Romantic Life Lessons

My Conference Chronicles

iStock_000001521921XSmall(1)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.

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6 thoughts on “My Conference Chronicles”

  1. The food was great at the NECRWA Conference, I have to agree. Nice to have you at our table for lunch on Saturday. I tried to look casual as I munched on my chips and my sandwich kept falling apart. All good though as we listened to another great speaker.

    Just so you know, anyone I spoke with that had an appointment with you, was extremely impressed with the help and knowledge you provided, and that was from those who didn’t get a request for a ms. As for me, I was trying to keep my excitement contained. It might have spilled out every now and then.

    Doing some last minute polishing and will send you my ms in the next day or so. Hope that’s okay? Sounds like you have plenty to do without it. Thank you for making my first conference experience memorable and painless. Hoping there will be many more in my future. Hope I get to meet with you again sometime.

  2. Thanks, Kari! I enjoyed meeting you and I’m glad you had a good conference experience. My sandwich also fell apart in my hands and I tried to look casual and editorly but it was a big mess. Thanks for your feedback and I look forward to reading your work!

  3. I’m sad that I missed out on the NECRWA Conference this year. I was a finalist and you were wonderful in your critique of my work. I just wanted to thank you for your comments. They were so helpful šŸ™‚

  4. I’m a terrible traveler too, although I love the conferences once I get there. I went to NECRWA a couple of years ago and loved it (of course, it was in Salem that year, which helped). I thought everyone involved was lovely, my panel was well-attended, and I had a blast. I only wish I could have gone this year and hung out with you šŸ™‚
    I’m glad your conferences went well! Now go eat a salad…

  5. My meeting with you at the NEC-RWA was a wonderful introduction to the publishing world. You were so kind and genuine! Iā€™ve reworked my first chapter as you recommended and I look forward to sending the ms in when it is finished. Thank you so much for your advice and your time. This new writer appreciated it very much.

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