne did NOT let me forget that I must somehow look like an e*rotica editor.

I had a black velvet Chinese cheongsam dress for the awards ceremony, and I put my hair up with a flower-decorated koa wood hair-stick. I felt like a million bucks, and the velvet was nice since the hotel AC was arctic. I got stopped by a few people who said they liked my dress. I definitely got my money's worth.

Speaking of the hotel, the food was fabulous. Lunch on Thursday was filet mignon--medium rare and fork-tender. I was in heaven. I wanted to call my husband right there and brag that I was eating a lovely steak, accompanied by a sinful chocolate mousse. But I magnanimously refrained--didn't want him to change the locks on the doors before I got home. ;)

Despite the terrific things that happened, I'm very happy to be home. If only home weren't 100 degrees in the house. :(

Diet: Did good during the conference, worked on portion control and also chocolate deprivation. My only lapses were on the drive there and back--hamburger and fries on the way there, and a Lyon's appetizer platter on the way back. But I only ate half the platter and brought the rest home. I also ran the treadmill at the hotel gym on Saturday morning. Woohoo!

The hotel room had two full-length mirrors, and it was the first time I'd looked at myself in months. Hooboy, that's another story . . .

6 comments :

  1. Hey Camy!
    Sounds like you had a blast! You look so pretty in your dress. Loved reading about. Can't wait to hear more at our meeting. ;-)

    P.S. My house is hot too! :-(

    ReplyDelete
  2. Camy, I'm glad you had a great time. I'm so glad you told about it too. :0) I've been praying for you and your writing. You are a talented writer.

    BTW those full length mirrors are highly overated, I spend most of the day avoiding mine. How do you know what you see if what others see?

    Hugs and blessings. So glad you had a safe trip. Now you can settle down to chewing the nails with the rest of us NT first round finalists while we wait for the results. ARGH!

    Your friend (ahem, member of the Fab Four, tehehe) and sister in Christ,
    Pammer

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sigh. YOu knew it would take me more than one post didn't you?

    LOVE the pics! Thanks. You look gorgeous! You'll have to send me one. :0)

    Scatterbrain

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh well, if Pammer posted, I should too... LOL seeing as I'm the only one of the fab four not represented.

    Glad you had a good time, Camy. Gorgeous pics of you.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks, guys! I had a great time, and I felt bee-yoo-tee-ful in that dress.

    Camy

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Camy,

    After hearing so many negative things about the conference. It was refreshing to read a postive experince.

    Glad you had a great time. You looked wonderful in the dress.

    Don't you hate when your tongue refuses to work? LOL!

    Good luck with your book.

    ReplyDelete

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