RWA 2018: Keepers of Dreams

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Susanna here, still trying to figure out what time zone I'm in, with a Very Large cup of coffee on my writing desk and a Very Happy (if slightly Reproachful) poodle curled up on my lap.

Whilst a number of my fellow Wenches were over the pond at the Romantic Novelists' Association conference, I headed off (alone, I believe?) down to the States, to the Romance Writers of America's National Conference in Denver, Colorado.

I had a grand time. I was going to try to gather everything into a coherent and eloquent post, but several days spent in the glorious company of so many other writers and industry professionals has apparently had an effect on my brain, so this will most likely be a little disjointed (sorry).


One of the very first things I had the privilege of doing, when I arrived at the conference last Wednesday, was to share high tea at the Brown Palace Hotel with the finalists for the Golden Heart Award in the Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance category: Elizabeth Chatsworth, Megan McGee, Anna Murray (who won the award the following day), Gabrielle Luthy, Susan J. Bickford, Brenda Lowder, and Denny S. Bryce (Janet Jimenez was also nominated, but was unable to make it to the conference this year. I'll add a link for her when I'm able to find one).

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This photo was taken after the wait staff had taken away the trays of tiny sandwiches and cakes, otherwise everyone's faces would have been hidden! It was lovely to meet and get to know these women, especially since my own first breakthrough came with winning the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize—which, like the Golden Heart, was for unpublished manuscripts—a quarter of a century ago. Really a wonderful start to my conference.

SusannaKearsley_BellewetherElevatorWrap_CroppedAnd THEN, inside the hotel itself, I saw THIS, which nobody had warned me about. It's called an "elevator wrap", usually reserved for the Very Big Books And Authors, and when I walked past that elevator door I did a double-take that nearly knocked me flat. And then I just stood there and stared.

Like the first time your book gets a page of its own in the publisher's catalogue, or the first time your book goes on a major bestsellers' list, this was a moment to hold and remember.

I presented two workshops at the conference—one on my own, on how to get the research details you need while travelling at speed and on a budget, and another on Finding the Romance in Real History, which I presented together with Beverly Jenkins—a writer who's a master of the art of making history live and breathe upon the page, with happy endings for my romance-loving heart.

RWA_Denver_3aI got a smile out of the fact that, even though we hadn't planned to, we both showed up for our presentation in coordinating black-and-white outfits, with red shoes…and we were even wearing almost-matching bracelets bought from the Etsy shop of our friend and fellow writer Bree! (Beverly's bracelet has her personal slogan "Slayer of Words" on it, while mine reminds me daily to "Just Breathe").

RWA_Denver_6On Friday evening, my American publisher Sourcebooks treated all of its authors who were there to a special dessert-and-drinks evening, held again at the Brown Palace Hotel, which I was more than happy to return to. This time, we were in a private room upstairs, with leaded stained glass windows and wood-panelled walls, and the hotel's own storyteller there in full costume to give us some tales from the hotel's long history, with ghosts and love featuring equally.

RWA_Denver_5She did a wonderful job, but the highlight for me was the impromptu private tour we were taken on afterward by head server Dennis Milus, who gave us a behind-the-scenes look at his favourite spaces, shared some interesting details (including how many old light bulbs they have stored away to keep the antique fixtures operating into the foreseeable future), and told us all the story of an elderly couple who came back to celebrate their anniversary, many years after their marriage, and how he and the hotel staff arranged to make it extra special for them.

I won't spoil the story, in case you ever go to the Brown Palace, because it's the kind of a story best told by the original teller; by the person who was there and had a hand in its creation, so you're best to hear it straight from Dennis.

But I don't think it will spoil the story if I share a little part of how it ended.

RWA_Denver_8The next morning, after all the staff had worked their magic—and it was magic—Dennis told us he was running his section as usual when the elderly lady came to thank him, and she said to him that he had an important job at the hotel. He told her that it wasn't that important, he was only the head server, and it only maybe looked important to her because he was always giving orders…

No, she said, that wasn't what she meant at all. It was important, what he did…because he was in charge of people's dreams.

That brought a tear to all our eyes, I have to tell you.

It struck warmly in my heart then, and it's resonating there now, even after I've come home, and I think it's because in a way, it's what we do as writers, too. Perhaps not as directly, but we craft the worlds that let our readers dream.

And that's a thing worth doing.

So I'm bringing many good things back with me from Denver. And the last thing that I saw from my plane's window as we rose above the clouds last night was this…the biggest, brightest double rainbow that I'd seen in years.

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It seemed a fitting ending to a conference week built on the theme of new beginnings.

(But I will be glad to have the other Wenches with me next year…)

 

35 thoughts on “RWA 2018: Keepers of Dreams”

  1. Thank you, Susanna, for taking us along with you on this lovely experience. I wish I’d been there when you jaw-dropped at the elevator wrap. Special!

    Reply
  2. Thank you, Susanna, for taking us along with you on this lovely experience. I wish I’d been there when you jaw-dropped at the elevator wrap. Special!

    Reply
  3. Thank you, Susanna, for taking us along with you on this lovely experience. I wish I’d been there when you jaw-dropped at the elevator wrap. Special!

    Reply
  4. Thank you, Susanna, for taking us along with you on this lovely experience. I wish I’d been there when you jaw-dropped at the elevator wrap. Special!

    Reply
  5. Thank you, Susanna, for taking us along with you on this lovely experience. I wish I’d been there when you jaw-dropped at the elevator wrap. Special!

    Reply
  6. Thanks Susanna for sharing your experience at the conference. I love the elevator wrap, what an honor!!! Sounds like you had a great time.

    Reply
  7. Thanks Susanna for sharing your experience at the conference. I love the elevator wrap, what an honor!!! Sounds like you had a great time.

    Reply
  8. Thanks Susanna for sharing your experience at the conference. I love the elevator wrap, what an honor!!! Sounds like you had a great time.

    Reply
  9. Thanks Susanna for sharing your experience at the conference. I love the elevator wrap, what an honor!!! Sounds like you had a great time.

    Reply
  10. Thanks Susanna for sharing your experience at the conference. I love the elevator wrap, what an honor!!! Sounds like you had a great time.

    Reply
  11. I will add my thanks to you for sharing this adventure with us. And you (and Dennis) are in the bullseye with charing and creating dreams.

    Reply
  12. I will add my thanks to you for sharing this adventure with us. And you (and Dennis) are in the bullseye with charing and creating dreams.

    Reply
  13. I will add my thanks to you for sharing this adventure with us. And you (and Dennis) are in the bullseye with charing and creating dreams.

    Reply
  14. I will add my thanks to you for sharing this adventure with us. And you (and Dennis) are in the bullseye with charing and creating dreams.

    Reply
  15. I will add my thanks to you for sharing this adventure with us. And you (and Dennis) are in the bullseye with charing and creating dreams.

    Reply
  16. Great blog. Wish I’d been there! Of course, how absolutely wonderful about the elevator wrap. The picture you posted with it is so good.

    Reply
  17. Great blog. Wish I’d been there! Of course, how absolutely wonderful about the elevator wrap. The picture you posted with it is so good.

    Reply
  18. Great blog. Wish I’d been there! Of course, how absolutely wonderful about the elevator wrap. The picture you posted with it is so good.

    Reply
  19. Great blog. Wish I’d been there! Of course, how absolutely wonderful about the elevator wrap. The picture you posted with it is so good.

    Reply
  20. Great blog. Wish I’d been there! Of course, how absolutely wonderful about the elevator wrap. The picture you posted with it is so good.

    Reply

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