Once a year, the Romance Writers of America association puts on a national conference. More than 2000 authors (from the 10,000+ total members), along with editors, bloggers, literary agents, and other industry professionals gather to talk shop, learn, network, and celebrate. The RITA and Golden Heart awards are announced, and much–MUCH–business is transacted.
The anthology, Dukes in Disguise, was born in the RWA conference hotel lobby in 2015. Another project, No Dukes Allowed, was born over a breakfast discussion this year (look for a novella antho next spring). The conference is exciting, exhausting, and tremendous fun. Good things always happen at RWA, but so, inevitably do some not-so-good things.
The RWA conference is stressful. Editors and authors who deal with each other long distance have this one chance to interact face to face. That can mean you learn at Conference that your contract won’t be renewed, or that your editor is leaving to work for a competitor. Aspiring authors have a chance to “pitch” their books to agents and editors, who might request to see the manuscript, or who might pass… again.
Emotions run high, and the “conference melt down,” is a thing. Before my first Conference, I’d read some “what to expect” article that warned that part of the deal for first-timers (and others) was to, at some point in the week, go up to your hotel room and cry.
“That is silly,” says me. “I’m a litigating buzzsaw of a tough old broad. There’s no crying at Conference.” Day Two, who was up in her hotel room, all teary-eyed over the experience of being fifty-plus years old, and for the first time of my life, not being any kind of Other in a professional space?
Above all, Conference is an experience of community. Over and over, I had a chance to say to a writing buddy, “I am so proud of you.” Julie Anne Long’s Aug. 29 contemporary, Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, earned an unheard-of five stars from the Reviewers at Romantic Times. Regency author Kelly Bowen won the long historical RITA with A Duke to Remember, and Laura Lee Gurke took the short historical category with No Mistress of Mine.
Other writing buddies achieved quieter milestones, such as finishing a manuscript, pitching for the first time, or getting their first request from an editor to submit a manuscript. In all of these cases, somebody I know has spent years pursuing a dream, despite tough odds, setbacks, rejections, and wrong turns, and their tenacity and courage has been rewarded. Now multiply that times 2000.
The lift I get from going around for four days with, “I am so proud of you,” on the tip of my tongue is tremendous. I’m proud of us, of my writin’ buddies and of the people who help get our books into the readers’ hands. I’m proud of the readers, who think stories about love and honor are worth paying for and enjoying. I’m proud of RWA, for being an umbrella under which a diverse and talented group of people can gather and be glad.
I am so proud of my romance community. To whom do you, or could you, say the words, “I am so proud of you”? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Too Scot to Handle, because I’m proud of that book too.