Sunday, July 22, 2007


by Anna Sugden

Cost of Nationals Conference … $325
Return plane ticket to Dallas … $300
Room and board … $700

Seeing your writing buddies and getting to hang out with them … priceless!

Earlier this year, I was in the doldrums. A big rejection. Stuck in my work. Writing going nowhere. My chances of finalling in the GH were, I thought, slim to none given my heroine wakes up in bed with the hero because she had too much to drink the night before (not exactly home and hearth category!). I said to my husband that I was debating not going to Dallas. What was the point? I could order the CD’s and save a heap of money.
He smiled patiently at me and said “But the main reason you go is to meet up with all your writing pals.”

He’s right. It is without a doubt the best part.

I’m glad I changed my mind and went. Writing can be such a solitary occupation. How authors managed it in the days before internet, I don’t know. I’d be lost and have given up long, long ago without my online pals.

The same friends who will critique a synopsis at the drop of a hat, will find a safety pin to hold you together when the top button of your skirt pops. They have band-aids for your blisters and ideas for your stalled plot. They cheer with you for the highs and hug you during the lows. They’ll stick voodoo pins in those who reject you and stick by you when you’re nervous before an appointment or workshop you’re giving. They understand the trials and tribulations of life and they get what being a writer involves. (Really, who else gets the voices, the way characters wrest control from you, the ideas that pop into your head at the strangest and often most inopportune moments?)

I’m so glad I followed my husband’s advice and went to Dallas. Not just because I had a great time and helped my writing career inch forward another step. But because that week in Dallas was filled with special moments with my friends.

The one who picked me up at the airport and gave me a bag of emergency goodies (water, cookies and crisps etc) for the week. The one who quietly mentioned me to her agent - I didn’t know until her agent told me! The gang who gave up workshops to sit with me and brainstorm how to strengthen my hero in time for my editor pitch. And the one who handed me a beer after I’d spent a couple of hours being 'line nazi' for the check-out line at the Literacy Signing.

These are just a few of the special moments, and there are more I can’t mention publicly, but for which I’m eternally grateful. All these moments prove that your writing friends are simply priceless.

So, tell us about some of the sweet and caring things your friends did for you in Dallas. Or any other conference.


Joan said...


What a lovely post and what a wise man your husband is.

Mostly, my friends at conference listen to me when I come back from a workshop either jazzed or filled with angst. They offer advice or chocolate and I do the same from them.

Last year, my roomies put up with my nerves about the GH. TL became my stylist, orchestrating the gown, rolling and fixing my hair and holding me by the hand as my guest for the ceremony.

This year one of my roommates rubbed my sore feet after a long day in a pair of those non-nurse heels :-)

Most of all, this year the Banditas filled me with gratitude and awe that I was a part of RB. It was like meeting up with a bunch of sisters.

So Sis, can I borrow those polka dot shoes?

Christine Wells said...

Anna, what a wonderful post! I didn't go to Dallas but I was so impressed by all the great stories that came back, especially from the banditas.

One occasion stands out for me personally--at another conference years ago, I mentioned to a bestselling romance writer that I was nervous about doing my first face to face pitch. I was nauseous (I was in the first stages of pregnancy when I get morning sickness that defies description) and I hadn't slept for worrying about throwing up all over the agent who was taking the pitch. I'll never forget the way this author took me aside and made me pitch to her. Her encouragement and advice really settled my nerves. It took 5 minutes of her time, but years later, I remember it.

Unknown said...


I knew this was your posting long before I got to the bottom to read your name.

Well said.

I didn't make it to Dallas this year and I figured I wouldn't miss it much...heck, I'd already been to 4 in a row, but I was so wrong.

I've had so many great conference moments. An editor telling me I'm a "great writer", meeting my fellow Internet "struggling writers", my first conference with my roomie Trish, who I met in person for the first time in our hotel room and realized I'd found a friend for life, cheering for you at the 2006 GH Awards Night, finding a close friend in the bar talking up my book to a lady who turned out to be her publisher, who then turned to me and said "sounds great, send it in" amazing moment that led to my first sale!

Do I plan to skip any more national way!

Keira Soleore said...

What a wonderful post, V.Anna and all the other stories here. Dallas was my first one. I wore the glaringly obvious orange ribbon, but after the omg-what-am-I-doing-here semi-nervous breakdown when I first entered the hotel lobby, dinner that first evening with Candice Hern and chance meetings with each and every person made the conference so-so-so much fun. Someone said to me, I glowed. Well, I was so happy from within to be with people who were warm, kind, and encouraging to everyone around them. I had not met a single soul there personally, only cyberly, but when I met my cyber friends for real, there was no initial awkwardness, you know that careful maneuvering around people to whom you are not sure what and how to say things.

Anna Sugden said...

LOL Joan - if they fit, you may borrown them! And a foot massage - that's a great friend!

Christine - can't wait to see you in SF, we missed you in Dallas. What a fab author to do that for you. I remember Jessica Anderson (Intrigue author) doing the same for me (though I didn't have the morning sickness) and I got my first request for a full!

Anna Sugden said...

Christyne!!! Nationals wasn't the same without you!! Ladies, aside from being a supremely talented writer, Christyne is one of those awesome friends. Last year, she gave me a fab good luck charm - a Heidi who baas! I had Heidi with me this year too.

(For those of you who don't know the story behind this, last year's GH finalist is about a Texas cowboy who inherits an English sheep farm. And he has to deal with one particularly cantankerous sheep, who he names Heidi. So, my friends called the book my sheep book and baaed when my name was read out last year!)

See you in SF, sweetie!

Anna Sugden said...

Keira - it was lovely meeting you in person and whoever told you that you glowed was right. You had a lovely huge smile on your face whenever I saw you. I wish we'd been able to get a pic!

Caren Crane said...

Anna, there are so many great things that happen every conference, it's hard to choose. But, as many of you know, I was without luggage when I arrived in Dallas, thanks to AirTran. *g*

Upon learning of my dilemma, I was offered shoes, jewelry, shirts and shirts. (Anna knows this, because she offered shirts!) It was so touching for people to offer and to see how horrified they were that I was stuck at conference with no clothes. *g*

It was so nice of Anna and everyone else. I offered prayers of thanks for such great friends. It really made my conference special! (And my luggage arrived at the hotel only 12 hours after I did--hooray!)

Anna Campbell said...

VA, what a lovely post. And it brought back so many wonderful conference memories.

Caren, I notice Shoe Queen V Anna DIDN'T offer you shoes - snork! Every time I saw VA, she had a more spectacular pair on. I must say my favorites were the polka dot ones that matched her top. Now that was style!

Keira, actually you gave me one of my special conference moments when you turned up at the literacy signing with your lovely big smile and a present! I didn't realise being a published author involved people throwing goodies at you! Bring it on!

My special moments were a lot to do with the Banditas. I was wandering around like a chicken with its head cut off for a lot of the conference, but whenever I saw one of you guys, it was like I was suddenly with family. Is that too mushy? It's true!

Actually, another nice moment. Lovely Suz threatened everyone who came into the Avon Open House with violence if they didn't line up for my book. The girl signing next to me asked me how I'd managed to get so many 'fans'. I told her it wasn't what you know, it's WHO you know! Thanks, Suz. You're the best!

Eating Tim Tams and drinking far too much champagne with Caren after the dessert reception. And watching her do her Sultan's favorite impression. That orange get-up was seriously spectacular!

Oh, I could go on and on. But all of it was PRICELESS!

Anna x

Christine Wells said...

You can't have been sorrier than I was to miss Dallas, Anna but it turned out it was the right decision--family always comes first. But NOTHING is going to stop me getting to San Fran. I'm so excited already, by the time I get there I'll be bouncing around like a new puppy--hopefully with fewer fleas!

Anna Sugden said...

Aww Caren - of course we couldn't let one of our Banditas down.

And I did offer shoes, Ms Campbell, but my feet are smaller than Caren's *grin*. Seeing you on such a high with all your success, was also priceless!

Tawny said...

Great post, Anna :-)

Conference rocked, on many levels, but as always it was about the people. That is why I attend conference, to see my incredible friends, to meet new ones, to just absorb all the vibes from an industry filled with women all there ready to support each other!

Lessee, I had my skirt pinned, friends give up workshops they'd probably much more enjoyed to attend mine and fill the audience with their supportive faces, and every time I turned around, there was a friendly person to chat with.

Anonymous said...

Anna, what a lovely and thoughtful post! I wish I could have been there in Dallas to exchange all the hugs and fun.

I have a wonderful friend and long-distance CP (also a Packer, though I haven't managed to get her to join the Banditas yet) who is kept very busy by her "two under two" (babies, that is!). She doesn't get much time to sleep, let alone write, yet she is so generous in sharing her tiny amount of free time with me. When I called last week and begged for some plotting help, she was right there, and spent almost two hours on the phone with me today while I worked through changes to my YA, and helped me with my proposals for books 2 and 3.

I can't imagine doing this without friends like her, and now, without my fellow Banditas! :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Fabulous post, Anna! We are all so lucky to have good friends to share those sticky moments with.

My friends have sat with me for hours going over my editor/agent pitches, they've dragged me along to their fabulous agency and publisher parties and introduced me to so many people, and oh yes, they've shooed away giant grasshoppers for me, LOL. I truly don't know how I would survive a conference without them.

Anna Sugden said...

Christine - you know the Banditas will have your bone for you!

Tawny - your workshops rocked!

Kirsten - next year in SF! What a great CP you have - brainstorming help is the best.

Kate - you definitely do have great friends!

jo robertson said...

Anna, what a warm post expressing your feelings about national. I have to say that having Kim and Jeanne sit with me at the Daphne Awards Ceremony still gives me shivers! As a teacher, I come with a built-in BS snifter and their joy for me was genuine and heart-felt. And since my family wasn't there, they became my surrogate family! jo

Keira Soleore said...

V.Anna and FoAnna: You two are so sweet. Thank you for making my first a treasured memory.

Caren: Forgot to mention before, but I ADORE that orange outfit; it's like a glorious sunset.

Er, what are Tim Tams?

Anna Sugden said...

LOL Jo - there is definitely no BS about either Kim or Jeanne! Or indeed any of the Banditas - I think that's what makes this group so special.

Beth Andrews said...

What a lovely post, Anna!

I admit the favorite part of conference for me is being with such dear friends. Tawny gave me band-aids when my feet hurt and you patiently sat with me while I babbled on about my story, working with me until I had a pitch that totally Rocked! *ggg*

And like Anna C, I felt surrounded by family everytime I bumped into a fellow Bandita :-)

Suzanne Ferrell said...

FA- you are always more than welcome, it's a great book to recommend!

Let's see...This year a lot of my fun was being a Bandita. Handing out buttons at the door. Seriously people, lots of the people in line looked at the buttons as I handed them out and their faces lit up. Many asked me what Romance Bandits were, and I was more than happy to point out the blog URL and tell them about us!

Taking y'all to dinner was great fun. Next year I think we should play musical chairs as I would've loved to spend a few minutes on the other end of the table with everyone I missed!

My editor and agent pitches went well, (am currently tightening the proposals they asked for in between e-mails and that dreaded thing they call a job!).

My daughters got to come to the book signing. This is their second National signing and they always come to the smaller Dreamin In Dallas signing, too. It's nice they get to meet my friends and see why I love RWA, DARA, RB and all the world of writing. Now if I could just get a book contract, all would be well with the world!

Then there was the Penquin kidnapping by my DARA friends. Best told over alchol!

Anna Louise Lucia said...

Awww, Anna, you're making me snivell!

I remember last year's RNA conference, where some angst over a contract offer I knew I should turn down (and eventually did) reduced me to full emotional meltdown in the middle of dinner! Everyone was so lovely, offering advice, tissues, hugs and bread rolls with equal good humour.

Like you say, Priceless.