Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Confessions of a Sophomore Author – Part VIII -- How I fell in love with Texas in Seven Days

I recently attended the RWA Conference in San Antonio, Texas. It was an exciting conference for me because it was my first as a published author. Although RWA has always been exciting for me. This was the fifth I’d attended, and it’s always inspiring!

This year was exciting for me as well because I was getting the chance to room with my critique partner, fellow Presents writer and bestie, Victoria Parker, who I don’t get to see nearly enough because of our across the ocean addresses! 

We arrived early on the Sunday before the conference to spend some time exploring San Antonio. From my arrival, I knew the seventh-largest city in the U.S. was going to be special. I had my cab driver’s life story by the time we reached the hotel, knew the ages of his children, where they went to college and all the shenanigans they’d gotten up to as kids. And yes, this is me the woman with twenty questions always, but I didn’t  have to work this one at all. This was typical of everyone I met in San Antonio. Lovely, gracious, with wonderful southern manners.

After spending Monday exploring the city in the ninety, one-hundred degree heat, we headed out for dinner with the lovely Dani Collins (who I’d had the pleasure of meeting once before) and Presents writer, Sri Pammi, who I’d never met in person. Sri was just as wonderful as she is in the ‘online’ world and we all spent the evening laughing and catching up. I kept thinking what a fortunate thing to be able to do – to spend time with fellow writers like this. Apparently we capped off the evening with a discussion of smexy times which was followed with rapt attention by the Fertilizer convention men in the bar, although we didn’t realize it until we’d had a bit too much fun!

 After another day sightseeing on Tuesday (did I mention we found the pool?) most people started to arrive. It was so much fun to see the hotel transform from a sea of men to a sea of women. It was also pretty special to put on my speaker and PAN ribbons.

On Thursday we attended the lunch for Presents authors at the lovely Spanish restaurant Las Ramblas. It was amazing to meet many of the writers I’d only talked to online, many of which I’d been reading for years. So cool. Thursday night was the Amazon soiree, then we were off to a pizza party in one of the Presents writer’s rooms. It was great to get to know fellow authors in a more informal setting. I was lucky enough to end up beside Michelle Conder on the king-sized bed. She’s one of those people you feel lucky to have met. In fact, all the Presents writers were great – warm, welcoming and funny.

On Friday, Harlequin author Donna Alward and myself, as well as Harper Impulse authors Lynn Marie Hulsman and Sun Chara did our workshop called a Global Affair. We talked all about our paths to publication, gave our thoughts on what made the difference in the journey and also talked about marketing our books in a global market. It was another full circle moment for me because Sun and I had finaled in So You Think You Can Write together and are part of the Harlequin community. It was so great to finally meet her.

Friday night was the Harlequin party. It was an all-night, dance-a-thon with red Harlequin-branded socks to put on when your shoes came off. And they did come off! Michelle Conder even gave me the green light to order the amazing cowboy boots she had on because I loved them that much. 

Saturday was full of more great workshops. As an unpublished author I soaked these up for the amazingly valuable information they were and this year was no exception. I  couldn’t make it to them all, but I do recommend downloading Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ workshop on Great Characters: The Good, the Bad, the Believable and Sarah MacLean’s wonderful workshop: Mastering the Art of Great Conflict, one of the best workshops I’ve ever been to on conflict.

Saturday night were the RITAs which award the best books of the year.  Host, NYT Bestseller Simone Elkeles made me laugh and cry in equal amounts with her great stories and it was so inspiring to watch writers have their dreams come true being recognized by their fellow authors and readers.

Then it was Sunday and I was totally out of gas and headed home. It made me teary I won’t see my CP for months. But we’ll find a way to get together. We have to because laughing until I cry is now a prerequisite in my life.

My biggest lesson from my time in Texas is the same one I’ve learnt every time I get together with a group of fellow writers. Being with other authors is soul-affirming. That contact, that fun, that sharing of what we all love so much, it refills the well. It makes me want to get right back to the keyboard, which I did working on a new book.

So that’s it! A busy, awesome week. If you’re ever thinking about attending RWA – do it! From the workshops to the networking to the support, it’s played such a big role in my journey!

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been to RWA, or if you’re thinking of going!


  1. Jen, this was my second RWA national conference and my first as a published author, too. I found it so different from last year, when I was totally focused on soaking up as much knowledge as I could from the craft workshops. This year, I didn't get to attend nearly as many workshops as I wanted. There were meeting with my agent and editor to work in, as well as trying to get to a few of the publisher signings so I could gather swag for giveaways and corral a few authors for my Facebook release party. And many of the workshops I did attend were more business than craft focused, on stuff like how to use social media and cooperative marketing. No less rewarding, just a different focus, I guess, based on the different place I am in my career.

    And yeah, that Harlequin party was off the chain! I managed to keep my shoes on for 45 minutes. I thought that was pretty good. There's nothing like the charge I get from hanging with my fellow authors. I always come home refreshed and rejuventated.

  2. So true Regina! I did a lot more networking this year which was amazing because suddenly all these people you haven't met in person are there and it's such a great opportunity! I didn't stop dancing the entire party! And I still can't get Don't Stop Believing out of my head! Hope the Facebook party went great!

  3. That first dinner was a highlight of my conference, Jen! I loved seeing you again and meeting Victoria and Sri. Felt like sistas from another mista, lol!

  4. LOL Dani! totally agree! :) Thanks for dropping by.

  5. Really enjoyed reading about the conference, Jen. Sounds like you had an amazing time! It has certainly set me thinking about next year...! Andie

  6. Yes Andie! :) Yes, yes, Come! Would love that :)

  7. Jen, it was so good to finally meet you. And Sri was there? And I missed her? Damn it! Anyway, can't wait for NYC!

  8. And YOU Donna Alward! Getting to meet you was awesome! You were absolutely lovely to work with. Yes Sri was there but only for a quick flash visit. Hoping we'll all be in NYC next year for the full kahuna!