Monday, 18 July 2016

Weekly Update: July 10 to 16: My Week At RWA Nationals

(I know this post is late, but I hope you all will forgive me because it has been an incredible week.)

Weekly word count: 2100 words

Not a great writing week but, boy, what a whirlwind of writer achievement!  Last week was the National Conference for the Romance Writers of America in San Diego.  It was my first conference and I was determined to make the most of every minute of it.  I flew out with my friends, S.M. McEachern, Alexa Bloom and Lucy Farago.  Lucy and I shared a room with two other lovely authors, Cyndi and Amy.  (I should have taken a picture of their badges to get their last names, but they were both funny and considerate and as soon as I can post a link to their work, I will.)

We started off slow on Wednesday.  We got our registration done and visited the Goody Room, where we found joke ribbons to add to our official ones.  I got my official PAN (Published Author Network) pin, too.  After that, Lucy, S.M. and I headed out to the San Diego Zoo.  After a couple of bottomless mimosas from the hotel breakfast, we were in a mood to be silly and had fun with the photo op displays. 

On Thursday, the serious business began.  Workshops, book signings and special presentations.  Luckily, we still had some fun with the daily scavenger hunt.  Lucy and I ambushed Pamela Kopler in the elevator to get our entry for a RITA nominee (the equivalent of an Oscar nominee for film).  She kindly went along with our request for a selfie.

Thursday also had the keynote lecture and luncheon with Beverly Jenkins, a USA Today Bestselling Author.  She writes historical romances set in 19th century America, focusing on African-Americans.  (I'm always on the lookout for unique historical series.)  She was very entertaining and educational.  She offered some great tips, such as reminding us to consider writing to be our work.  It's not a hobby and the time we spend writing should be respected by ourselves and those around us.  And she had the best comeback for the inevitable questions that boil down to: Do you really do all the things described in your books?  

Her advice: Look them in the eye, straighten your back and emphatically declare: Hell yeah!   

I found the "Maximize Your Discoverability on Amazon" with Daniel Slater to be very useful with good and practical suggestions.  He suggested putting a link to your next book immediately after the official "The End" to capture reader attention and talked about their new program Amazon Giveaways (it sounded like it will be similar to Goodreads but handled through Amazon).  That evening, Alexa, S.M. and I went out to dinner at a new San Diego restaurant, Carne Prima, and were treated like royalty.

Friday had a breakfast with Dr. Valerie Young, who talked about Impostor Syndrome, which is where people (mostly women) who are quite accomplished tend to dismiss and downgrade their talents and achievements, believing in their hearts that they aren't truly worthy of them.  She gave examples of how people sabotage themselves to avoid being "exposed" as the frauds they believe themselves to be, such as refusing to try, dismissing their accomplishments as luck and putting forward lower effort so they don't have to feel bad about failing.  I found myself wondering if some women do this so that they don't seem egotistical or because they are afraid to seem overconfident.

Friday was also the day for the PAN-only workshops, so I spent the day cramming as much as I could into my head.  There was some great data from Author Earnings about romance sales and reader demographics, a hilarious lecture on how to use Hollywood screenwriting tips to kick up our writings by Michael Hauge and Kristan Higgins and a great bunch of suggestions from Barbara Vey about how reach our readers.

Saturday was a difficult one to start for me, since I had my Beyond The Furrowed Brow workshop.  I was worried that no one would show up since it was first thing in the morning but I ended up having a full house (I'm guessing about 300 people).  

Lots of people came up after to tell me how much they enjoyed it and how informative it was.  One of my ad-libs became a crowd favourite and instant tweet.  Arousal decreases our ability to make rational decisions and predict the consequences of our actions, so "Friends don't let friends drive horny."

I was very interested in Sherry Thomas' speech about her experiences and determination.  She came to the United States from China and admits that she learned English so that she could read romance novels.  She was relatively certain they weren't actual pornography since they were right there in the supermarket, but she still hoped.  When dealing with post-partum depression, she read a very unsatisfying romance and decided that she was going to write a better one, which she eventually did, becoming a two time RITA winner.

Saturday finished with the RITA and Golden Heart award ceremony.  The RITA is for published books and the Golden Heart is for unpublished manuscripts from authors who have not yet been published.  The winners included a diverse group of women united only by their talent.  I was pleased to see a number of self-published authors taking home the golden statuette.  One Golden Heart winner was so certain she wasn't going to win that she didn't even have her shoes on when her name was called.

On Sunday, we flew home, tired, happy and with our bags crammed with as much swag and giveaways as we could fit.  I didn't go crazy with picking up free books, but I still came home with a good selection.  (Of course, I couldn't resist putting my own books into the picture for this one.)

Would I go back?  Absolutely!  Although I don't think I'll be able to go to next year's conference in Orlando, I'm already mentally planning and budgeting to go to 2018 in Denver, Colorado.  Maybe by that time, I'll be able to add "Award-Winning" or "Best-Selling" as an adjective to "Author" for myself.  

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