1 - My trip to New York a few weeks ago was a conference trip - not only my first visit to NYC, but my first-ever conference.
My writers' association - Romance Writers of America - holds an annual conference at a different location each summer. These are booked several years in advance, and when I saw a few years ago that the 2011 conference would take place in Manhattan, I promised myself I would make things happen so that I would be in a position to attend, pitch my books and see one of cities I've longed to visit since I was a kid.
2 - The conference hotel was the New York Marriott Marquis, which meant my address for five glorious days was on Broadway and 7th Avenue.
Pictured here is the Atrium Lounge where writers gathered informally to meet up and chat. Out of camera range but at the top beneath the row of lights is the Encore Restaurant, where I enjoyed several breakfasts and one yummy lunch.
3 - One of the more amusing aspects of a conference for writers is the reality of introspective people pushing themselves out of their comfort zones in order to network, which is one of the main reasons to go to a conference in the first place.
Prior to the conference, I encountered quite a few how-to-survive-the-conference guides for attendees who find socializing a bit of an ordeal.
Here's a way around that - make close friendships in Blog World and then finally meet In Real Life. It's SO exciting! This is my first real-world chance to sit and have coffee with Christina Brooke, who once blogged at The Popculturedivas with me.
4 - But when you do make new connections, it shines a light on your conference experience. I bumped into Georgia Romance Writers president Nicki Salcedo in the goody room (where you can pick up promotional items like bookmarks, pens, etc.) thinking she was my cousin Julianne until I looked up.
"I can't wait to meet my twin," she said, so when Julianne came by we took this shot.
We continued to meet up all through the conference - it was great fun.
5 - The conference ran workshops from 8:30 - 4:30, and this one was my favorite by far.
Any guesses as to why...?
6 - We had a great turn-out from the Maritimes, and the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick writers gathered to share breakfast together. There were about 15 of us altogether.
7 - The huge booksigning fundraiser was open to the public as well as to conference goers, with proceeds going to adult literacy programs. The authors were arranged alphabetically, so big names were sitting next to debut authors, which gave a sense that we're all in this together - a wonderfully empowering sight.
8 - It was such a joy to see so many authors from my local chapter, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, signing at the literacy event.
Here I'm pictured with Harlequin and Samhain author Donna Alward.
Also from Down East - Tor author Taylor Keating.
My cousin, St. Martin's Press and indie author Julianne MacLean
New Brunswick author Stella MacLean, who writes for Harlequin
9 - My greatest challenge for this conference was to score requests during my agent / editor pitches.
Thankfully, my dear friend Kelly Boyce was pitching at the same time as me for the afternoon session, so she sat next to me and calmed me down when she noticed a telling shaky breath as I tried to become Zen-like.
Thank you, Kelly! Not sure what I did for you in return, other than provide a distraction, perhaps.
RWA thankfully scheduled this pitching workshop the day before, presented by Carina Press author Carrie Lofty. It really helped me to reshape my pitch presentation.
It also REALLY, REALLY helped to have two wonderful roomies who listened to my practise pitches the night before.
These workshops stood out amongst many wonderful sessions I attended.
10 - There were several keynote speakers, including the opening session featuring historical thriller writer Steve Berry, historical time travel writer Diana Gabaldon and medical thriller writer Tess Gerritsen.
Paranormal and urban fantasy writer Sherrilyn Kenyon gave an inspirational speech unlike most any I've ever heard (but very similar to the students-introducing-ourselves-to-our-film-school-professor thing where one of my fellow students told us how his family had been attacked by pirates as they escaped Cambodia.)
Among the service awards given out by RWA was the Librarian of the Year Award, for supporting the romance genre.
Wendy Crutcher from Orange County, California received this year's award. Go, librarians! I found myself thinking of my own childhood spent at the downtown Dartmouth library as she honored a librarian who was influential in her decision to pursue that career.
The Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot was the glamorous host of the awards night ceremonies.
Receiving the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement award was Sharon Sala, who told a very cool story about seeing a wolf totem as a girl - I tend to get animal totem messages in my life, so her story was completely awesome.
I also cherished the moment when she mentioned that her late husband leaves her pennies to find here in this world. As soon as she'd said it, Annette sitting on my left and Kelly sitting on my right both silently tapped me in unison, neither one knowing the other was echoing her gesture.
The reason they tapped me is because I also get spirit world messages in similar fashion. Just wanted to say how wonderful it is to have friends who know me that well - you guys are awesome.
11 - All glammed up for the Ritas - that's Carina Press author Kelly Boyce and yours truly.
My elegant cousin, Julianne MacLean.
My local chapter president Annette MacPhee-Gallant and new chapter member Carol, with Anne MacFarlane snapping pix.
Some of my local chapter who managed to snag a table together:
Back row L to R - Dawn, Annette, moi, Kelly, Carol
Seated L to R - Julianne, Daisy Piper, Anne
12 - This conference was full of little moments that reinforced the It's a Small World After All theory.
As I wandered through the leviathan-sized literacy signing with my sister, I heard someone call my name. It was Toronto Romance Writer Leah Braemel, a blog friend I'd met In Real Life on a trip to Toronto. On my first day in a city I'd never visited before, someone recognized me in a gigantic crowd. Huge world shrinking to comfy-cozy size - commencing.
In one of the many snaking line-ups to get into the various publisher book signings - where, for example, St. Martin's Press authors signed free books for their rabid fans - I found one of my chapter mates, Heidi.
Stumbling in the too-early-for-it-be-considered-vacation hours, I found my other chapter mate, Deborah Hale, who received her 25th book pin from Harlequin during the conference.
Snagging snacks and gifts for people at home, we bumped into our chapter prez Annette, who accepted our invitation to come up to our room and chill. With ice cream.
13 - My first writers' conference couldn't have been sweeter. A city I've always longed to visit, a room with a rockin view, a dream-come-true ballet performance and requests for partials of my work.
Time to live my life.
Join me next week when I share more memories from New York City.