Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Time to Remember

My first con was the 2004 NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. I’d been weighing going or not, but when I got the call from Anita Sugden that I was a finalist in the “Other” (Paranormal/Futuristic Category) I was determined to scrape up the money somehow. Thankfully my birthday soon followed (and I’d told everyone my good news) so my family and friends helped bankroll my trip and the registration. I had a blast!! And I got to meet my friend Kathleen Nance in person, though I forgot the camera to mark the memorable event. (I’m still kicking myself.) NJ marked the first time I had to shuffle between programs, making pitch appointments and also got treated as a “star”. Let’s just say I could get used to the later. Lol!

I went to NJ in 2005 as well and was surprised by the growth. It seemed like the number in attendance had doubled. And the roster of talented presenters as well as editors/agents for pitch appointments had gotten even better. I got to meet Kelly Harms and thought we hit it off, since she asked to keep my pitch card. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. The constant rain and a car mishap (hopping along the NJ Turnpike) did put a damper on my working getaway. But I got to see NY (as an adult)! Let me just say that hoofing it everywhere in the wrong shoes can cause big problems! After our adventure taking NJ Transit and winding through NYC in search of places I’d seen on TV, we arrived back at the room to frantic calls from home. That day was one of the times when there had been threats of subway bombing, so my mom was definitely glad when I gave her the all clear :0) I’m saving Subway hopping for my next NYC visit.

I thought these two conferences had worked out the kinks for trying out the big-time of RWA Nationals in Atlanta. Boy was I wrong!! Sure I’d heard the horror stories, including those poor hapless writers who’d been trapped in elevators by droves of Mary Kay consultants. Let’s just say, I’m glad I had a color-coded, daily schedule mapped out for Nationals or else I wouldn’t have known which way was up (partially due to wardrobe changes). And once again I had a shoe mishap. I’m hoping no one outside my room could tell I was battling major blisters that covered the entire soles of both my feet. They were so painful I teared up more than once and didn’t even want to walk! Not to mention sleeping with my legs elevated to see if I could ease the pain. Since I’d brought my bf along for the adventure, this wasn’t exactly romantic. To add to the hectic whirl of Nationals, we got propositioned by a homeless man, my bf almost got taken out by an SUV and when I picked up my car from the parking garage it was full of ants. I was smacking them every time they poked their little heads out on the way to FL for our family vacation. One of the funniest times during this week was when my bf was the lone guy with a gaggle of HCRW/CRW chaptermates and a few of our friends for dinner at PittyPat’s Porch. Let’s just say, he came away from conference feeling like beefcake. (I told him next time he’d have to wear the 100% Beefcake shirt I got him for V-day.) And he told me that he got to ride in the elevator with a big-time author who was relieved he didn’t recognize her. I’d pin that person as NR, who I got to see across the lobby. Other notables I got to meet were P.C. Cast, the infamous Chris Keeslar, Gena Showalter (bow down), Tracy Farrell from HQN and Lucienne Diver! You wouldn’t believe who you can rub elbows with when the stars align (with the occasional help)!

I know I’m definitely looking forward to DC next year. And I think it’s a hoot that the hotel is right next to the zoo, since that’s what the week will seem like in the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

If any writers out there would like to start out on a smaller scale, I’d also recommend Moonlight and Magnolias. Last year the conference was chaired by Diana Love Snell, and I’ll just say everything was stellar. Though what caught my eye off the bat were the names of published authors and agents/editors that would be in attendance. And who doesn’t love to put a buck in for a raffle when the prize is a critique or communication with said fabulous people. I will admit my head did get a little loopy, but I grounded myself by doing a night class on collage. The instructor liked mine so much she showed it off to everyone. And eventhough we got goodie bags to rival Nationals, I made sure my bf didn’t forget my collage and handled it with care. (BTW, you’ll get to see this in a later post.) That definitely helped calm me down for my one-on-one pitch with industry icon, Kate Duffy. Just as I’ll never forget that momentous occasion, I’ll never forget the way we all scattered to watch the season finales of Grey’s Anatomy, CSI (to see if Sarah died) and Ugly Betty.

So overall, start small if you want to ease into the waters of a conference. Also, make a schedule if you can get your hands on the programs and events beforehand. Making goals for what to accomplish is also a must, since you want to make the most of your time! Keep all your receipts so you can take off those tax deductions and socialize with others. Just make sure you look professional (no jeans please, unless you’re Suzanne Brockman) and are always polite!

__________________

I’d hoped to go to RT this year, but alas the funds didn’t materialize. So it’s on my list of future cons to do along with DragonCon and the Chesapeake Romance Writers’ Fantasies by the Sea Conference!



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2 comments:

Savanna Kougar said...

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. Due to the way my life has gone, I've never been able to attend any writer's conference or seminar. Too bad, so sad. That's my current motto.
Although, I have to say at my age, I wouldn't really give two hoots about looking professional, doing the suit thing. And my feet would definitely come first in the comfort department.
Good thing e-publishing doesn't require my dress code compliance, I'd be in real trouble.

Cheryl Brooks said...

Oh, Savanna!
I am so with you on the feet thing! I've never been to any sort of event, and if I had to wear heels, I probably wouldn't go!
Cheryl