It finally happened: the last day of conference! *sniffle* Too soon! Still, I had to get up early, eat cereal and fruit (I ate sooo much fruit this conference) and head off to the first workshop, one I'd really been looking forward to: the Dress for Historical Success workshop at 8:30. I'd had to make some hard choices for this block, because it also occurred at the same time as Serial Vampire Bondage (Genre Mashups) and YA: Like Romance, But Different. I consider The Duke of Snow and Apples a mashup, because while it's technically a fantasy romance, it has the style and setting of a Regency historical, and I was worried about how I'd market that. As well, I'm already published in short-format YA, so I was considering taking a workshop there if I ever decided to go in that direction. You'd be surprised - mentioning my book was a fairy-tale retelling had a lot of people asking me if it was YA. Um, fairy tales are for old people, too!
Still, once I got to the workshop, I realized I'd made the right choice. What costumes! I apologize in advance for blurriness - my camera is also a camcorder and it can't focus worth a damn in dim lighting:
First, we had Coralie Jensen model the male Tudor costume - complete with codpiece! While all the authors modelled, they also explained each piece of the costume and what it was for (as well as how difficult it was to get through airport security).
Peg Herring displayed the female Tudor court dress, as well as how difficult it was to move around in - not only a corset, but a hard panel down the front that made it impossible to bend.
Next, last year's Golden Heart Historical winner Jeannie Lin (and author of October's upcoming Butterfly Swords) came out dressed in the fashions her heroine might have worn in the years of the Tang Dynasty in China.
Pam Nowak came out in an example of a middle class Late-Victorian dress that could have even been a wedding dress - women often chose black because then the thrifty brides could reuse the gowns. She then proceeded to show us her bustle (which, in the 1870s, was more of a cushion), and her undergarments, the hussy!
Show us your stays! Whoo! At the podium is Linda Joyce Clements, who's dressed as an American Prairie schoolmarm circa 1900.
Next, the lovely Isobel Carr modelled the late Georgian round gown (although she admitted she was missing some padding, it did not fit in her luggage). I had a bit of a mental breakdown at this point because I noticed a more-than-passing resemblance to Kalen Hughes, who I'd spoken with the day before. But - but her nametag says a different name! Okay, so I checked after the workshop and was relieved to learn, no, I wasn't going insane, Kalen Hughes is now writing as Isobel Carr after her last series died a painful death thanks to Wal-Mart.
Is it just me, or would this make a really cool historical paranormal cover?
Here's Julia Justiss, rockin' the Regency look.
Next, Leigh Stites modelled the costume her hero's mother, a Native American healer in the Old West, would have worn. She did a lot of research, she said, but she admitted that she also had to do a lot of guesswork.
Next, Judy Ridgley showed us the glamour of ancient Rome, relating how a wife not wearing a shawl over her head could be grounds for divorce, but that married women were the only ones granted the privilege of sweeping their hair up and parting it in the middle. Unmarried women had to wear their hair loose until they became a domina of their own household.
Another group picture - the woman seated on the right is Jade Lee, who was unfortunately unable to wear the clothing from China she brought - since they were worn by her own ancestors, people who could have easily saved their money and shopped at Gap Kids.
All in all, it was definitely a fun and informative workshop, with a big round of applause for all the ladies who had to smuggle all that cumbersome stuff in their luggage and through security/customs.
After this workshop - it was time to prepare for my very first Agent Appointment, with Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill, which was at 10:20. I went upstairs and jettisoned the giant RWA tote and just brought my Megapurse and my pitch cards. I went downstairs to where they were holding the appointments and discovered they arranged us all in lines according to when our appointment was. Some people were sitting quietly, eyes closed, in the zone. Others had folders and folders of stuff with them. I just had pitch cards and wanted to pitch to anyone who would listen, but not everyone wanted to pitch - I guess they were afraid they'd jinx themselves.
I was trying not to be nervous - nervousness gets me shaky, but it usually ends up making me better at whatever it is I'm planning to do. I've performed live in theatre and singing competitions before, so I know all that skittery energy ends up put to good use, but still...
The Agent Appointments were meticulously organized - so big props to RWA for that. All the agents were arranged alphabetically, so three minutes before our appointments, all the writers pitching at 10:20 were rounded up into lines according to whichever agent they were pitching, and led to the specific rows. And then we were set free to dash to our agents!
I went up to Jennifer Schober and shook her hand, and jumped right into my introduction and pitch: Hello, I'm Elizabeth Vail and I'm pitching The Duke of Snow and Apples, a 109,000 word single title Romance Fantasy.
The Pitch: In this gender reversed re-telling of "Snow White," Freddy Snow hides his aristocratic past and unusual psychic powers working as a footman for the eccentric Seven Dowagers. When he's tasked to serve a marriage-minded house guest, her unorthodox antics might expose him - but she just might be the Princess Charming to wake his heart from its frozen sleep.
I found that once I got into it, it was easier to speak it naturally, and not like I was reading from anything, which was a relief because while it sounds pretty, "wake his heart from its frozen sleep" was a little hard to deliver.
My impressions of the pitch:
1) Jennifer Schober is Canadian! Who knew! WE SHARE SOMETHING. That's good!
2) She liked the gender-reversed Snow White thing! She said it was a great idea, and marketable.
3) She was really interested in the Dowagers, and asked me about them, and hoped they would bring great characterization to the story - great news to me since I've been hoping I could base my series around them!
4) She said I was smart. SMART! S-M-R-T, I mean, S-M-A-R-T! She said it sounded like I knew my market and what I was writing and said how refreshing it was to come to conventions where the pitchers prepare everything.
5) She said this was one of the few pitches she heard where she could already visualize it!
6) She asked about me - this threw me a bit off track. I mean, I knew I wasn't only going to be talking about my novel for 8 minutes, but a part of me kept chugging talk about the book, talk about the book, talk about the book. I think I gave a good impression of myself - I mentioned my reviews, my education (English and Comparative Lit, because I loved reading and writing) and how writing and analyzing romance sort of self-taught me the different aspects of the genre and subgenres (the difference between paranormal and fantasy romance, for one thing). I also mentioned how important I felt internal conflict was, especially in a fantasy, where sometimes the external conflict can take over. So I think I made myself sound like I know my market!
7) SHE ASKED ME TO SEND THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS AND A SYNOPSIS! SHE REQUESTED A PARTIAL! JENNIFER SCHOBER REQUESTED A PARTIAL!
*happy dance* *happy dance* *happy dance*
She said she might not be able to get back to me until September because she's attending other conferences as well, but that she will get back to me. She at first requested the first three chapters, and I asked if she wanted a synopsis - she said yes, but that what she really cares about is the quality of the writing. YAY!
This made me even MORE supremely grateful to Jo Davis for her fantastic synopsis workshop!
I met up with MagdalenB after the Agent Appointments, and her pitch was a success, too! Double-Yay! We celebrated by going to the Fresh Mediterranean Market, which by 11:00 was still serving breakfast - which meant only one thing. CELEBRATORY WAFFLES. Boo-yah! During the meal, my mother called and texted twice about the good news (I'd tried to call her on the hotel phone after the pitch, but she was out).
To further celebrate, after waffles I went to the NAL/Sourcebooks signing. Wait, who am I kidding? I would have gone if I'd screwed up, too. LOL. My loot:
Oh yeah, you bet I got the new Jo Davis! Poor poor Cowboy Trouble, the only cover in the bunch without a naked man chest on it.
Because I wasn't paying attention to the clock, I did miss the first half of the What Came Before: The Art of Backstory workshop hosted by Winnie Griggs. I caught the last half, and it wasn't a total loss - I'm thinking of buying the conference DVD-rom anyhow, and she'd already said a lot about backstory and pacing in her So You Think You Can Pace workshop I attended.
Next, I went to the also-supremely-helpful My Manuscript is Done: What Do I Do Now? workshop hosted by Judy Baker. It gave me more info on synopses, as well as submission format and query letters. The basics of these are going into my submission packet to Jennifer Schober, because looking online, there are a suspiciously large number of "versions" to what is supposed to be "standard format" and Spencerhill doesn't give specific formatting guidelines. I think as long as my manuscript is clean, has clear information, and is readable, I won't do too badly.
Next, of course, came the St. Martin's/Grand Central signing! Loot loot loot:
And it turns out I got two Lori Wilde books by accident - I also got her Sweethearts Knitting Club from another publisher signing. Oh well! More books for me! It was good to meet Louisa Edwards - I'd heard a lot about her, and did I mention I love her goody room champagne glass? So drinking out of that when I celebrate my first sale. Also braved the line for Knight of Desire.
All in all, it was pretty good loot this year! I want to read all of these books, so regardless of how long they may end up sitting on my TBR, I think I swagged more responsibly than last year. I only got books I really, really wanted to read - I didn't just grab books because they were free.
I ended up forgoing the Talking the Talk: Writing Historical Dialogue workshop. I forwent a lot of workshops this time around - part of me felt guilty, but the ones I did go to had so much information. I also still have the handouts, and am seriously thinking about getting the Conference CD. I networked, I pitched (SUCCESSFULLY!), I learned, I sight-saw. I didn't get to do everything I planned - but that's ultimately what always happens at a conference. You can't see everything you want, and you may end up learning and seeing something useful that you hadn't planned on at all.
I spent the extra time shipping off my last boxes of books - and hey, I met Gaelen Foley in line at the shipping station!
But I was definitely going to the RITAs dinner ceremony! I got myself all purdy and followed Wendy, Rosie, and KristieJ - because as it turns out, Azteclady got us a killer table with a great view! Dinner was nice, although as my friends kept saying, "OMG this chocolate torte is too chocolatey!" I ate my pineapple slices with a little less enthusiasm (*grumble grumble*can't guarantee no nuts*grumble grumble*).
Actually, as much as I grumble, the server had initially said the torte had no nuts - but as tempted as I was, I knew I couldn't afford to get sick at a conference. I asked are you really sure? And he came back and said no and gave me the fruit plate instead. Even on the last day, there was so much to do, not to mention the preparations to make to leave the next day. If I had to forgo chocolate to see the conference through to the end, I would. *grumble grumble*
The RITAs were fun to watch and wonderfully hosted by Sabrina Jeffries, although only one person I'd picked to win actually won - Sherry Thomas for Not Quite a Husband. WHOO, Sherry! They also showed montages of all the Golden Heart-winning manuscripts that went on to be books (including one of Victoria Dahl's!).
And, while I was sad that Kate Noble's spectabulous (yes, good enough to require a brand-new word) Revealed didn't win, it did mean Julia Quinn (whose What Happens in London took home the trophy) got inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame, the award they give to romance writers who win the RITA in the same category three times. Julia Quinn is only the 12th person in 30 years to get the honour, so yay her!
Afterwards, everyone headed to the various lobbies and parties - some, like Wendy, Rosie, and KristieJ, retired early to get ready for their before-dawn flights home. Others stayed and partied - like me. My flight the next day wouldn't take off until 3:39, so I could afford to sleep in. Sherry Thomas let me hold her RITA. I met Courtney Milan and her gorgeous dress. I saw Smart Bitch Sarah for a brief instant. I walked all over the hotel (and even to the Swan because I'd heard of something going on the Japanese restaurant Kimonos) and glommed on to a lot of people. Partly to soothe my If I'm Not Socializing I'm a Cat Lady Without A Cat fears and partly because I didn't want the conference to end. It was too soon. I hadn't met enough people. I didn't remember enough people (although I had all their cards).
Soon, however, all things must end. I went to my room and Tweeted and Facebooked, and preemptively packed my bags so I could sleep in with more luxury the next day. I decided next year (if I had the money to go next year), I would get a roommate - killing both the Money and I'mSoLonely birds with one stone. I decided to wear my new Disneyworld t-shirt to the airport. I decided to order waffles for breakfast from room service. And then I went off to sleep.