Thursday, June 10, 2010

RWA National Conference 2010 - My Master Plan and Helpful Guide

It's that time of year again! Next month, I'll be going down to Orlando, Florida to take part in the 2010 Romance Writers of America National Conference. It took a while for the workshop schedule to show up on the website, but given that the entire conference had to shift from Nashville to Orlando in a very short amount of time thanks to the floods, I'd say the folks at RWA are doing a bang-up job.

Now that the workshop schedule is up, I've already obsessively planned my conference experience in advance! Similar to last year, this isn't an iron-clad, set-in-stone schedule. I may switch workshops, I may skip some in favour of others. I may meet up with an old friend (I made so many last year!) or even an agent. But, in a perfect world, here's what I'll be doing:

Monday, July 26th
Noonish: I arrive! I'll probably rest for a while if I wasn't able to sleep on my flight (departure time: one in the morning!), but then - DISNEYWORLD.

DISNEYWORLD! Probably Downtown Disney first, since it's open after dark and my Park Hopper passes are only for two days.

Tuesday, July 27th
All Day: Disney, Disney, Disney, DISNEY! Yes, I actually added an extra day onto my trip when I discovered the Conference would now take place in a hotel smack DAB in the middle of Disneyworld. The Magic Kingdom Park, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Epcot are all high priorities. I considered the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios until I discovered it's 80$ US a day. I'll take my chances on Park-Hopper passes with Disney. Yay!

Wednesday, July 28th
8:00am: Conference registration! Last year, as a newbie, I was amazed by registration. Listen close, newbies - with registration, you might just get a cool tote bag, a conference badge and lanyard and this year's conference pin (which is probably still the musical-themed Nashville logo), a flashdrive with the conference handouts on it, a full schedule for the conference, and free books. Yes, that's right. FREE. BOOKS.

Sometimes the lanyards come with an extra ribbon - last year I had a "First Timer" ribbon on my badge stating that this was my first time at the conference, and getting one basically means that for the next three days, 2000 of the nicest women in the world are perfectly willing to answer your questions, joke with you, and check to make sure you're getting where you're going and having a fun time doing it!

Another ribbon is the coveted "First Sale" ribbon, which you are entitled to if you sold your first book within the last year - I'm hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe, next year in New York I'll have one. Maybe.

However, while registration opens today, there aren't any workshops or events planned until later - today is Librarian's Day, where awesome folks like Wendy are showered with swag and first-born children for their valiant efforts to provide literary smut to us poor, empty-walleted readers.

So, 8:05am to 5:00pm: MORE DISNEY! Hopefully with other bloggers and author friends!

5:30 - 7:30: The Literacy Autographing. One room. 500 authors with pens and hopefully handheld heating-pads to deal with writer's cramp. A BUTTload of books donated by publishers. The Literacy Autographing event is HUGE and open to the public - you get to smooze and have books signed by your favourite authors, and all the proceeds go to charity! Watch out for raffles and other prizes too, I won one last year!

I'm already excited to see Jennifer Ashley (Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage), twitter pal Victoria Dahl, Tessa Dare and her new Stud Club, Jennifer Echols (I have an ARC of Forget You which I will be reviewing shortly after my RITA challenge, but I have a feeling I'm going to want an official signed copy to cherish for ever and ever), Lisa Hendrix (also awesome on Twitter), Julie James, Marjorie Liu, Courtney Milan, Christie Ridgway, Sherry Thomas - the list goes on an on. And on.

Afterward: I hit the RWA Online Chapter party! It's going to be off the hook, I'm sure.

After After that: More smoozing? You never know. Going to the nearest hotel bar, you'll be sure to run into someone you know or someone you'll want to know!

Thursday, July 29th
9:30 am - 11:00 am: Annual General Meeting. I honestly can't remember if I attended that last year. I remember last year had a great opening session with Janet Evanovich. Was that the Annual General Meeting? No idea. I'll probably be there regardless - mainly because this year is the 30th anniversary of RWA!

12:15 - 2:00: Keynote Luncheon. FOOD. Yay! Also - free books on the seats, courtesy of our Keynote Speaker, Nora Roberts. Hmm, this would probably be a good time to give her a second chance after I wasn't impressed by The Blue Dahlia. Luncheons are lots of fun - everyone is so friendly at RWA. I'm normally someone who is really nervous and skittish around new people but that was never the case at Nationals. Make new friends! Sit with new people! Listen to the interesting keynote speaker! Last year, it was Linda Howard, who probably made a lot of people squirt sweet tea out their noses with her hilarious speech.

Okay peeps, after the Keynote Luncheon, the conference gets down to business. While still lots of fun, people will be running back and forth to workshops and agent/editor appointments, so take lots of notes and learn all you can! Here's what I'll be doing:

2:00 - 3:00: Pantsers, Plotters, and Plotsers (CRAFT)
Speakers: Claudia Dain, Sabrina Jeffries, and Deb Marlowe
Three authors (a pantser, a plotter, and someone in the middle) will discuss the advantages, pitfalls, and lessons learned about each process—and how you can make your process work for you. I've decided to see this one because I am primarily a pantser (someone who writes without a set plan or outline, by the seat of my pants), and could probably do with some advice!

3:15 - 4:15: So You Think You Can Pace? How to Disco, Waltz and Hip-Hop with Words! (CRAFT)
Speakers: Laura Marie Altom, Margaret Daley, Michelle Grajkowski, and Winnie Griggs
Three authors and an agent will teach attendees how to give scenes page-turning quality by relating pacing rules through popular dances, which translates into maximum reader appeal. Most of the negative feedback for my novel concerns my pacing - sometimes I bog down in too much detail. Learning how to better pace my story is therefore a high concern.

4:30 - 5:30: Paranormals (CRAFT)
Speakers: Kelley Armstrong, Jeaniene Frost, Terri Garey, Colleen Gleason, Juliana Stone, and Cheryl Wilson
Crossing genres and markets with books that go bump in the night. Join New York Times bestselling authors Kelley Armstrong, Jeaniene Frost, and Cheryl Wilson plus paranormal authors Terri Garey, Colleen Gleason, and Juliana Stone as they discuss the nuts and bolts of writing paranormals and their enduring crossover appeal in romance, urban fantasy, and the young adult market. My novel is a paranormal, so learning the cross-over appeal of the paranormal and all of its related sub-subgenres, and from some awesome authors no less, would be a great experience!


The Tiny Art of Elevator Pitches: How to Craft Them and How to Use Them (PUBLISHING)
Speaker: Carrie Lofty
Learn techniques to creating an elevator pitch that is concise, effective, and memorable. Yes, I could learn about paranormals - but now that my manuscript is done, learning how to market and pitch my material is just as important and pitching is one of the first steps. Plus, Carrie Lofty is the shit.

Afterward: No more workshops for today, so now would be a good time to grab some dinner with new friends, bloggers, and authors. Or, if you're a member of a particular chapter of RWA, they might be having their annual party tonight. Check your schedule and keep up with your chapter buddies!

8:00 - Midnight: The Moonlight Madness Bazaar. Basically, it's where RWA chapters sell crafts and merchandise to raise money. I wasn't sure what to expect the last time I went, but found all sorts of cool stuff - jewellery, t-shirts, pins, hats.

Throughout the Night - You never really know where you'll end up. On this night last year, I ended up wandering into the Harlequin Pajama Party and winning a paperweight.

Friday, July 30th
7:30 - 8:30: Continental breakfast with the RWA! Bagels, baked goods, juice, that sort of thing - unless you have allergies like me, in which case the hotel usually compensates with fried potatoes, eggs and bacon! Why do I have the feeling more people are going to be claiming nut allergies this year?

8:30 - 9:30: Parade of the Paranormal (RESEARCH)
Speaker: Shannon Delany
Join author Shannon Delany to discuss lesser known beasties and paranormal powers, where to find resources and how to twist traditional tales and scientific studies to your advantage. This just sounds so interesting to me - it's easy to find places to research history for the Regency aspect of my novel, but tips on how research the lesser known myths and paranormal beasties in order to enrich my series' worldbuilding over future novels would be really helpful!

OR (maybe)

Submission 101 (CAREER)
Speakers: Catherine Mann and Joanne Rock
In this interactive, focus-group style workshop, attendees will learn the essentials of a selling submission package including query letters, story blurbs, synopses, and sample chapters. Yup - while I do love research and writing tips, this year I'm focusing more on learning how to market my material and this class could help. On the downside, it is two hours long so I may have to pass in favour of another workshop. If I get lucky, it might end up on the conference DVD!


Your Pitch Begins With You: Strengthening Your Pitch by Strengthening Your Presentation Skills (WRITER’S LIFE)
Speaker: Amy Atwell
Learn to prepare yourself physically and psychologically for an editor/agent pitch by using the same techniques as performers preparing to face an audience. Former actress and director Amy Atwell will get attendees to walk the talk in a basic Acting 101 style workshop. Again, pitching - I want to pitch well so agents will give me monies and put a pretty cover on my precious, precious baby! It also has the bonus of not being two hours long.

9:45 - 11:15: Avon Book Signing, Harlequin Book Signing. What is a publisher book signing, you ask, with wide eyes full of innocence? A publisher book signing is a mythical event where dozens of authors under a particular publisher all meet in a room and sign books for free. FREE. FREEEEEEEE. It's Halloween for Booklovers!

Ah, but don't get ahead of yourselves, my greedy bookworm munchkins. You must past three tests for the chance to claim your plunder: 1) The lines are usually HELLA long. 2) The rooms are frequently INSANELY crowded and 3) The organization of the each signing is up to the individual publishers so you might end up in a neatly-marked room where everyone gets a chance to browse, you might end up in a scratch-each-others-eyes-out free-for-all, or you might end up locked out thanks to a room capacity cap.

That's not to say it's not worth it - it often is. But some tips to remember: Don't be too greedy - books run out really fast. It would really suck for the gals at the back of the line to find out all the books are gone. Also, remember your airline's luggage weight limits and how much it might cost to post your books. Be respectful to the authors - they're giving away their books for free and crippling their writing hands to do it. It's also considered a faux-pas to simply grab a book off an author's pile without standing in line or having the author sign it.

Thirdly, remember your conference priorities
- this is a biggie. More often than not, you're going to find that at least one of the publisher booksignings will coincide with a workshop you want to take. I'm not saying don't go to any booksignings. I'm not even saying that booksignings have to be a lower priority - I met a person who went to all the signings and just bought the conference recording to make up for the workshops she missed. If buying the conference recordings and bringing home a hundred free books would make your year - DO IT. You've made up for your conference fee and even some of your airfare right there. HOWEVER - if there's a workshop that you feel could deal with a problem you've always struggled with, or offer advice you really think you need, or help you improve yourself as a writer - take the workshop. They're just free books - and more often then not you can trade with your new friends or have them score books for you.

11:00 - 12:00: Mining the Past: Researching for Historicals (RESEARCH)
Speaker: Joyce Moore
Examine sources for research — with a focus on transportation, currency, costume and other factors — that allow an author to create a believable setting for historical romance. Eh, there's about a 50-50 chance I'll take this - mostly because I took a similar workshop last year. You can never do too much research though. If not - this will probably be a good time to check out the Goody Room.

The Goody Room is the room where authors and publishers drop off free promotional materials for registered conference goers to take, free of charge! I'm talking bookmarks, candy, beer-bottle cozies, letter openers, booklets of excerpts, rulers, door hangers, gum, kleenex, pretty much anything that can fit an author's name on it - and even books, although they are few and far between and they vanish really quickly. Last year, you could drop in any time throughout the conference, and find new and different things each time. However, in the FAQs for this year, it says that attendees may only go through the Goody Room once, so I'm not sure.

12:15 - 2:00: Awards Luncheon. More good food, more good friends, and more free books on the seats from the Speaker Jayne Ann Krentz! This is the luncheon where they give awards to the awesome librarians, scholars, and journalists who helped promote romance.

2:00 - 3:00:
Taming the Man-Eating Synopsis (CRAFT)
Speaker: Jo Davis
Do you shiver in dread at the mere thought of writing a synopsis? An award-winning author will debunk common myths and demonstrate how to use mapping and flowcharts to tame your synopsis into a concise selling tool.
Frankly, I don't know the first thing about writing a synopsis, but I know I'm going to need one if I want to sell my novel so this is a pretty high-priority workshop for me.

3:00-4:15: Berkley Booksigning, Pocket Booksigning
Lucky me! No workshops catch my eye at the same time!

4:30 - 5:30:
Active Settings for All Genres and Subgenres (CRAFT)
Speakers: Dianna Love
Discover how to use deep point of view to turn ordinary descriptions into engaging prose that will give your setting an active role in the story.
Sometimes I have trouble with settings - particularly because I have to manage both an historical and a magical one!

EDIT: 6:00 - 9:00: The Gathering - this is the once-a-year-party for the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of RWA, of which I am a member. Dancing, awards, goody bags, and great food - and all with a steampunk flair!

Saturday, July 31st
7:30 - 8:30: Breakfast!

EDIT June 25th: 9:00 - 11:00: Agent Appointment!
I took the plunge, dear readers - I signed up for an Agent Appointment. I'm going to have to polish, polish, polish, practice my pitch, discover what a synopsis means. Terrifying - but I'm finally taking a risk in order to get my novel into the hands of an agent! I expect to get another e-mail letting me know exactly when within the 9 - 11 am period I'll have my appointment.

8:30 - 9:30:
Dress for Historical Success (RESEARCH)
Speakers: Elisabeth Burke, Isobel Carr, Linda-Joyce Clements, Peg Herring, Coralie Jensen, Julia Justiss, Jade Lee, Jeannie Lin, Pam Nowak, and Judy Ridgley
Authors put in hundreds of hours researching the correct clothing styles for their stories. This fashion show features costumes from a variety of time periods and will educate attendees on how to achieve historical accuracy in costume.
Fashion show? How can I NOT be there? Clothing is one of the things I've found most difficult to research, simply because it's so different, and I often can't identify a lot of fashion terms (still not sure what a flounce is). This could be a great place to learn and get more research sources.


Serial Vampire Bondage…Genre Mash-Ups: the New Big Thing (CAREER)
Speakers: Nina Bruhns, Cynthia Eden, Donna Grant, Lisa Renee Jones, Pamela Palmer, and Caridad PiƱeiro
Join a panel of multipublished masters of the mash-up who will discuss storytelling techniques for crossbreeding novels, the pros and cons of blending genres, and where and how to market these exciting new hybrids.
I'm definitely interested in how to market genre mash-ups - since my manuscript straddles the line between Historical and Paranormal.


YA: Like Romance, but Different (PUBLISHING)
Speakers: Tera Lynn Childs, Sophie Jordan, and Kathryn Smith
Three authors discuss the similarities and differences between the world of romance publishing and that of young-adult fiction, focusing on both craft and business topics.
While I'm currently writing adult romance, I haven't given up on YA. Most of my short stories have been YA, and after reading fantastic YA from the likes of Jennifer Echols, I can tell it's not nearly the shallow genre I ignorantly took it for.

9:00 - 10:30: Ballantine/Bantam Dell Booksigning
Not much chance of me making this one, what with the three workshops jockeying for position above. Oh well!

9:45 - 10:45: Finding an Agent as an Unpub (CAREER)
Speakers: Beth Cornelison and Lucienne Diver
Learn the do’s and don’ts of finding the right agent as an unpublished author, how to snare an agent’s attention, and the unique relationship between an agent and an unpublished author. This pretty much speaks for itself.


How to Write a Synopsis Using Narrative Structure (CRAFT)
Speaker: Jenni Holbrook
Agonizing over writing a synopsis? Learn how to break down the main story line using the basic narrative structure to write a short and concise synopsis.
Okay, this is more of a back-up workshop in case I can't make the synopsis-writing workshop on Friday.

11:00 - 12:00: World-building for Your Werewolf, Duke, or Small-Town Doctor (CRAFT)
Speaker: Tanya Michaels
Great characters deserve great worlds, and Tanya Michaels will teach you how to make your characters come to life through the use of a three-dimensional, memorable setting.
This one is also a 50-50 for me, since I've done a great deal of worldbuilding for my novel already and RWA doesn't provide lunch on Saturday. It's still a possibility though - one can always improve one's worldbuilding!

12:00 - 1:30: NAL/Sourcebooks Signing
Again, no prior commitments, so, provided I'm out in 45 minutes, I should be able to make this one, too!

12:45 - 1:45:
What Came Before: the Art of Backstory (CRAFT)
Speakers: Winnie Griggs and Wanda Ottewell
An author and editor show how to include backstory in a novel: what to include onstage, when to reveal it, and how to thread it through the story in a subtle, non-intrusive manner. The hero of my novel, The Duke of Snow and Apples, has a pretty significant backstory, and lots of my other future characters will have sordid pasts as well. I'd really like to learn how not to release it all in an infodump!

2:00 - 3:00:
My Manuscript Is Done: What Do I Do Now (CRAFT)
Speaker: Judy Baker
Do you have a finished manuscript but don't know what to do next? This workshop will take you through the process of pulling together a submission packet that will catch the attention of editors and agents. Again, pretty self-explanatory.


The Secret Life of Pantsers: Magic Tricks and Delightful Games (CRAFT)
Speaker: Kathleen Baldwin
Explore how your creative mind operates, and why some writers are pantsers and others are plotters. Both types of writers will benefit from discussing the tricks and tools that make a writer’s life easier.
As a pantser, I know I could certainly use some tips to make writing a bit easier!

3:00 - 4:15: St Martin's/Grand Central Book Signings
Hmmm, given my schedule, I might be able to make it, or I might not.

3:15 - 4:15: Talking the Talk: Writing Historical Dialogue (CRAFT)
Speakers: Madeline Hunter, Janet Mullany, Miranda Neville, and Lauren Willig
A panel of four best-selling historical romance authors will show you how to create period-perfect dialogue that both readers and publishers will buy. Something that might sound historically accurate to you, may sound stilted to others, and since my story operates from a traditionally Regency-esque setting, it would be good to get tips to prevent my characters from sounding wooden.

6:30 - 10:00: RITA Awards Dinner and Ceremony
Now this is a new one for me - last year, the RITAs didn't have a dinner - instead we had a ceremony with a reception afterward. But hey! Dinner! And awards! Since I'm pretty close to finishing my RITA Reading Challenge, I'll know just who to cheer for. Sabrina Jeffries MC's.

And After That: Not much. Goodbyes, mostly. Last year there was a blogger party after the RITAs, but I don't know what's arranged this time.

More Tips:
  • If you find yourself with spare time and no one to spend it with - that's a great time to mail your free books home! The hotel should be able to direct you to the nearest post office, or RWA may do what they did last time, and have a temporary post office set up in the hotel! Posting your books is always a good thing - some airlines may charge for heavier luggage, but others simply won't let you take your heavier luggage on at all. Best to play it safe!
  • Get as much sleep as you can!
  • Bring BUSINESS CARDS - and something to keep business cards in. Nearly everyone brings business cards to the conference and it's a great way to keep in touch, as well as introduce yourself to agents, editors, and other writers!
  • Be Positive! If you hated a book by a particular author, save it for your blog - but don't blab it all over the conference, because odds are, that author just might be there. The conference is for writers to network and learn and have fun. Opinions aren't necessarily unwelcome, but the conference isn't a reviewing environment. On the other hand, however, don't tell an author you loved her book, when you really didn't...


  1. Sounds like you will have a great time! Hopefully I will see you in NYC next year for RWA.

  2. Holy crow! I had NO idea the Literacy Signing list was posted. Wahooey! So glad I swung by your blog this evening!

    I'll second what you said about priorities and goals. Very sound advice there.

    Re: Blogger party - yes there will be one. I'm thinking it will be a Blogger Bar Bash - probably after the Lit. Signing since some people only show up to attend that. We'll plan to meet up at one of the hotel bars, get our drink on, and just hang out. Low key, low stress, and whoever can show up will. Anyone (even if you don't blog) welcome. I'll post details (such as they are - ha!) on my blog soon. Also, I'm pretty sure KristieJ and SB Sarah will plan something for The Second Wearing Of The Mullet Wig.

    Re: Librarians Day - LOLOLOLOL! And yes, everything you've heard is true. The librarian goodie room swag = off the hook.

  3. Anonymous11:33 PM

    I've already done a color-coordinated schedule with Thursdays events starting in red, then orange, then gold, Friday in greens & blues, and Saturday in purple & pink. It doesn't help me know what to go to, but it looks nice while I'm scratching my head.

    Maybe I'll see you at one of the pantser workshop!

  4. I haven't seen all the bloggers that will be there yet - but I will be - and looking forward to seeing you again.
    I hadn't gone to many workshops before - in fact *um, ah* one in 3 years, but I attended quite a few at RT and really enjoyed them so I'm making a fersure to get to more this time 'round.

  5. Anonymous6:12 PM

    hope you have fun!!! don't forget to blog about everything afterwards! can't wait to hear how it goes!!!

  6. Anonymous6:12 PM

    hope you have fun!!! don't forget to blog about everything afterwards! can't wait to hear how it goes!!!

  7. I'm a first-timer that is so excited to get to attend this year! Funny, I put together my own itinerary with all the workshops, food, and other adventures I hope to take in. I figured I'd be the only one. Good to know I'm not alone.