Herein, my RWA diary aka the post about the Romance Writers of America conference in Orlando. I'll say up front that I didn't attend any Actual Programming except the big signing and the awards luncheon (for one, I didn't want to be taking too much advantage of the fact I got to go sans registration fee and for two, I've been working too hard and needed some major downtime). This means I've now discovered my ideal conference schedule: Days at the pool and resting, evenings being social*. (Note: This also means there will be a surplus of other-people-mentioning, so if that annoys you be forewarned. Blue skies at night, namedropping in sight, etc.)
Day One: Wednesday
We had one of those insanely early flights, requiring a 4 a.m. wake-up and much bickering to get out of the house on time. But! We made it! Arriving mid-afternoon for shuttle eavesdropping of someone describing the steampunk party they were throwing and another describing a heated debate with her editor over taking a pseudonym or not, and finally arriving at le Dolphin, where we had terrible and overpriced burgers (the overpriced was to be a theme, but the food was just fine after this). A quick recovery was made by a visit to the pool for pina coladas; fortified by the booze I intrepidly followed children up a small mountain and braved the water slide. It was heroic. We watched two staff people try to catch a rogue duck for half an hour. Things were looking up.
I'd made plans to meet up with the lovely and local-to-Orlando Jackie Dolamore (fellow member of the LiteratiCoven) and Larissa Hardesty (whose book sounds amazing) at the literacy signing. (The literacy signing was huge and awe-inspiring and you should watch the video at Smart Bitches if you haven't; 500 authors raised $62,000 for charity in two hours. Wowza.) So we all wandered around and waved hello to various people–I met Diana Peterfreund for the first time, only to find out later that she was taken aback when I turned out to be southern because she'd thought I was Australian**–and then we ignored Larissa's GPS and magically found a dinner place off the resort. After dinner, Christopher abandoned us and we went off to see if the RWA Blogger Bar Bash was still going on, but it wasn't. So instead we hung out by the pool for a few hours more of talktalktalk, during which I was mooned by a swimming child's dad (unbeknownst to the dad) and we were menaced by a cute bunny***. It was tremendously fun.
Day Two: Thursday
It's possible that we slept until almost noon on this day. Then we trundled around the elaborately confusing grounds to the pool again. I did a swimming check to see what everyone around the pool was reading, and then perched on a set of stairs in the water and read Cherie Priest's Dreadnought for a bit. More slide! The threat of sunburn! Christopher had a short story draft to finish, so we headed back up to the room and he worked while I visited the hotel boutique to correct a packing mistake (wrong black top, horrors!).
One of my Veritas Award Winner perks was an invitation to a private reception early that evening, so I stopped by that in a moderately nervous state. Of course, as was the case throughout the entire event, there was no need for nerves. RWA really is full of the nicest writers and professionals you'll ever meet. I've never been to a conference more welcoming. I ended up chatting with Jo Beverley for some time, and also met Heather Graham and her posse. Then Allison Brennan showed up–we share a good friend in common (the fabulous Toni McGee Causey–Allison and Toni are part of the really excellent group blog, Murder She Writes)–and we had a wonderful, wide-ranging conversation and it turns out her teen daughter reviews YA and has the best taste in YA fantasy ever (which is to say she loves all the same books I do).
I tore myself away to dash off for dinner with the amazing Alisa Kwitney****, who I hadn't seen in almost a decade, when a common friend introduced us and we hit it off gangbusters. Alisa's seriously cool daughter (reading The Princess Bride) and the seriously cool Liz Edelstein (aka Liz Maverick) were joining us too, and we had a great time. I let Alisa kidnap me back to the Yacht Club where she was staying after dinner and we stayed up for an age gabbing and having a fabulous time in the lobby, long enough for Liz (who'd gone off for parties and seeing people) to return with the supernice and funny agent Miriam Kriss. Seeing Alisa alone would have been worth the trip. Eventually, I braved the hundreds of leaping bunnies in the bushes to get back to the hotel. Heroically.
Day Three: Friday
No pool managed this day, alas. Although only because I had to accept the Veritas, so that's a tradeoff I'll take. We sat at a table with a bunch of really interesting Australian writers, including Joanne Lockyer, who was nice enough to use her fancy camera to take photographs, which will keep me and Christopher from being bludgeoned by my mother. Always appreciated.
People kept telling me how cute I was afterward, on into the evening, and I hardly ever get cute–so I think this means I must have seemed incredibly nervous once I got up there, which I wasn't, really, but I was BLINDED by the seriously bright lights. I've been in front of a fair amount of crowds for this reason or that reason–day job or Tiptree jury or etc.–and it doesn't bother me all that much, but I had a mini-freakout when I realized I couldn't see anyone in the ballroom. At any rate, the set-up was great to watch from the audience (big screens are nice when there's a massive crowd), and I'm hugely impressed at how well all the other award winners–and especially keynoter Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Amanda Quick)–hid their blindness, if they experienced this phenomenon. Maybe what I had was a case of HYSTERICAL LUNCHEON BLINDNESS. Anyway, it was a lovely time and the acceptance speech of the day definitely went to RWA Librarian of the Year Jennifer Lohmann from Durham, who we got to chat with a bit afterward in the hall. (Turns out she ran a book club with one of Kelly Link's collections.*****)
After the luncheon, we FINALLY found the most excellent Victoria Janssen after two days of exchanging messages and texts. Then Diana came by and introduced us to Patrick Alan, who has the best con reports ever, and then Victoria, Diana and we decamped to the bar area to hang for a good while. I'm posting Victoria's pic of us below, since I took none, even though I look incredibly shiny. Proof that I survived giving my tiny awards' speech blind, and was practically glowing from my brush with doom:
Later it was on to the Avon party, where we'd been invited by Pam Jaffee, one of the best publicists in the business. After taking the bus ride through the backstage of Epcot to get there (trailers, trailers, everywhere), we were excited to see actual living sea creatures in the aquarium at the party. Also, the agent-in-chief at Christopher's agent's agency in a pirate hat (okay, we didn't actually witness that, but we did get to say hello sometime pre- or post- hat). And Diana's next project will involve wererays. (You heard it here second.) While taking advantage of the free cocktails (the Dolphin could run into some serious tab), we met scads of wonderful people who I hope to encounter again soon, including Sarah MacLean (who was awesome and later took us to see the Michael Jackson made of candy), Lavinia Kent (who has some seriously A-game cocktail facts from her historical research), Tera Lynn Childs (whose books I can't wait to read, as we are fascinated with all the same stuff), Colleen Gleason and lots of others I'm blanking on. You were all lovely. Go, Avon, with your fab authors.
We didn't even attempt to crash the Harlequin party, on sheer principle. Also, we'd been told it would be hard. So we loitered around the lobby, where Sarah introduced me to the beautifully steampunk-dressed, newly-minted dual Prism winner Leanna Renee Hieber (whose The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker I'm now reading and loving–very cross-over to YA readers so far, too). I had champagne, met many more people (I believe Katharine Ashe gave me a pep talk), ran into Liz again, and briefly chatted with the gorgeous Roxanne St. Claire, who told me her lunch table had liked my haircut. At some point, they decided to close the lobby bar and, shocked it was so late, I zombied off to bed knowing that with such a great evening, heroic pain was sure to follow in the morning.
Too true, but we were leaving anyway. What a fabulous, fabulous trip. Thanks to everyone who made it so. (And a special thank you to Erin Fry and Allison Kelley of RWA for answering last-minute questions and being so helpful.)******
And, despite not attending any of the actual writing programming, three days worth of excellent conversations with supersmart writers has left me thoroughly energized to tackle the last third of my novel-in-progress. This is a good thing.
*As opposed to being social all day long and doing too much programming–not that I'm going to stop going to readings at Wiscon or anything, but seriously, SF, let's choose some tropical-type locations with excellent pools for conferences STAT.
**Because of Justine.
***When the bunnies rise up and overthrow their oppressors, you do not want to be at the Swan/Dolphin. I'm just saying. #thebunniesarerising
****If you haven't read Alisa's books, both as Alisa Kwitney and as Alisa Sheckley, you're missing out. I love them.
*****I forget why exactly this came up. Possibly because Kelly's name came up lots, since I discovered while packing that I was nearly out of real business cards (they just have my email address on them anyway), so I had to dip into the stash of novelty non-business cards Kelly made for me (and others) years ago. Sample messages: This is not a business card; Gwenda Bond: Innocent Villager; Gwenda Bond: I don't care; Gwenda Bond: Member of The A-Team since 1982. I just wrote my email address on the back when I started giving these out.
******My only regret is that I didn't get to meet Sarah from Smart Bitches. I'm thinking of hitting RT next year though, so maybe there? Also, I can't wait to read books by people I met or was recommended books by (that I haven't already read, natch), because I know they will be awesome.