- Janet Evanovich's candid Q&A session. She told us how she wrote for ten years and accumulated a crate of rejections, which she tearfully burned by the curb. Just when she was about to give up writing forever, she sold her first story for $2,000. She choked back a sob as she recounted that day. She wasn't home when the publisher called, so her husband and son found her at a roller skating rink (where she was picking up her daughter). They wanted to tell her the news in person. My chin quivered, my nose burned, and I turned into a watering pot. I thought: she's just like me. Janet took a moment to compose herself, and as she dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, she confided that "her makeup guy" whom she'd dragged with her from New York along with her hair stylist, was probably beside himself right now. And then I thought: she's nothing like me. But I love her anyway.
- The madness of the literacy signing. It was loud, and it was a crush, and I bought too many books . . . and it was awesome. This year, I actually knew some debut authors (Pixies Lynn Raye Harris and Lavinia Kent) and was excited to visit with them and take photos. I also got to meet a couple of Seekerville authors, Missy Tippens and Janet Dean, who were every bit as nice and genuine in person as they are online.
- The way the romance writing world comes together. Someone at the conference--I forget who--said that within RWA there are no more than 2 degrees of separation. There are all sorts of weird connections stemming from local chapters, online groups, critique partners, and the like. Multi-pubbed authors, editors, and agents made themselves accessible and talked very openly about the business, which made unpubs like me a little more comfortable in their presence. (Not entirely, however, as evidenced by the fact that I forgot my hero's name when discussing my wip with my agent. In case you're wondering, it's Simon.)
- The sheer joy and pride of being a romance writer. You know what I'm talking about. We know how to work it. There's a certain strut in our step as we breeze through the hotel lobby. We wear our lipstick a little darker and smile to make people wonder. We have fun. One of my favorite moments came after the fire alarm sounded and we had to evacuate the hotel. A thousand RWA members spilled out onto the lawns surrounding the front driveway and calmly waited for instructions. Sirens wailed, and firetrucks pulled up to the entrance. Firefighters emerged from the trucks in full gear, and like true professionals, we romance writers whipped out our cameras and/or notepads and giggled. Anything for research.
By the time I reached the frozen food section, I was feeling bereft that Nationals was over. It was a huge investment of time and money, and it went by way too fast. Worse, the conference left me utterly exhausted, and I didn't write a single word all week.
I mentally tallied up the items in my cart and groaned. No Nationals for me next year. It's just too much--too expensive, too far, too draining.
Feeling in control once more, I placed a half gallon of 2% milk in my cart and rolled up the last aisle before checkout.
And there, right next to the office supplies, were the mass market paperback bestsellers. At least a dozen romances, lined up in neat rows with their colorful covers beckoning. I ran my fingers over the embossed lettering and couldn't resist taking a peek at the back cover blurbs of several. I flipped through the pages and inhaled the sweet, familiar smell of newsprint.
And I thought: Maybe. Maybe if I clip coupons and save frequent flier miles and stay off-site and share a hotel room with 5 other people.
Maybe I'll go to Nashville after all.