Next week, a couple of thousand romance writers will converge at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for the annual Romance Writers of America national conference. In my opinion, it's one of the best parts of being a romance writer. For a few days we get to abandon the regular dance of write/feed people/write/do laundry/write/day job, and just hang out with other people who find it perfectly normal to shut themselves in a room and make up stuff.
But what exactly happens at these conferences? The short answer: a lot.The long answer: do you have an hour or two?
Let me share some of the highlights, with the able assistance of Miss Piggy.
Workshops. The conference is, first and foremost, a place to learn. There are approximately two hundred workshops over three days covering topics on craft, business, research, a writer's life, self-publishing, and more. There are sessions on breaking in and sessions for the multi-published. If you can think of a topic that has anything to do with writing, it will probably be covered.
Book signings. What's a writing conference without a chance to sell books? RWA features two types of signings. Conference attendees can attend publisher-sponsored signings – a highlight for many folks. But the real fun happens at the massive, almost-five-hundred-author signing that kicks off the conference. It's open to the public and all proceeds are donated to literacy. It's an amazing opportunity for authors and readers to connect while raising money for a fabulous cause.
Meetings. It's not just writers who attend National: scores of publishing professionals will also be in attendance. Many folks will meet with their editors and/or agents over the course of the conference. Many others will take advantage of the availability of these professionals to get to know them and possibly discuss ideas, either in formal pitch sessions or while waiting in a line/seated together at a table/hanging out at the bar.
Parties. Many groups (such as special-interest online chapters) and publishing houses will host events for their members/authors. It's hard to walk past a function room on a conference evening and not be greeted by music and/or laughter spilling out. But nothing compares to the Harlequin party. I have only attended one thus far (number two comes next week!), and let me tell you, I have never felt as appreciated, welcome, and totally spoiled as I did that night. They do it right.
Awards. Many of those parties will include a time when awards are handed out. They could be from a writing contest or they could be recognition of milestones, such as the Harlequin authors who are honored for writing heir twenty-fifth, fiftieth, or hundredth (or more) books. The biggest award show of them all happens on Saturday night, when the Golden Heart (for unpublished authors) and Rita (published) awards are announced in a red-carpet ceremony.
Friendships. Ask any author what she has gained from RWA and the National conference, and one of the first answers is going to be friends. New connections are made – in a workshop, while volunteering together, after sitting together at breakfast. Long-distance friendships are nurtured by the gift of time in the same room/state/country. As people who write about relationships, connections with others are important to us. Someone once told me that for her, the most iconic part of the conference was the squeal/hug combo that is repeated over and over throughout the days.
And that's just the big pieces, folks. RWA National is a jam-packed, exhilarating, exhausting whirlwind that's guaranteed to leave a writer - or a pig - refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to dive back into the work ahead.
Once she's fully recovered, of course.