Friday, September 7, 2012

My Summer Holidays

Regular readers Barb and JoDee have asked for that perennial September favorite: the essay on "What I Did Over the Summer." Specifically, how the RWA National conference went.

The answer: I dunno, I was sort of invisible, seems unhelpful, so let me parse it out.

When I was an associate at a Philadelphia law firm, I started quilting as a hobby. I'm not a very good or prolific quilter, but then I wasn't a very good lawyer. Interestingly, I didn't feel like a lawyer when I was with lawyers, I felt like a quilter. And when I was with quilters, I felt like a lawyer. In other words, I always felt different.

A couple years later, I went to a national quilt show and conference in Paducah, Kentucky ("Quilt City"). I was in a class where the instructor asked us to go around the room, give our names, and say a bit about ourselves. Surrounded by quilters, I felt all lawyer-y...until two  women on the other side identified themselves as lawyers. But I was still different: they were from California.

In early July, I went to the second residency for my MFA program, Stonecoast. It's easy to feel like a special snowflake there because we're all different. Sure, we're all writers, but writing is a solitary vocation: each of us writes unique stories, usually in a room by ourselves, and we're convinced no one will ever read them. You'd think since we share the same fears, we'd feel like a tribe and we do, but underneath the war paint, we're alone.

Or maybe I'm the only one who feels that way.

At the Romance Writers of America conference, there's a lot more solidarity. In fact, there are lots of tribes. Long-established published authors make up a tribe. Recently-established but bestselling authors: tribe. Authors of romantic suspense: tribe. Every chapter is a geographical tribe. Authors published by a specific publisher: tribe. Pretty young writers: tribe. And so forth.

I was inducted into a tribe this year: the 2012 finalists in the Golden Heart® contest, aka The Firebirds. We met up at a dinner on the Tuesday before the conference started, and we had official events together on Friday (when we got our certificates saying we were finalists) and Saturday (when the awards were given out). There was even a low-key pool party on Thursday evening.

I went to everything. Nonetheless, at the end of the week, people said, "Hey, where have you been? I haven't seen you."

Interesting. I'd somehow managed the art of invisibility from Tuesday night to Saturday night. It wasn't on purpose--I met up with long-standing friends and met new people too, I attended workshops, parties, and even the Annual General Meeting--but I'm just not good with groups.

Still, I was there, so let me tell you what I saw from beneath my Cloak of Invisibility:
  • RWA, as an enterprise, is struggling to keep up with the implications of self-publishing. At the same time, it's trying to keep things like the RITA awards (which go to books published in the past calendar year) relevant to readers. All of this, plus more, came up at the Annual General Meeting, and the reverberations haven't died down yet, six weeks later.
  • One of the bennies to being a Golden Heart finalist is you get to sit up front with Real Authors. I sat next to Jennifer Ashley (aka Allyson James), who was up for two RITAS in two different categories. She didn't win either, but like me, she had correctly predicted who would win in her categories!
  • My favorite workshops are run by people who normally work with screenwriters. I don't know what it is, but they're awesome and I always learn a lot.
  • Dominoes Rule OK: Because I went to a presentation last January at Stonecoast on how to adapt your novel into a screenplay and another one on what screenplay structures teach us, I decided to write a screenplay for my GH finalist manuscript, Blackjack & Moonlight. Because I'd written a screenplay, I joined Scriptscene, a scriptwriting chapter of RWA. Because I'd joined Scriptscene, I got to go to dinner with a bunch of its members, including LA Sartor. Because I sat across from LA Sartor, I got a referral to her editor...who's now my editor.
  • I had not one but two hunky men with me for the awards dinner:
Ross (aka Brit Hub 2.1), me, and Henry (Brit Hub 1.0)
After RWA we traveled to Spokane (lovely city) and Sandpoint, Idaho, where I developed pneumonia. Back home, lots of recuperation, lots of writing, and that was my summer.

How was yours?