Wednesday, July 20, 2016

San Diego Day 3 - the conference is ON!

On this first day of the full-on conference, breakfast wasn't provided, so I decided to grab a quick coffee and snack at one of the stores downstairs in the Marriott - only to find the queues at least 20 people long! So I had to sit through the first session of the day uncaffeinated!

In spite of that, I really enjoyed the talk, which was historical author Julia Quinn talking about Dialogue. I love Julia Quinn's books and they introduced me to a new, fresh side of Regency romance. She's a great speaker too, amusing and gracious, and though her talk really didn't introduce me to anything new, it was well worth attending to hear her speak.

After a little break I joined the queue for the Beverly Jenkins luncheon, and Oh My Goodness! - the queue had to be seen to be believed! It wrapped around the entire conference centre! Fortunately, I bumped into the lovely ladies from the RWA's Orange County Chapter, some of whom I'd met at the pizza party the evening before, and they invited me to join them in the queue (and their table for lunch.)

Me with Nikki Price, president of RWA's Orange County Chapter

The food was alright but not amazing (except the rather delicious strawberry shortcake) - and what is it with this Californian trend of drinking their iced tea bitter?!

We were seated to one side of the ballroom so I couldn't see much of Ms Jenkins but the RWA organisers think of everything - not only was there a big screen, they also supply a transcript on the screen for the hearing impaired. (Which made hugely entertaining reading with all the inaccuracies and mis-spellings. I'm still not quite sure why the word 'manslaughter' came up so many times!)

Beverly Jenkins was every bit as incredible as I expected.  She's warm and funny and sharp, very intelligent, and very real. She's a person who calls it as she sees it. She spoke about the history of African-American stories and fiction, then a little about herself and her journey, and rounded off her talk with advice for other writers. The talk earned her a standing ovation. Keep an eye out for it on YouTube.

Photo courtesy of RWA

Some of the best ways to meet people at conference are to chat to those in queues with you (like the lunch queue or the toilet queue!) or the people around you in the elevator. Since almost every elevator was packed wall to wall with RWA delegates, and since we all wore name tags with our names, genres, achievements etc, it was easy to start up conversations.

I met a lovely group of ladies with whom I rode in the elevator to get to the post-lunch sessions. We managed to get lost trying to find a short cut to the venue, which gave us a lot of bonding time!

After lunch I attended a session on the A-Z of Contemporary Romance, led by authors RaeAnne Thayne (who I only later realised was nominated in the same Rita category as me!), Jill Shalvis and Sarah Morgan. They discussed their writing process, gave career advice, and spoke about mistakes they'd made and learned from along the way.

Amongst the great advice they gave, were such gems as "Contemporary romance is all about emotion" (Sarah), "Figure out your strengths as a writer, then amplify them" (RaeAnne), "We all have dips. Write through those low patches" (Sarah) and "Focus on your own career. Don't look around at what others are doing. You don't know what disappointments they've had which you can't see" (RaeAnne).

I also loved Jill Shalvis' story of how she printed off the NYT bestseller list, wrote her own name in place of Nora Roberts' - and within a year she had achieved that same ranking on the NYT list!

After this workshop, I met with agent Mackenzie Fraser-Bub, who recently opened her own agency, then my friend Maya Blake and I briefly popped in at the end of the Kensington book signing to catch our long time friend Jackie Ashenden. We were in luck - Jackie had just two books left which she signed for us.

Me with Jackie Ashenden and Maya Blake

In my role as ROSA chairperson (and as a member of RWA) I then sat in on the RWA's AGM to see how the big guns do it. I was impressed with how well organised and professionally the meeting was run (kind of like everything RWA organises!). The entire meeting only lasted half an hour.

AGM photo courtesy of RWA

At 6.30pm, dressed up to party, I met with four of the other HarperImpulse authors in the hotel lobby. - Nancy Holland, Lynn Montagano, Sun Chara and Katherine Garbera. After a quick photo session, we hopped in a free electric car sponsored by a local brewery and headed off the The Nolen Rooftop venue for the Avon 75th Diamond Anniversary Party.

We arrived in the gorgeous afternoon light, and snagged ourselves glasses of champagne and the best spot in the place. As the sun set over the city, we enjoyed the beautiful table decorations, little lights shining in specially engraved cups of diamonds. There was more champagne, a photo booth, lots of great conversation, networking, more champagne.

We met historical author Jennifer McQuiston, a couple of book bloggers including the famous Sara of Harlequin Junkie, and in the toilet queue (didn't I mention it was a great place to meet people?!) I met a film producer who is looking to option romance novels from Avon (yes, of course you can have mine!). Her partner is South African, so I was introduced to her too and (small world!) it since turns out we even know mutual people back in South Africa!

Lynn Montagano, Jennifer McQuiston and Sun Chara

Back at the hotel after the party, I settled into bed with cheesecake. The perfect end to a perfect day. It really couldn't get any better, could it? Yes, it could! More tomorrow...

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