Friday, August 1, 2014

RIBS AND ROMANCE ON THE RIVERWALK: RWA2014



Boots and books at RWA2014!
Yee-haw, y’all! I’m just back from San Antonio and the Texas-size energy of RWA2014.  As Laurie noted earlier this week, you didn’t even have to attend Romance Writers of America’s annual national conference to feel the boost.  With major speakers—Sylvia Day, Cindy Ratzlaff, Karen Rose and awards ceremony emcee Simone Elkeles—dozens of workshops and the buzz of 2000 other writers, the inspiration was contagious.

I must admit I was a little distracted this year, though.  As my husband, Graeme and I sat in the airport waiting to leave D.C., we got an offer on the sale of our house in Virginia.  We spent a large part of the weekend texting and answering emails as we negotiated with the buyers through our agent.  I had to help my oldest daughter through a major work/life crisis at the same time.  In many ways, I was grateful that my hubby was by my side to help, but navigating the conference with a partner rather than solo created a different dynamic, too.

I did make it to a few workshops, despite all the personal business. Promotion was my focus, with a book coming out in February, and the same message was pounded into us at every turn: social networking is everything.  I learned a few points about connecting with readers, improving the blog and my website, and making sure my Facebook presence is through an author page, rather than a personal profile.  (And you tech savvy types you can smirk all you want; a year ago I didn’t know any of this stuff!)

I heard so much about Twitter I felt like I was in a bird sanctuary!  I still don’t want to do it.  I have two daughters who blow up my phone constantly—why would I want total strangers doing it?  And sharing my thoughts?  I can hardly keep them straight as it is.  Believe it or not, I think I’m more cut out for YouTube.  

Indie and self-publishing got a lot of much needed recognition in the workshops and award nominations, culminating in the first-ever RITA for a self-published novel for Carolyn Crane’s romantic suspense Off the Edge.  

SFR, in the form of steampunk, was well represented with nominations in the paranormal category of RITA, too, though the winner seemed to be a genre mashup/women’s fiction-y title (The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley).  It seems the new, stricter rules defining “romance” in the GH and RITA contests haven’t affected science fiction or paranormal romance as much as, perhaps, romantic suspense or inspirational titles.  There were glaringly fewer nominees in those categories than in others, while, of course, contemporary and historical romance had a surfeit of riches.  (Though apparently Golden Heart contestants also struggled to get it right in the contemporary category, as opposed to their more experienced pro sisters.  There were markedly fewer nominees in that category than in the past.)

The controversy over the narrowing of rules to better define “romance” seemed to find its voice in the chapter leadership workshops, from what I hear.  Chapter officials were not happy and let the National leadership know it.  Whether the protests from the rank-and-file will lead to further changes in the bylaws remains to be seen.

Some personal highlights:  

--Biggest disappointment:  No Laurie or Sharon to pal around with. (I did have my Golden Heart Firebird sisters, though, and fellow SFR Brigader Laurel Wanrow as stalwart stand-ins.)

--Second biggest disappointment: Not being able to volunteer at the Literacy Signing, something I’ve done for four years. (Guess the word is out that it’s the coolest gig at the conference—I registered early for the conference, but volunteer spots were already full.)

--Best fangirl/fanboy) moment: Talking with Psy-Changling series author Nalini Singh at the Literacy Signing. (Graeme and I are both big fans!)

--Most fun at a workshop: Self Defense for Writers and their Characters (with Cam Fawcett, Cathy Tully and  Rayna Vause), a hands-on demo from three high-level karate instructors that took fight scenarios from those authors present and acted them out. (As a martial artist, how could I resist?) 

--Best Party: As always, FF&P chapter’s The Gathering, a costume party blowout with great food, wonderful company and dancing! (This year’s theme was Steampunk Cowboys/Cowgirls, and Graeme and I were among the finalists in the costume contest.)

--Best food:  A tough one!  Was it fall-off-the-bone Texas BBQ ribs at County Line or amazing New Orleans etouffee at Luke? (Graeme had a platter full of five different kinds of meat at County Line—not a place for vegetarians!)

--Best tourist sidetrip: The Alamo, of course, in the heart of San Antonio.  (I count fellow Tennessean Davy Crockett as one of my heroes, so I had to make the pilgrimage.)

--Most inspirational moment:  Karen Rose’s Saturday morning speech, with quotes from letters readers have sent to her. (Makes me wonder if I’ll ever have the ability to affect people with my writing the way some of these authors have.)

So, next year in NYC?  Not so sure.  I’ll be moving next summer from Fredericksburg where I’ve lived for nearly 20 years to Marshall, NC, outside Asheville.  I’ll be promoting a new book, and I’ll need to reach readers more than other writers.  That may mean focusing on the Shore Leave STAR TREK con (August) in Maryland and the Romantic Times con (May) wherever it happens. If I don’t go, though, I know I’ll miss it.  Next to the joy of a good writing day, the RWA conference is just about the best fun a romance writer can have.

Cheers, Donna

10 comments:

  1. Holy cow, Donna. Now I'm REALLY kicking myself for missing the conference. And you got to meet Nalini Singh! That's so awesome. (Since we were bidding on a "Coffee Date" with Ms. Singh at RWA but were outbid, I'm so happy to hear you had a meet-and-greet anyway.)

    That martial arts workshop you took was led by a team that included one of our Brigaders, KM Fawcett. I'm sorry I missed that too!

    Thanks for this amazing wrap. Since I AM now planning to go to NY next year, looks like it will be my turn to go solo, though I'm sure other Brigaders, Firebirds and Starcatchers will be there. It's always like one big family anyway!

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  2. So we did MEET at RWA - I was the other Top 5 finalist in the steampunk costume contest at the FF&P Gathering LOL! (But not among the top 3) You and your husband looked terrific BTW. Great conference recap, hope the sale of the house goes well.

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  3. The FF&P Gathering has always been a great way of meeting other Brigaders.

    At the Orlando conference, I first met Sarah Shade, Laurel Wanrow and another member when the Brigade swept the costume category. That was a Steampunk theme, too! Somewhere there's a photo of us. It might be on the Brigade web site.

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  4. Yep, Brigaders were everywhere at the conference! Nice to meet you Veronica, even if it was in disguise!

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  5. Sounds like a blast! Wish Laurie and I could have been there. Congrats on the costume final!!! (Oh, and that house thing. ;)

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  6. Laurie, that photos is in my photo gallery on my author page!

    https://www.facebook.com/sharonlynnfisher/photos/pb.139529309402914.-2207520000.1407216141./141902405832271/?type=3&theater

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  7. Oh, I was at that Self Defense workshop, too. I thought it was fabulous, and wished it had been slated for two hours.

    Also, hello! I'm Sandy. I always feel weird when I randomly show up and comment on blogs. I was just doing a little research on sci-fi romance blogs, and this one popped up. I just joined FF&P and am hoping to learn more about sci-fi romance, which I like to call space urban fantasy. (I'm published in UF, and I'm going to try so, so hard to pull my current readers over into the space UF genre. :-)
    Nice to meet you guys.

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  8. Welcome, Sandy, to both SFR and Spacefreighters! No need to feel weird about commenting--random comments R us! Another great place to learn more about SFR is the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, an organization devoted to promoting SFR among both readers and industry pros. Check it out on Facebook!

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  9. Welcome to "the dark side," Sandy. :)

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  10. It was GREAT seeing you again, Donna. We need to do it more! Late popping in here, but love seeing the boots again! You inspired me and I got a pair, too.

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