The sun was starting to set, gleaming over the palm trees and across the water. The Swan and Dolphin Hotels rose majestically on both sides of the wide walkway. I was basking in the glow of an overpriced glass of Chardonnay and an excellent dinner with two fellow writers.
Life, my friends, is good.
This conference has been amazing...a revelation. Writing is a solitary pursuit. You can network with other writers on blogs and twitter and such, but when the rubber meets the road, it's just you, plugging away at the keyboard for hours at a time, filling that blank screen with words you hope someone else wants to read. Those hours alternate between adrenaline filled highs and frustrating lows, and at the end you may have to trash them all and start over.
I have spent the last 24 hours with people who understand that experience. Better yet, these are people who want to fill the blank screen with romance...happy endings...heroes and heroines who overcome all the odds and find their one true soulmate.
Life isn't just good. It's freakin' awesome. (No really, I only had one glass of chardonnay. This is Disney. It was insanely overpriced.)
I started the day in the "Goody Room." This is where authors leave free stuff, hoping to attract new readers. Some authors even leave free books. I got all kinds of cool stuff...lots of trinkets that represent an author's book in one way or another. My two favorites are little glycerin soaps in the shape of animals and the button that says "do you love Hawt Scots?" The text overlays a sculpted man clad only in a kilt.
I started a bookmark collection in the Goody Room as well. I'm only picking up the most outrageous titles or cover art. My favorite titles are Rock Hard (about a rock star of course) and Eat Prey Love, a vampire romance. Some of the titles sound innocent enough, but whoa Nelly, you should see the cover art!!
I left the Goody Room reluctantly, and got in line early for the Keynote Luncheon. I wanted to have a good seat for Nora. I met several interesting writers in the line, including a lovely lady named Grace who gave me some great information about some of the more specialized groups within the larger RWA organization.
The ballroom was enormous, but I was in the front quarter of the room. I found myself sitting between two Golden Heart finalists and across from an RWA board member. The Golden Heart is RWA's contest for non-published writers. Barbara Binns sat to my right. She finaled in the YA category and writes stories with male protagonists. We had a great conversation about the dearth of books that attract boys. She sold her book after she finaled in the contest, and her publisher is marketing it as a romance because they sell better. She thinks it's really a coming of age story. We discussed a possible visit to my classroom to talk to my students about her book and about writing in general. How awesome is that?
The other ladies at my table were also friendly. Really, everyone has been friendly. I haven't sat down anywhere without being pulled into the conversation. Without a doubt, the writer connections I'm making at this conference are the best part.
As we finished off our key lime pie, the lights went down and Nora was introduced. Oh. My. God. She was such an incredible speaker. I took two pages of notes. She talked about the writing journey and about being positive. She had us all laughing, telling the story of going to a nursing home to promote her book and having an old man tell her how disappointed he was. He thought Oral Roberts was coming to speak. She is a master of pacing because at the end, she gave me chills and then brought tears to my eyes. (I've already established on this blog that I'm a sap, so quit rolling your eyes.)
Nora acknowledged that writing a novel is hard. But hard is what makes it special. It's what makes us special. She knows something about special. She's had 165 books on the NYT best seller list since 1979. It's hard to argue with that kind of success.
I left that luncheon feeling great and thinking the day couldn't get better. Then I landed in a workshop called "Pantsers, Plotters, and Plotsers." The panel was made up of Claudia Dain, Sabrina Jeffries, and Deb Marlowe, a pantser, plotter, and plotser respectively.
For those of you who don't know those terms, a pantser is someone who writes by the seat of her pants. She forges ahead without really knowing what's going to come next. A plotter has to to have everything planned before she starts, and a plotser is somewhere in the middle of that continuum. Excellent information about the advantages and pitfalls of each and about how to make your style work for you. Claudia Dain was such a dynamic, compelling speaker that I marched across the lobby to the Barnes and Noble book fair and bought her book as soon as the session was over.
(I now have 19 books to get home somehow, and there's still two days of conference left.)
Also, at that session, I sat with two Aussies. Vanessa Kendrick is an unpubbed paranormal writer like me, and Elizabeth Rolls has a published historical called Lord Braybrook's Penniless Bride. I liked her enough that I will go looking for it, but maybe not until I get home. (19 books...on an airplane!) They were both fascinating to talk to. Elizabeth is friends with Keri Arthur who writes the Riley Jenson series set in Melbourne. I'm a Keri Arthur fangirl. Elizabeth promised to send my regards, and I'm sure Keri will be pleased. Well maybe not, but I was. Vanessa and I traded blog addresses. (Hi Vanessa!)
The next workshop I attended was called "How Do You Mend a Broken Scene" led by Roxanne St. Clair. This was the most valuable information I got all day. She went through three levels of broken scenes. She showed us first draft scenes from her books and walked us through the problems and the subsequent fixes. Really powerful stuff. She told us one of the biggest mistakes writers make is to pull back from the emotion in a scene too early, and then she showed us an example. The first draft didn't suck, even though she thought it did, but wow, the revised version was so much stronger. I want read her book Hunt her Down now. (19 books...)
My favorite thing she said, "The worst thing you can do is imply sexual tension. Don't imply it. Hit your audience over the head with it." Words to live by.
I met another interesting writer at this session. Denise Pulman lives in Atlanta via Wilmington, Ohio and writes Sci-fi romance. She was surprised that I knew where Wilmington was, and then we discovered we are both Laurell K. Hamilton fans. That was the clincher...friends for life!
My last workshop of the day was a panel of paranormal writers. It was fun to see Kelley Armstrong and Jeanine Frost on stage, but I didn't take anything away from that one that I didn't already know. The session was driven by audience questions, and the audience mostly asked questions that have answers easily found on the Internet.
I returned to my room tired, but happy, and lazed around a little bit, putting off dinner because I didn't have anyone to go with. I needn't have worried. When I finally sat down at the Cabana Bar and Grill with my new Claudia Dain book, I was immediately collected by two writers who saw me sitting alone. Suzanne Solomon writes romantic comedy and Jessica Trap has published several medieval romances. Jessica and I really hit it off. She had her teenage son with her, so we had two immediate points of connection.
More workshops tomorrow, a luncheon with Jayne Ann Krentz, and my agent arrives...so another packed day. Also looming large is my editor pitch session Saturday morning. I'm not going to stress over those things. Today was a good day, and I'm going to savor it.