Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Destination Life: The RWA Conference

Destination Life: The RWA National Conference
There are reasons why a sort of hush falls when romance writers start discussing the National Conference. Sure there are local conferences, but nothing really matches the feeling of being at National.
When I first heard this, I rolled my eyes. A conference? With thousands of people? How could that be a highlight of a writer's year? Then I started to read the blogs and see what fun people were having. Was I missing out?
Donna Alward went last year and had a fantastic time. This made me determined to experience this year's nationals.
Despite the difficulties of changing my ticket after the disaster in Nashville, I was very excited. Would it live up to expectations or would I feel that conference was a very lonely place?
Conference can be lonely if you need to have a tight knit group of friends around you. It can be a totally exciting place if you put yourself on the line and try to meet people. I set myself several goals. First, I wanted to give out as many business cards as I could. In order to give out a business card, I had to speak to someone and each person was a potential friend. I also wanted to get business cards in return. These cards are going to make a centrepiece in a scrapbook of my experiences. It seems a much better way to remember a fabulous time.
I came determined to do lots and largely succeeded. Some of the highlights were the Librarian's lunch where I sat next to the utterly fabulous Gail Link, this year's bookseller of the year and a thoroughly nice person and on the other side, the super Jacque D'Allessandro. That lunch with all of its friendliness and good will really set up the conference for me. Later at the bookseller's meet and greet, I was able to meet and chat with booksellers from Australia, Taiwan (May helpfully told me that they had a hard time keeping my books on the shelves!) as well Kris Alice Hohls who runs LoveLetter Magazin. Kris had been the person to let me know that Gladiator's Honour was going in German. And she is a really super person who works tirelessly to promote romance in the German market.
Other highlights included finally meeting some of my favourite bloggers from Barbara Vey greeting me in the registration line (helpfully a reader had sent me a beautiful tote bag with the Viking's Captive Princess on it and it seemed like the perfect place to use!), Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches who I have tons of time for and Kristie J who shares my obsession for North & South. I was also able to meet Amy Strnad, Jamie Webb and Celtic Lass from eharlequin. Even on the way home, I connected with Superromance Jeannie Watt. This is off the top of my head and it was so great to meet people that I have shared online thoughts with. It meant so much.
Then there was meeting the other fabulous Hussies. They are tremendously supportive of any Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical writer and it was even better to see them in person. I also was able to meet the Presents authors.
Presents authors just have an aurora of elan about them, inherent style. Carole Mortimer straddles both groups and I was so proud when she received her plaque for writing over 100 books.
The Harlequin Party was even more fab than I thought it would be. From the time I passed through the stringent name check I entered another world. Toasts to Authors never had butlers with Harlequin Heartbreakers greeting you. The desserts were fantastic from chocolate logs to sorbet to ice cream lollies. Then there was the music. Harlequin parties traditionally start with We Are Family and it is a sisterhood (okay with the occasional honorary sister like KN Casper or Wayne Jordan or Roger Sanderson). There was a real sense of celebration. it was the camaraderie of the people. The authors were there because they earnt it. It was their party. I know some people go as *dates* but really it is the actual earning of an invite that is important. And the being there.
I know lots of people love the Rita and Golden Heart ceremony and it was great, but it was all about the people. The memory of Blythe Gifford standing up in her turquoise circling her napkin above her head as one of her chapter mates won a Golden Heart will live with me for a long time.

The location doesn't matter for the National conference. It is the people.
PHS editor Michelle Styles (on the right) with the wonderful Elizabeth Rolls on the left at the Harlequin party had a marvellous time!


  1. The conference looks fabulous, I am so jealous.....
    Tell us more, tell us more

  2. Sounds like you had a wonderful time, Michelle - are you going to NY next year?

  3. Wow, that sounds so great! Wish I could go. Wish New Zealand wasn't so far away! Ah well...:-)

  4. It all looks and sounds amazing! Glad it went well, and thank you for your reports!

  5. I am glad you all liked my reports.
    And YES definately to NYC next year. It is so much fun.

    I am pleased some people enjoyed the posts. I know what it is like to stay at home and just want NEWS!

  6. Sounds like you had a great time! I really want to see pictures of the puddings...!

  7. You know, the dancing was so fab last year that I didn't even SEE most of the food. I was too busy getting my groove on!

    I'm so glad you had a good time. I met so many people and came back so inspired and happy to be a part of this industry.

  8. It sounds so great, I love the idea of lots of supportive writers meeting and having puddings!

  9. Michelle, it was great to meet you at the conference!