Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Authors, Editors and Books, Oh My! 2015 RWA Nationals

Posted by Susan B James on 3:30:00 AM with 15 comments
Everyone has a different conference journey. This is mine.
I am giving away goodies at the end of the post. Two Books and a Notebook.

I started my stint at RWA Nationals by Volunteering in the Goody Room, a room set aside for authors to promote themselves by offering free stuff to conference attendees. I met some lovely people dropping off wondrous things. From bookmarks and postcards through lip balms, flash drives, chocolate and books. One author, JS Scott, offered beautiful beach bags with sunscreen, a towel and a host of mini goodies. I was lucky enough to snag one of those.
Annette Bower, Cheryl Yeko, me, and Char Chaffin at Juniors.
If you have been to RWA Nationals, you know it’s a jam picked whirlwind of seminars, keynote speeches, conversations with your favorite authors and much more. Drop that event into the heart of Times Square and you have a kind of madness I only want to do once in a lifetime. But oh, what a lovely ride.
On Wednesday, the NY Public Library held an author reading in Bryant Park. The event, hosted by the dry and witty Joyce Lamb, USA Today’s Happily Ever After editor featured, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Robyn Carr, Kristan Higgins, Beverly Jenkins, Elizabeth Hoyt and Meredith Wilde. Imagine sitting outside in a beautiful park listening to three of your top favorite authors read!
Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Robyn Carr, Beverly Jenkins, Kristan Higgins & Meredith Wilde
Plus, the new documentary film Love Between the Covers featured Beverly Jenkins and I was fascinated by her. I got to speak with Beverly and I bought two of her books. I also got to speak to SEP, Robyn and Kristan. I am a huge fan of all three.
Cheryl Yeko & Char Chaffin
Wednesday night I went to see On the Town with my editor, Cheryl Yeko and one of her best friends, Char Chaffin. Char is queen of the Purple Font Nag at Soul Mate Publishing. Getting to know these two was one of the highlight of Conference for me. Another was meeting my publisher, Debbie Gilbert. A truly charming gracious, human.
The main part of the conference began on Thursday. From breakfast buffet and 8:30 AM Keynote speech by Barbary Freethy to 4:15PM the action never stopped. (Note chandeliers. Did they put those up for RWA? So very suggestive.)

First thing you need to know about RWA is you can’t do it all. Heartrending choices have to be made.
I started with the PRO Retreat and a thirty minute session with Christy Craig on Rejecting Rejection (Christy has more than 10,000 rejections and is a NY Times best selling author with her YA Shadow Falls series. I just finished the first one, Born at Midnight. Loved it. I moved on to Laura Drake and Log Lines (dense thirty minutes full of great suggestions. Don’t use names. Use adjectives. i.e. a spunky marine biologist.)
Christine Ashworth

Maggie Marr, President LARA
I skipped my own beloved chapter mates, Maggie Marr Books into Film and Christina Ashworth, Pros and Cons of Small Publishers, figuring I would pick their brains at home. I repeat. You cannot do it all.

Next up – Horrible Choice time. Do I go hear a conversation with Nora Roberts or attend a craft lecture on research with Jude Deveraux? This choice was horrendous. I adore them both and have everything either one of them ever wrote on my Keeper Shelves. I compromised by dropping in for ten minutes of Nora (fabulous husky voice.) and on to Jude. Wonderful lecture. Her notebooks are amazing. (Note: Both Brenda Novak and RaeAnn Thayne mentioned Jude Deveraux's books as having started them on the road to Romance.)

45 minute Lunch break. (No you really can’t go anywhere in the Times Square area and be back in time for the 12:45 PM lecture. Get a coffee and a snack bar.)
Winnie Briggs, Michelle Grajkowski. and Tina James
12:45 Honing Your Pitch. Making the most of your appointment with Tina James (Harlequin Executive Editor), Winnie Griggs (author),and Michelle Grajkowski (Three Seas Literary Agency.) They emphasized high concept. Using the key points an agent or editor would have to use to sell the book. I didn’t take enough notes

2:00 Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jayne Ann Krentz Ten Things We Learned the Hard Way. I wouldn’t have missed this for worlds. Two of my top favorite authors together in one room? Be still my heart.

3:15 Emotion The Heart of A Novel with Brenda Novak and RaeAnn Thayne. Thank god I have notes. I only wish I could read them.
Some of the Soulies on their way back from dinner.

Deep breath before going on to The Soul Mate Author dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. Debbie treated all forty one of us to dinner. My only regret is so many authors to meet. So little time. I didn’t get to converse with nearly as many people as I would have liked.

Keynote lecture was Julia Quinn another one of my keeper authors. Two of her books were at each place setting.

I started with Sarah MacLean’s  Mastering the Art of Great Conflict. RWA severely underestimated the probable attendance at this workshop. I was lucky to get a seat.Wonderful lecture. Must read her books!
Jennifer Crusie and happy me.
I could only attend one Jennifer Crusie lecture, Metaphor and Motif. Her second one was up against Kristan Higgins and my agent pitch. Fortunately Jen was gracious enough to put her notes for both workshops up on her blog ArghInk.

Another horrible choice:

Susan Elizabeth Phillips lecture on Writing Great Characters was up against a Chat with Robyn Carr. I went to Susan’s. Susan had some exercises for us including describe a character’s clothing in one paragraph and make your choices reveal important things about their character. I love this woman. Read the opening page of Heros Are My Weakness on Amazon for a great example.

I pitched to Jess Dallow of New Leaf Literary Agency. I chose her because hers was the only agency which also did mid grade and picture books. I think my pitch was good, but her response was she didn’t like romances with magic in them and I should pitch someone else. So that night I pitched it to Chery and Char that night. Cheryl said to send it. The delightful thing about Soul Mate Publishing is they don’t mind a little genre mixing.

Annette Bower, Linda O'Connor and me

  That night I went to Sardi's with fellow Soul Mate authors Annette Bower and Linda O'Connor before seeing my favorite musical of the trip, Something Rotten.  Sardi's is an historic actor hangout and they have an actor's menu with lesser prices. I had my Actor's Equity card with me so we could use it.
This was a blip back in time for me. We often ate here between matinee and evening shows during the run of The Robber Bridegroom. When I was in college, my stepfather took me there and we sat next to Ross Hunter and Carol Channing. I eavesdropped unashamedly. He was telling her she had to do his movie, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Or they'd never let her play Dolly in the movie of Hello Dolly. Well, she did Thoroughly Modern Millie and they didn't let her play Dolly. Bad decision on their part.

By Saturday I was mind fogged with exhaustion. Attended some publisher open houses, chatted with some lovely people. My notes for Saturday are almost non existent. Conference ended with the awards presentation. I am so glad I went.  I gave out and received far few business cards than I'd hoped. There wasn't much time for chat. I only saw my own chapter mates in passing. 

If you made it to the end of this post, I am giving away three gifts: Julia Quinn's When He Was Wicked,  Brenda Novak's This Heart of Mine, and a notebook from Melody Anne which has the complete conference schedule and lots of space to write. It's just the right size for a purse. Please leave a comment telling which one you would like if you win.
Which of you have been to a National Conference? What was your highlight?


  1. Replies
    1. It was. I had a fabulous time. It will probably be my only RWA National for some time to come/

  2. Sounds wonderful and I wished I could have been there. Aussie one is in a couple of weeks time. I will start saving my pennies and try and make it to San Diego.

    1. Maggie, I would like to go to the Australia one. I'd have to save a huge lot of pennies, though.

  3. Terrific post. I enjoyed hearing about your RWA adventures.

  4. Great post, sounds like you had a great time, Sue! :)

    1. It was incredible. I am very lucky that my chapter LARA_RWA buys the cd of the conference, so I will get to attend many of the lectures I missed while driving. I listened to the 2008 and the 2014 conferences in my car and felt so full of good information.

  5. Wow. Sounds like a grand time to be had. So many happy faces in the pictures. I missed it-- clearly. So glad for all the Soulies and other authors who had the chance to go. Oh, yeah, I could be content with either book, both sound good.

    1. Wish you had been there too, Ryan Jo. I would loved to have met you.

  6. Susan,
    What a great wrap up! I love National Conference. One of my favorite weeks of the year. You did a great job showcasing both the very difficult choices (how do you decide between Nora or SEP and great craft workshops?) and the utter exhaustion. I know by Saturday I have Con Fog and then when I get home it's Con Drop for at least 2 days. But truly, I love every minute! I'm with my tribe...the people who get me, really really get me and all my weird ways.

    1. Hi Susan and Maggie, Yes romance writers create such a great community, and considering my weird ways, they are also very forgiving : )

    2. I know. I saw your dazed look. It mirrored my own. I am so grateful that LARA buys the CD's. I have listened to two conferences that way.

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