Thursday, July 22, 2010

Heading to RWA Orlando

by Anita Mae Draper

This week, I’m gearing up for the Romance Writer’s of America (RWA) national conference in Orlando, Florida. It’s such an exciting, dreadful time. Exciting because I’ll get to see so many writing friends. Dreadful because there’ll be over 2000 attendees and this little, ol’ Canadian gal will get swallowed up in the crowd. Exciting because we get to fly to Orlando in July. Oh, wait—that’s dreadful—oy vey, the humidity! Exciting because I’m going with my husband and son. Dreadful because I’ll only see them at night. Yes, it will certainly be a dreadfully exciting time.

A bit of background… this year’s RWA conference was scheduled to be held at the Opryland Gaylord in Nashville, Tenn until that southern city flooded out three months ago. The RWA conference team scrambled and within days, arrangements were made to move the annual event to the Swan and Dolphin Hotel in the middle of the Disney World Resort, Orlando.

When hubby Nelson heard about the new location, he said he and our tween, JJ, may as well go with me since I didn’t have a roommate yet. We’ve been to Disney World once—in 1997—the year before JJ was born. Because JJ has always felt he missed out on something special—which he did—we haven’t been able to hang any photos taken of that magical time.

Nelson took a vacation from work so he could be with JJ while I skedaddled off to Nashville alone, so he is free to accompany me. Our other son, 15 yo Nick will be on a mission trip in Australia during the same period so he didn’t begrudge his baby brother seeing the big-eared dude. It’s like a dream come true for all of us.

Then came room reservations, flight bookings and new passports for the boys, as well as the itineraries. I needed one for the Disney trekkers and one for me.

My itinerary includes workshops and networking. The choice whether to make an editor/agent appointment was taken out of my hands when the RWA conference committee reminded the attendees an appointment hierarchy is in place. Authors get the first pick. Second choice goes to writers who have proof of a manuscript (ms) submission. Finally, at the conference, writers who may have completed a manuscript but haven’t submitted it anywhere can wait around to see if there are any open slots. I have submitted partials but never a full ms so that left me in the standing-around-and-waiting realm. Since I have an agent and editor interested in my work-in-progress (wip), I’m going to forgo the appointment scene for this conference and make it a priority for the next one (Indianapolis in Sept).

For the RWA conference, workshops don’t need to be decided in advance. This leaves a lot of flexibility in my itinerary, especially for those extra get-togethers and networking sessions we discover along the way. For example, early this week on this blog, we were talking about Margie Lawson’s workshops and classes. Well, I received an email from Margie on Tues saying she’s going to be at the RWA conference and anyone who she’s taught on-line or in a workshop is invited to join her in the lounge to ‘meet, kick-back and chat’ after her Sat workshop. Are you kidding? Chat with the master of Deep Editing? Oh, yeah.

Allowing flexibility in your schedule is the most important thing I’ve learned while attending writing conferences. Yes, the workshops are important—but you can buy the CD and hear any workshops you missed. The chance to sit and chat with someone of experience in the publishing world may never come again.

Likewise the parties. I don’t know about other publishers, but Harlequin has one huge pajama party for their authors, but I know several people who crashed it in other years. Although I don’t make a habit of crashing parties, I can’t say I’ve never done it. And, I’m bringing a very nice pair of brand spanking new pretty PJ's to be on the safe side. Heh.
* Facebook pal and SuperRomance author Holly Jacobs just answered my query... the Harlequin pajama party is for members of the eHarlequin community and since I've been a member for years--and was March 2009's Member of the Month--that qualifies me. Yay! Gotta go shopping...

One advantage of attending a conference of this magnitude is the professional services offered. For a fee, you can have professional portrait taken, suitable for publicity shots. I don't know how much the RWA fee is, but it's only US $40 to sit for one at the American Christian Fiction Writer's (ACFW) conference which is being held in Indianapolis, IN this year. Since I'm still losing weight, I'll wait and have it done in Indy.
Other sessions I’m looking forward to:

  • The luncheon and awards ceremony of the Faith, Hope and Love RWA chapter
  • The RITA awards ceremony
  • Free books on the seats from keynote speaker (Nora Roberts)
  • Free autographed books (long waits and line-ups but FREE)
  • The Goody Room (Free books, promo material and giveaways)
  • Literacy Book Signing (500 romance authors, proceeds to charity)
  • Breakfast with the Steeple Hill bunch
  • Meeting all my writing eFriends

There are two things I know for sure…  

1. I'm going to leave lots of room in my suitcase on the off-chance I'm blessed with some of those free books.

2. The sheer size of the event is mind boggling. How will I ever find my friends? 

So, are you going to RWA Orlando this year? If you’ve been before, do you have any hints, tips or stories you’d like to share?

Photo Credits:
RWA logo and RITA award:
Swan and Dolphin Hotel:  


Liz Fichera said...

Hi Anita, I'm not going but look forward to any pics you can share. Have fun! Sounds like your son and husband will have a ball too! :-)

Silver James said...

Anita, I'll be there. Look for me at the registration desk on Wednesday morning at the Dolphin (I'm volunteering), and I'm signing at the Literacy signing. I think most people are housed in the Swan with all the events taking place at the Dolphin. Lots of walking and not sure where people will be hanging out. I'll keep my eye out for you!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Liz, I'll try to post daily but it'll depend on the internet hookups. I ended up paying $40 for internet service at my first conference and didn't even use it more than an hour each day. Last year, I didn't get it in the room but used the WiFi in the lobby. Comfortable tables and chairs and lots of pals walking by. I posted pics and 'name-dropper' news every day.

However, hubby may splurge for the service this time because it's the only way he and JJ will know what I'm doing. Thank goodness for Facebook!

Hopefully I'll meet you at another conference or booksigning. :D


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Silver, yay! I'll make sure to look you up.

They've got me slated as a Workshop Desk Monitor on Thurs from 2-5:30pm. This is great as I get to tell everyone where to go! LOL

I'm getting so excited, I'm sleeping less as I go over my lists and schedules. I have to be careful though because when I do that, I get 'run-down' quick and then get a cold. And I DON'T want a cold at this time!

I'm so looking forward to meeting you, Silver.


Helena said...

I'm not sure if I've ever been to a conference as large as RWA, Anita, altho our national library conferences were a bit overwhelming for a prairie girl. Just pretend you're at a big mall, and you'll be fine!

Sorry we won't see you Saturday, but will be thinking of you Tuesday, and days following. Soak it up so you can tell us all about it when you get back.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Helena, missing the Sask Romance Writers mtg on Sat is something I didn't want to do, but it's so far. Usually, I enjoy the 4 hr drive each way because I carpool with other writers, but I need those hours for preparing and packing. So much to do.

I'll be at the August mtg, though, and will fill you in on whatever I haven't blogged about. :D

About those numbers... the Indy conference with 600 attendees is gonna look small after this. LOL


Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
You lucky girl! It must be exciting to go to RWA National (I've never been), but I understand why you're feeling a little overwhelmed. It's so big! Take a deep breath and plunge in. You'll have a blast!


Janet said...

Have a great time, Anita - looking forward to your reporting, and pictures :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks Jana and Janet. I was just over on the eHarl boards and more members confirmed that I'm allowed into the Harlequin pajama party. That's such a relief because it's so much less stress when I don't have to crash it. LOL

Hubby already bought me a 4GB SD card for my camera. That means I can take approx 4,000 pics before it's full. Yahoooooooooooooo!

In case you're wondering, I took 2,200 last year on my trip through Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. :D


Molli said...

I'm gearing up to be there, too, Anita, and I'm excited about it, but I don't have any tips. I'll keep an eye out for you (and Silver). (Looks like we'd better take good walking shoes, hmm?) I'm also volunteering: Thursday a.m. from 10 to noon at Registration, in case we miss each other otherwise.

Anita Mae Draper said...

That's great, Molli.

You know, maybe next year the Chicks could make some special little thing to leave in the Goody Room, eh?

See you there. (I love saying that.)


Debra E. Marvin said...

A trip anywhere sounds great and Disney knows how to do tourism!

I'm so excited for you Anita. Really. I'm excited just thinking about it. Your post has stirred up all those emotions of a conference trip, plus how awesome to be able to make it a family vacation as well!

I depend on you for updates and photos later on. Have a wonderful, amazing time, my friend!

Anonymous said...

Have a TON of fun, Anita!! I'm not going this year but I have been to 7 Conferences.

Do go to a Nora Roberts chat. So much fun. Don't miss Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips joint workshop.

Summer said...

Thanks for sharing you story. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!