Almost two months after the RWA conference in Atlanta, I have finally collected my thoughts enough to offer some kind of postmortem on those intense 4-5 days. At least to compile a list of the things I am most likely to remember–from the serious to the frivolous, from the ridiculous to the sublime.
So, in no particular order:
15 Things I Discovered While in Atlanta for the Conference
1. More than 2000 people in an enclosed space, even one as large as the Marriott Marquis, generate a powerful amount of noise.
2. Atlanta natives can be the nicest, most helpful people imaginable–from the security guard who personally escorted me across the skybridge from the Hilton to the Marriott so I’d know how to get there to the woman on the street corner who gave Hopelessly Lost, Confused Me the clearest, most comprehensible directions to my intended destination. (Yes, there were some folks who were less than helpful and a few that were downright rude, but by and large, I was favorably impressed by “the kindness of strangers.”)
3. Mary Jo Putney, a historical romance author whose work I’ve long admired, is as classy and gracious in person as her books and blogs suggest. Not only did she provide a lovely quote for my soon-to-be-released book, she invited me to sit at her table during the RITA Awards ceremony on Saturday night when she received the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. I was delighted to accept, and met several other authors that evening, including Cara Elliott and Jo Beverley, who were also very gracious. Romance is a very welcoming community, on the whole.
4. RITA awards are heavy–yes, I got to hold Ms. Putney’s for a few seconds. The metal ones presented today are manufactured by the same company that manufactures the Oscars. (According to Eloisa James, they used to be made of chocolate.)
5. Kristan Higgins, the contemporary romance author, is a terrific public speaker, delivering a sometimes humorous, sometimes heart-wrenching talk on how romance novels comforted and sustained her during some of her most difficult times.
6. Cathy Maxwell, the historical romance author, is no slouch either: she spoke movingly of a man who’d been a brilliant artist but who lacked the confidence in himself even to sign his name to his works.
7. A hybrid career–combining traditionally published and indie-published works–has much to recommend it, at least in theory. Especially if you have a head full of stories, some of which might be too offbeat to appeal to mainstream publishers.
8. Forms of social media are more numerous and confusing than ever. (This may not be news to anyone else, but I felt obscurely comforted to know I wasn’t the only person bewildered by Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and their ilk.)
9. There are more ways to get your work out there and in front of readers than could have been imagined just a few years ago.
10. No one understands a writer quite like another writer.
11. Book signings can be feeding frenzies, especially when the books are free.
12. The Georgia Aquarium–the world’s largest, apparently–is all kinds of awesome, especially the Cold Water gallery that houses sea otters, beluga whales, and South African penguins.
13. Don’t set foot outside in Atlanta during the summer without looking out the window first. Checking the Weather Channel beforehand is probably a good idea too.
14. The “plane train” at the intimidatingly large Atlanta airport is a great way to get from place to place. (I just wish I’d known about it before I walked the 100 miles or so from the terminal to domestic baggage claim on my arrival.)
15. Writing is the wellspring from which everything flows. A simple but fundamental truth that can too often get lost in the flurry of marketing, promotion, and social media. And yet this is something that every writer emphasized in every session in which the subject arose. Tell your stories. Tell them to the best of your ability. Protect the work. Don’t let being an author get in the way of being a writer. Nora Roberts was particularly vehement on the subject, saying that one mistake she thinks beginning writers are making is focusing too much on “market, market, market” and not enough on “story, story, story.” Words to live by, Ms. Roberts.
Well, that’s all for Atlanta, folks! Maybe a year from now, I’ll have a similar list for the San Antonio conference. Hope to see some of you there!