Conferences: The Crazies Continue

Cat 243 Dover by Mary Jo:

I considered writing a blog about the recent Romance Writers of America national conference, then remembered that I'd done something similar in 2006.  So I looked up that blog–and found that very little has changed.  <G> 

The clothing anxiety where we end up taking way too much "just in case!"  The mad networking, the squeals of delight as adult women launch themselves at friends they haven't seen in too long!  The attempt to fit everything into too few hours!  We love our conferences–and go home feeling like roadkill. <G>

Since I'm deep into deadline panic, I'm rerunning that blog with some tweaks, and some updated Word Wench pictures from the conference. The pictures were taken by Anne and Cara/Andrea.  We did manage a couple of face to face Wench get togethers, which was a lovely bonus.  So here goes a blended blog:


From Mary Jo:

Dscn0635_1 The purple coneflowers and stargazer lilies are blooming behind the house, so it’s time for another national RWA conference.  They are always held at the end of July, which is statistically the hottest time of the year.   

As a born northerner who hates heat, I complain bitterly that the conferences always seem to be held in southern locations that are apparently about two miles north of Hades. (In Orlando, it was so hot that my Times+SquareWenchy roommate and I only left the hotel once, for a midnight walk around the hotel pool).  (Note: for 2011, the conference was late June in NYC, and the weather was very nice.  Here's a picture of a very crowded Times Square, where our hotel was located.)

In fairness, even on RWA’s last trip to the fine northern city of Chicago, the city had a historic heat wave with temperatures that rose to 104 F.  The heat wave lasted exactly as long as the conference, then ended.  It is best not to ponder the implications of this. 

Above are the four Penguin Wenches at the Penguin author party which was held at Sardi's restaurant: Anne, Cara/Andrea, Joanna, and Jo.  (Anne and Joanna are Berkley, Andrea and Jo are NAL.)

I remember that conference fondly.  It was the year of Chicago’s Cow Parade, so  hundreds of artist-decorated fiberglass cows were scattered around the city.  I loved them.  To me, those critters represent the best of urban charm and whimsy, and they inspired other cities to look deep inside and find their inner animal. 

In Cincinnati, there was a Big Pig Gig in honor of the city’s meatpacking past.  I believe Louisville had horses, Toronto went for moose, and Buffalo, naturally, did buffalo.  My hometown of Baltimore chose fish, charming and easy to decorate, but it was a cop-out—this is a crab town, not a fish town.  So later they repented and flat decorated crabs were everywhere.  My eye doctor bought one of the crabs that was wearing eyeglasses, and it sits happily outside his office.

Cloistersgadn Traditionally, when an RWA national looms, appearance anxiety strikes women who don’t get out often enough.  E-mail loops of writers buzz with panicky questions from newbies about what one should wear.  For RWA, the dress code is professional—anyone asking if she can wear jeans can elicit horrified gasps.  This is very different from an sff con, where appearance runs to hippy casual or alien appendages.  For RWA, black is always good since most of the editors and agents are wearing black.  It's a New York Thing. 

Above is Anne's picture of the Cloisters, the magnificent medieval art branch museum of the Metropolitan Museum.  It's built in a park at the north end of Manhattan, and made to look like a medieval monastery.  A couple Wenches got to see it, and the amazing art and greenery were a great respite from conference crazies.

Attendees also discuss humidity—meeting in places like New Orleans tend to make some of us look like dandelions in full fuzzy mode. 

RitaRehearsalAndrea Serious aspiring writers who are close to selling their first book often freak at the prospect of agent and editor appointments, and rehearse pitches for their books.  Old hands assure them that agents and editors are not (usually) writer-eating monsters.  Industry pros are generally quite kind when dealing with frantic writers.   

Above is Cara/Andrea at the Rita rehearsal ceremony.  Cara, Pat, Joanna, and Nicola were all Rita finalists.   

My personal dress code for writing events is artsy professional and comfortable.  In a pinch, jettison the artsy professional and go for the comfort.  A great boon to me and many of my sister authors is Chico’s, the clothing chain for aging baby boomers who want to look dashing but have lost the taste (and the figures) for wearing tight garments, no matter how fashionable.

Anne,MJandjenniferKloester A friend said that Chico’s clothing is made of materials that will never rot in a landfill, but their stuff is great for aging baby boomers.  At my last national conference, two years ago in Dallas, I spotted lots of Chico’s outfits.  Usually this consisted of solid color knit top and slacks paired with a great jacket and splashy, fun jewelry.  It’s a good look—and how can you not like a store where you get to try on a size 2 rather than a “large?” <g>

Above are Anne, MJP, and HWW Jennifer Kloester at the literacy book signing.  I'm the one who hasn't just flown in from Australia.  <G>  Jennifer's definitive biography of Georgette Heyer will be released in the UK this autumn.

At heart, RWA is a business conference, and writers go to meet with their agents and editors, or perhaps look for new ones.  We go to learn and to see our friends and make new ones.  Maybe we also go to do some research in that particular city, or visit a relative there while being able to deduct the trip. 

Several years ago, I gave the keynote address in Washington, DC, and coined one of my better phrases if I do say so: “An RWA conference is 2000 introverts pretending to be extroverts.”  That definitely hasn't changed!

Joatsigning At the end, we head home wrecked, overfull of talk and information (and maybe fattening little nibbles from the publisher parties as well), carrying a ton of new books—and most of the time, we go home happy.  We’ve just been able to spend a few days with Our Tribe—and isn’t that something just about everyone enjoys? (Jo at left at the literacy signing.)

Mary Jo, who really needs at least one new jacket per national conference…Joannaatsigning  And no, the picture at right isn't me but Joanna.  Isn't it cool how she dressed in colors to match the cover of her most recent book?



Anneatsigning Mary Jo again, back in real time 2011.  Just to make things fun, I'm giving away a book to a commenter.  I chose the delightful Faery Magic anthology since it has two Wenches in it: Jo and I, along with Honorary Word Wenches Barbara Samuel and Karen Harbaugh.  Tell me about conferences or similar gatherings you've been to, or just comment on the blog and pictures between now and Thursday midnight. 

I'm putting in one last picture of Anne at the literacy signing because she just looks so mischievious.  <g>  It was great to be together!