So it’s a little less than a week since I got home from RWA15 in New York. My mind and body were depleted and yet strangely energized as well. Last year – as an RWA conference virgin – I was too excited to appreciate the networking going on around me; too excited meeting my favorite authors in the flesh; too excited to realize what an unbelievable opportunity the conference was to enhance my career.
This year was different on so many levels. Oh, I was still excited beyond belief at meeting my favorite authors- and some new ones – but I took the opportunity afforded me and branched out in several ways to advance my writing career.
Last year the workshops I attended had more to do with seeing the well known authors presenting them. I took no classes on craft, marketing or the business of publishing. This year, those were the only classes I sat in on.
Last year I stood in line for 2 hours to get Nora Roberts’ autograph at the Literacy signing. This year I volunteered at the event and was thrilled to be assigned to one of my favorite authors of all time, Jayne Ann Krentz. I learned more from watching her interact with her fans for just 2 hours than I could have learned in years in public relations courses. She showed me – up close and personally – what it’s like to be on the other side of the publishing/writing curtain (like that little Wizard of Oz tie-in??!). As a fan I’ve always seen just my own reaction to meeting a writer one time. Ms Krentz had to deal with hundreds of fans all individually and uniquely excited, and wanting her to know what her writing means to them – and stay up beat, focused, and gracious, which she was to every single one of them. She never refused to have a photograph taken, or listen to a story about a particular book of hers, or even offer some advice to a fledgling author ( moi!), and her beautiful smile never slipped. By observing how she handled herself during those 2 hours I know precisely how to conduct myself during a book signing. Thank you so much, Jayne Ann Krentz!
From my PRO-retreat workshops I learned how invaluable branding, social media, and marketing are to a writer – whether she be multi-published or fledgling. Anna Alexander and Catherine Bybee were deep wells of information regarding these topics and if I came away with anything to remember during this conference it was this: “A person needs to hear your name 7-10 times before it’s recognizable to them.” Thank you, Catherine Bybee, for this gem. My tweets have increased 100-fold, as have my other social media alerts all because of this statement.
I met with my “dream” agent at a pitch session- something that put terror into my little heart. Not because of the agent, but because I was so nervous about “putting myself out there.” I don’t like to talk about myself – a dumb thing to hear from a blogger, eh?! But on paper you don’t have to look at me and I don’t have to look at you. It’s all fairly visually anonymous. I don’t get nervous when it’s on paper ( or the laptop, really). But face to face is another story entirely. Anyway. Despite my nerves, the agent was lovely, gracious and sweet. I’ll let you know in the future if things progress on this front.
One last memory that will live with me for the rest of my career is the workshop I took with Christie Craig. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog how I think she should be the keynote speaker at next year’s conference and here’s why: this woman is an inspiration in more than just writing. Her personal journey through life and in her writing career could be made into a must-see television movie for the Hallmark Channel. It would win its time slot for the night, week, month and year. I have always put forth my own writing TAO called NGU NGI ( never give up and never give in.) Ms Craig lives this TAO every day and boy, does it show in her success. I think we can all use her as an example.
RWA16 will be in San Diego – a town I’ve visited before and loved, so I can’t wait to go. Maybe next year I will be an author participant in the literacy signing. If so, I will remember what I learned from Jayne Ann Krentz about how to conduct myself with fans.
Thank you RWA, Jayne Ann Krentz, Christie Craig, Kristan Higgins, Tracy Brogan, Jill Shalvis, and all the other amazing authors who presented workshops, spent a little time with me out of class to answer any questions, and to my wonderful, talented NHRWA chapter-mates who all journeyed south to NYC this year.