Friday, July 13, 2007

I'm Not Really Here...

posted by Joan

...I’m in Dallas, TX attending Romance Writers of America’s 27th annual national conference. Thanks to the generosity of our own Aunty Cindy I’m able to post my thoughts on this ideal setting to discuss one aspect of the romance fiction industry.

Now, the specifics of this particular conference will come out in the days and weeks following our return to the Bandit lair, but it is my seventh conference and I can tell you from previous experience there is no better place to watch and listen and learn about the business and craft of romance fiction.

My first conference was in New Orleans. I decided to attend because I had made the decision to pursue this dream and knew that to do so I had to find out what it was all about. If I was going to be a professional, I had to join the professional organization. I was also learning craft and was dazzled by the vast array of workshops offered. So I packed my bags and my newbie starry eyes and headed off with two friends.

I’m not even sure I can properly convey the energy of that first conference. Remember, I was new and totally tongue tied the first time in line for the restroom when I was asked “what do you write?” Huh? Me? I write romance, of course. It didn’t take me long to realize that the answer to that question was not so simple. I write “Category, romantic suspense, paranormal, historical, chick lit, chick lit paranormal romantic suspense, “ You name it and I found someone who wrote it.

It didn’t take too long after that first encounter to find my voice and answer with self assurance “I write historical.” Well, darn if that didn’t foster another variation on the question. “What time period?” Well do I remember the looks of pity and shock when I answered “Ancient Rome.”

That was my first lesson learned about romance fiction writing…develop a thick skin. I steeled myself against the eagerly offered advice that that time period is worse than the black plague. I listened…I always listen…but I also felt deep in my burgeoning writer’s soul that a story…well written, well crafted…can be told in any time period.

Armed with this new insight I continued on at the first conference. Lunches were fantastic. I met a new person from a new place with every meal. I listened to keynote speakers. Some authors I read and loved. Some I’d heard of and decided I needed to read (ahem…one of those was Nora Roberts. I’d heard of her, never read her and when she was pointed out to me in the bar I thought “How nice. She’s wearing a T-shirt that says Walking in a Wiccan Wonderland. Does she write paranormal?” She writes everything…wonderfully and I’ve about finished reading her entire backlist…when her new titles do not distract me). I discovered “the bar.” Now, I enjoy a drink once in a while but this is where after a long day attending classes, pitching to editors/agents the writers congregate to talk shop. I sat there that first conference in complete and total awe. The energy that filled me talking with writers at all levels just cannot be reproduced…except one a year in July at RWA.

And that first RITA/GH ceremony. I sat in that lovely old theatre and watched writer after writer go up and accept awards in stunning gowns and thought “That’s what I want.” I started writing my GH acceptance speech during that ceremony.

It took me five years to achieve the goal of finaling in the GH and while I did not get to use that speech…this time….I have grown and prospered and gained so much by attending the national conference.

As you read this I may be meeting with a published friend talking about my manuscript, or running into a favored editor and chatting in the elevator. I might be at lunch with writer friends or stealing a few moments reading one of the many free books bestowed on us and discovering a new author. I might be in the bar listening and learning. Or I might be in line at the restroom asking a newbie attendee “What do you write?”

PS I also want to take this time to offer my own salute to Kathleen Woodiwiss whose death was announced yesterday. I can only echo the honor and tribute to this woman who opened up the genre and inspired so many of us to find our voice, to write our stories. Recently, an editor judged THE PATRICIAN’S FORTUNE in a contest. She wrote that parts of it reminded her of “Shanna”. While she did not feel this made the story fresh enough I have to say I saw it as the deepest complement. My heartfelt thanks to Kathleen for being.

Joan Kayse


jo lewis-robertson said...

Oh, Joan, what a wonderful walk down the memory lane of RWA Nationals! I'm here in Dallas, too, waving from the eighth floor because I haven't seen you here, YET!!

And it IS a delightfully refreshing place to be. The estrogen level surge is so great I'm getting hot flashes. Oh, wait, maybe that's because of the cute and very helpful male employees LOL.

Even though I attended alone, I love the bustle and chatter of fellow female writers all around me. And being in Dallas makes me want to pick up my long-abandoned southern accent!

Aunty Cindy said...

(AC waves MADLY to Jo-Mama and Joan)

GREAT TO "HEAR" from you! And given all the people running around there, I'm not that surprised you haven't seen each other yet.

Joan, what you said about Kathleen Woodiwiss was soooo correct! Her passing is a terrible loss for romance readers and writers everywhere. We were fortunate to have her gifts for as long as we did.


Joan said...

Hi Jo! I'm on the 4th floor and I "thought" I saw you walk by today. You have a very writerly look from your picture (but we all look a bit different than those...I thought everyone was taller LOL)

It's been great and speaking of male employees. My Louisville Romance Writers group went out to Landry's to eat Texas steak tonight. They are having a street festival called "Taste of Dallas". We sat in the resturant watching a bunch of Marines doing chin ups on a bar. We dared our waiter to go out and do some. He laughed and said it would be no problem and "let" us feel his muscle (VBG)
Off to do the treadmill to work off that ribeye...