I’ve been to more than twenty RWA national conferences (That’s Romance Writers of America for my non-writer readers). If you do the math, it means that a) I started attending before I was of legal drinking age, or b) I’m older than dirt. I’ll let you guess which is true!
Anyway, each year I attend, one of two things happens. Most of the time, I come home feeling excited and motivated about my writing and my career, armed with a mile-long To Do list that involves sending manuscripts here and there or following up meetings with phone calls/e-mails. Sometimes, however, I come home depressed and overwhelmed by the sheer number of writers trying to make it big versus the number who actually do. Sometimes, being in a hotel with 1,999 of my fellow writers can foster a “We’re-in-this-together” feeling of solidarity. And sometimes, I can simply feel like an insignificant speck (an untalented speck at that).
I’m pleased to report that this year, it’s mostly the former. I’ll confess to having a few of those “why-am-I-here?” moments. And at times I felt a little bit sad that so many of my old writing buddies weren’t there. Many people I’ve critiqued with over the years, or served with on chapter boards, or hovered over an ashtray with, have quit writing. A few have actually passed on. Some have succeeded so spectacularly that they have little time to hang at the bar because they are busy promoting or being wined and dined or giving generously at the national level (as it should be–I’d love to be in their shoes!) But things are definitely different, and sometimes those nostalgic memories of conferences past bring a tear to my eye.
But the one thing about conferences is that I’m constantly making new friends, hanging with new people, creating new memories. I attended many workshops this year and really thought they were excellent. Although I went one whole night without sleeping at all (no more red-eye flights for me!), I did my best not to overextend myself so I wouldn’t come home a complete wreck. I did a little sightseeing, a little bit of hanging out in the bar, had some nice appointments with industry professionals, and even spent some quality time stretched out on my bed with the remote in hand.
But here’s the stuff you really want to know about:
Elevators: Anyone who attended the previous RWA conference at this hotel (mid 1990s, I think) will remember the elevator horror. A circle of round, glass-sided elevators (more than a dozen) whisked up and down the forty-something floors, but it still took 30 minutes to get anywhere. This year was much improved. The elevators are computerized now; you put your desired floor in a keypad, and it tells you which elevator to stand in front of. While sometimes I waited 5-10 minutes, I was always able to actually get into my assigned car and wasn’t squished too much. One elevator did get stuck briefly but was quickly fixed.
Bathrooms: I NEVER had to wait in line for a bathroom. This is almost unheard of. The hotel staff changed many men’s rooms into women’s, so that helped. (They put screens in front of the urinals so as not to offend our sensibilities.)
Room temperature: Usually a bit on the cool side, but I had a sweater.
The bar: Good size, lots of tables for sitting and networking, but the prices were scary high. I know, this is New York we’re talking about.
Workshops: All those I attended were really good, as were the keynote speeches.
Food: I only had one of the luncheons. The vegetarian choice was pasta with spicy marinara and a heap of sauteed spinach. Yum. But BOOOOO on the no desserts. Last time RWA deprived us of desserts there was almost a riot. Attendees seemed to be more understanding this year, because we were warned that food and drink prices meant we had to cut back a bit. The petits fours served at the awards ceremony were a nice touch.
Annual Meeting: Short!
Buzzword of this year’s conference: Self-publishing.
Kudos to the conference committee and volunteers for all their hard work.
Now I am home, motivated and energized and ready to work!