Writing can be a pretty solitary business, but romance writers tend to be awfully chatty and awfully friendly. We, for the most part, LIKE each other. So when we get together it's LOUD. And it's enthusiastic. For some of us, we don't get together with other romance writers often, and so it's a real treat when we do. And probably scary to an outsider who doesn't understand what the squealing in the elevator is all about.
I love going to my monthly RWA chapter meetings. I always come away feeling GOOD. I find the group really inspiring, and we always have a top-notch workshop after the business meeting. We also talk shop - and share resources.
The same is true at RWA Nationals conference. I know PHS editor Michelle Styles bought a book based on Fiona Harper's recommendation at our workshop. The workshops are another great source of inspiration. Michelle and Fiona both like Michael Hauge, for example, and both of them told me how great his workshops are.
This year I didn't get to any workshops. I had planned on trying, but my schedule "gaps" ended up being filled with meetings and signings and the small windows I did have I spent recharging. Here's the other good thing - you can buy the conference CD's after the fact. I heard so many good things about workshops this year that I'm going to do that. I missed not going but because I knew the majority were being recorded, I figured it was the one thing I could catch up on later.
The one thing I refused to miss, however, were the lunches and speakers. This year I heard Julia Quinn speak at the Librarian's Luncheon; laughed at Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon and Tess Gerritsen during the opening remarks/Q&A, and wiped tears at Sherrilyn Kenyon's keynote. I missed most of Madeline Hunter's because we seriously could not hear at our table between the audio difficulties and the clinking of dishes (note to RWA staff, schedule speeches for AFTER the meal is cleared away). I'm hoping it's also taped so I can listen to it.
Why am I so intent on going to these events? It's certainly not for the conference chicken (though to be fair, it wasn't bad). It's because the speakers are very, very successful - and they are very, very much like the rest of us toiling away in the romance trenches. As Michelle says - no one is born published. Think about that for a moment. These people started somewhere just like me and you. They had challenges and setbacks. But the truth is - if it can happen to them, it can happen to US with some hard work and determination.
I loved how Steve Berry said he wrote on the QT for 12 years before selling, but kept working on his craft and stacking up rejections. For the record, my husband is not a reader but he's over half way through the Cotton Malone book of Steve's I brought back. I also introduced him to Barry Eisler's writing and believe me, when you have a non-reader say "You could buy me another one of those" it is praise of the highest order.
Hearing the keynote and guest speakers really illuminates how it really is a level playing field. Sitting in that ballroom, I always feel like it doesn't matter if you're unpublished or a midlister or a NYT bestseller - we're all the same. We all have stories to tell. We've all been bitten by the snake. I find it incredibly motivating and affirming. And while figuring out how to write POV better or deepen characters is really important, sometimes what you really need is inspiration to pull you through the rough times.
It's empowering - and to that effect, I recommend you all check out Barb Wallace's post at the Moody Muses yesterday.
So tell me - what fires you up and keeps you going when the going gets tough?
Donna's latest release is A FAMILY FOR THE RUGGED RANCHER, part of Harlequin's Cowboy For Every Mood celebration!