by Kiersten Hallie Krum
Tomorrow, I (and a few other Lady Smut bloggers) am off to New York City and the Romance Writers of America’s national conference, aka RWA15. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say this is basically the highlight of my year. My first “Nationals” was in 2011, the last time it was hosted in NYC, and it was a crucial move forward for me in pursuing my goal of being a published author. Crucial both professionally and financially, because this conference is not cheap, but what conference is?
Many authors are introverts, which is one of many reasons why they’re so comfortable spending hours and hours and days and days alone at the computer playing with their imaginary friends. But as introverts, they are daunted by the very idea of conferences and the massive amounts of people (RWA15 is sold out with 2000 expected attendees) crowding through the hotels and ballrooms and meeting rooms and sidewalks. I’ve seen lots of helpful, well-meaning tips in the last few weeks advising introvert-inclined writers on how to handle the pressure and anxiety of a huge event like this and I think that’s terrific. One of the many benefits of social media particularly is the opportunity for people to share what they’ve learned from their own experiences to better improve another’s journey.
Here’s the thing: I’m not an introvert and I love conferences. While I’m just as happy as the next person to burrow in my cave and not have to deal with people, I am, at heart, a performer and I feed off the energy of being in a group, or more accurately, being in front of a group. I love the increasingly interesting and informative workshops on offer, the networking events, the dish, the flow, the ebb. It makes me a better writer, a better professional, and a more informed industry participant. I’m not one for pitching to agents and editors at Nationals–too much pressure for any already full event–but I do enjoy getting to know new people, learning about new authors in every subgenre, meeting industry legends who have inspired me, spending time with people I’ve only known through social media, and always, always, talking about romance.
Sure, I get as tired and weary as the next person at a large event like this. Two years ago when RWA was in Anaheim, CA, I hit a wall of frustration and decamped to out ghetto suite (two connected rooms) with my roommates and friends where I dozed in the chaise with a cup of wine until the delivery pizza arrived while they chatted away about child rearing. But I’m just as inclined to sit in the hotel bar for an afternoon and chat with whomever wanders by. I want to be in the thick of it as much as I can.
Since adolescence, when I first started reading romance novels, my proclivity for the genre has been mocked and ridiculed, shamed and denied. In junior high, I hid those old skool Zebra clinch covers upside down on my Trapper Keeper, only to have a friend snatch it up to mercilessly poke fun at it and me for reading it. (Said friend is now a renown and successful author of YA novels). One family vacation, my aunt and uncle expressed concern to my parents about my reading choices. They read part of a Woodiwiss novel and, one rape seduction scene later, forbade me to read the whole genre. (My mother also forbade me to listen to “secular” rock, so you can see a theme here.) This only made me find better hiding places for my books, but still. There’s always been a taint of shame with reading romance, a feeling that I was doing something less and thus was less for it.
The first time I attended a romance writer’s meeting and conference, I knew that I had found my people. Other women who knew the same stories and characters that I did, who loved the same big declaration scenes that I had shivered over, who understood the language and the tropes and the good and the bad and the old skool. Who taught me (and continue to teach me) that romance novels are ultimately feminist fiction and that every woman deserves to be the heroine of her own story.
Going to RWA Nationals is all that on steroids. The Mother Ship calling me home.
Want to get a taste of RWA15? Come by the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square for a helluva big signing with 450 romance writers. The 2015 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing will be on Wednesday, July 22, from 5:30 – 7:30 PM in the Westside Ballroom. The event is open to the public, but come early to get a spot in line.
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