This is a follow up to my July post that asked the question are you a real writer? Well, I had the privilege of attending the Romance Writers of America annual conference last week, so my answer is now an unabashed yes! And all of you writers out there should do everything in your power to get to next year's conference.
There is something magically wonderful about the four days you spend at RWA. It is full immersion into the world of romance and writing. Whether you've only cranked out a single page of a story, or have published dozens of books, nobody judges you - everyone there is considered a writer. Legitimacy hangs in the air like a thick, happy smog. Everywhere you turn, the talk is about writing. Day in and day out. At breakfast, it is a networking minglefest. No assigned tables, so you can walk right up and find yourself eating with agents, editors, or multi-pubbed authors. Then it is on to six hours of workshops, lunch where you again have the opportunity to network, publisher book signings where you can chat with your favorite authors (and get their books - for free!)....it is a theme park of possibility and wonder.
Did I have fun? Yes - of course! Did I put myself out there and network? Oh yes - definitely. Sat at a group breakfast with a lovely woman clutching a book that my book club had read. I asked how she liked it, and with a frown, she said it was only so-so. I hurriedly urged her to keep reading, since we had all enjoyed it so much. Well, it turned out to be the author herself holding the book, and her comment had been towards the new cover art on the paperback version. She laughed quite hard, and was thrilled to hear we'd enjoyed her book. I won a lunch with Lousia Edwards, which meant I had a reserved table in the second row to hear Jayne Ann Krentz speak (quite a coup in a ballroom holding 240 tables!) and was thrilled with how lovely and generous she was with her time and knowledge. I'll stop name dropping for now, but trust me when I say you can end up next to anyone - and find yourself in a great conversation.
The big question...the one lots of people ask when they get sticker shock from the price of the convention...did I learn anything? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! You name it, and there is a workshop for it. Career, research, craft, publication - all covered. Everything from the 12 steps to sexual intimacy to how to write a series to how to research paranormals to how to sell a 'hard sell' book t0 increasing sexual tension to what not to do in your career....the mind whirls (which is why I took copious notes). Oh, and there were the 43 free books I came home with - both hard and soft cover.....
Unless you are Nora Roberts, for 51 weeks out of the year, most people in your life don't care/understand about your writing career. But for one shining, glorious week, 2,100 other people care. And they want to hear about your writing, and share theirs, and it is a completely validating lovefest of this crazy, solitary career choice.