Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 219 - 13 Things About My First Writer's Conference

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.


Anne MacFarlane said...

Loved the pictures of the conference. Can't wait to go to another one AND to visit New York again!

Janet said...

Thanks for sharing, Julia - the pics and your description made me think I was right there with you.

Can't wait to hear more about your pitches and requests (Woo Hoo :)

Xakara said...

What an absolutely wonderful experience! I'm so happy for you and it's such an inspiring account that I can't wait to go to my first conference!


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Annette Gallant said...

Love all the pics and your notes about each one. I know exactly what you mean about it being a small world. I kept running into the same people over and over again, but then never saw others the whole time until it was pre-arranged. And isn't NYC fabulous? I'm already planning my next trip there! :)

Joy Renee said...

What an experience!

I'd be one of those quite socially challenged and added to visual impairment I'd need a companion who never left my side to preempt panic attacks.

yet i look on these pictures and wish--for what i'm not sure, maybe just being in proximity to other's who hold writing and the writer's life in high esteem or at least deep interest. I've nobody like that in my life off the blogs.

I think that maybe that has something to do with why crochet has taken over my life since 2009. For everybody who sees me working--at family events, restaurants, etc--ooh and aww over it and ask lots of questions among them How do you manage with your eyes?

That never happen with writing or blogging or reading. Of course none of those are cool to be doing at family events and such but when i answer questions about what I've been doing with anything about reading or writing I see faces and eyes go blank.

i didn't know anyone was still doing TT I guess i assumed when the hub went down it was done for. is there another hub or way to check in with your links? or is it just an insider group who know who they are?

thanx for your visit which came just as I've begun to get back into regular commenting on blogs. yours was high on my list to reengage with. tho i've lurked some in the last couple of years I pretty much dropped out in 2009 the year I spent 6 months helping care for my Mom after her broken hip and stroke. I'm there now for three weeks but duty is much lighter this year.

Travis Cody said...


I must tell you...Pam has started reading the Scorpius serial. The other day she said, "Won't it be great when we can buy one of Julia's books? I can't wait."

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