I am a terrible traveler, even though I like to be in different places. This April, I had two conferences to attend back-to-back, along with seven manuscripts to edit. Normally, this might make me cry. I chose to laugh about it instead (and eat a Snickers every day). Truth be told, it was great to get out of the city and meet with romance writers.
But I did go through my travel rituals: 1. Have a quiet tantrum right before leaving 2. Buy four magazines 3. Get something “nutritious” like a bagel 4. Think Oh who am I kidding and find a Krispy Kreme donut, too. As usual, I ate nothing on the entire train ride. Didn’t even touch the manuscript I should have been editing. I confess, I played Candy Crush and stared out the window.
The Washington Romance Writers Retreat … was lovely. I was picked up and delivered by super-nice people. I got to meet colleagues and see the usual suspects I’ve enjoyed seeing over fifteen years. Every time I arrive at a conference, I’m starving so I dove into the carbs at the buffet — usually there is pasta and a potato dish, along with bread. I ignored vegetables entirely, but not the desserts (1 brownie, 1 cookie, 1 cheesecakey bar). You’d think I was only focused on the food (I ate the bagel and the compressed donut, too), but I also mingled with writers. I live in a bubble, so it’s a treat to meet the people behind all these stories.
After the editor/agent panel, which was enormous and enormously informative, I returned to my room and sank into my carb coma. The next day, I listened to pitches, participated on a different panel and then witnessed the wildly entertaining “Romance Jeopardy.” When you put romance writers in a room at night, crazy things can happen (I won’t say a word about what I saw). I returned to New York City and promptly ate a salad.
I’d been hearing about the New England Romance Writers Conference for years, so I was excited to go. Before the event, I critiqued fifteen 10-page openings and gathered my business cards, another manuscript, and work-related materials to pass out. With half an hour until my train left, I sought out magazines, the bagel, the who-am-I-kidding Krispy Kreme donut (and salted cashews). I plunged head-first into the Yankee pot roast, chicken and potatoes at the dinner buffet. As I debated the wisdom of a fourth cup of coffee, I got to discuss historical romance and science fiction (I saw Star Wars) and reconnect with writers I hadn’t seen in a while. The next day, I went over my critiques with my appointees, which I hope they found useful. I certainly did. This exercise gave me the opportunity to provide specific feedback on the actual writing, which is 99.9% of the reason why I’ll buy or reject a manuscript.
In a few minutes of downtime, I chatted with an attendee, who, like me, is obsessed by Duran Duran, and we quickly traded DD gossip before running to workshops. Last but not least, all the speakers were excellent–funny, poignant, and motivating.
During the conference after-party, I sipped my Sprite and lurked, at one point listening to two agents say to each other, “I love my job!” “Me too, I love my job!”
So do I.